Written by John Williams
It’s an unfortunate fact that many of us know someone who has been affected by breast cancer. Within Damerell Group, there have been several members of our team who have been through diagnosis and treatment for the disease, which will affect one in nine women in Aotearoa New Zealand over their lifetime. Some have publicly spoken about their journey, whilst others have chosen to go through their treatment privately, which of course is completely understandable.
Senior Property Manager Serena Fonua is one of the latter, who, until recently, had kept her diagnosis and treatment secret from everyone but her family and a handful of close friends. Serena, however, has now made the decision to talk about her experiences, in order to help bring awareness to a disease that affects so many women in this country, regardless of age or circumstance.
Some of you may have already read her inspiring story this past weekend, published in Stuff, in which she revealed the personal reasons why she kept her diagnosis and subsequent treatment to a small circle of family and friends. For Serena, she says it was her way of dealing with things.
“I just wanted to feel normal. It’s what myself, my husband, and my children needed. People not knowing [about my diagnosis] gave me strength and gave me relief; not being constantly reminded, by explaining how I was feeling, or what I was going through.”
“Once people find out, a lot of the time they assume that you are sicker than you actually are, which can often make you feel worse. If you don’t tell anyone, then no one knows, and so you can feel normal. I didn't want the sympathy, I was so adamant that I was going to beat this.”
When she was feeling unwell, Serena told concerned friends and colleagues that she had the flu, keeping her diagnosis to herself for more than six months; only deciding to tell people once she had had her mastectomy and reconstruction.
Now that her ‘secret’ is out, Serena is hosting her own Pink Ribbon Breakfast. In addition, Damerell Group is also holding a breakfast and has set up a fundraising page this month to raise funds and awareness for breast cancer – with the money raised going to breast cancer education, innovative research, and support for patients and their families throughout their breast cancer journeys.