Author Denise Stevenson
It was a wonderful 50th birthday; short notice for a party at home to mark this pivotal moment in a woman's life. Time to mark the halfway point, exciting plans ahead.
What I didn't know at the time was that God had other plans for me this year and by the end of it my favourite Bible verse 'For I know the plans I have for you' had taken on an entirely different significance. 'He' may well have known the plans for my 50th year, I was blissfully ignorant of them.
I had a nagging doubt: Two dear friends that I'd worked alongside 25 years before were both at my party. Between them, another more recent bond had formed, one that I was about to join them in: Breast cancer.
My doubt was fully realised after the celebrations when I began chasing the results of a biopsy I'd had taken of a cyst that had been slowly growing in my breast for the past 18 months.
'It's nothing I'm sure' said my doctor, 'it's just that it's sitting on your bra-line, must be uncomfortable'.
'It's got an even form, not like anything suspect, but I'd like to do a biopsy, just to be sure' followed the doctor after the scheduled mammogram and ultrasound.
All comforting, but that niggle wouldn't go away. I'd been told I'd hear if there was a problem. It was now a month after the biopsy, I'd called a few days after it, again a week later, then I'd begun celebrating and a month had elapsed. Now I just wanted closure. What I received was far from that.
You know you're in trouble when your doctor asks how soon can you come in, yet still I serenely drove down the hill for my appointment. I'm a 'glass half-full' kinda girl, others would call it in denial.
My results had been filed in a drawer. For the past month. My doctor was 'spitting blood' metaphorically speaking, of course.
She sent me to the leading cancer hospital, no messing with local ones. We have a research centre an hour away and she wanted me there. Surgeon's name given, urgent appointment made with him.
Two week's later we're face to face. Mastectomy he says, drawing a well practised breast doodle. Do you want chemotherapy, then surgery, then radiotherapy, or surgery, chemotherapy, then radiotherapy? If we do chemotherapy first it could shrink the 5cm tumour enough to conserve the breast, if there are no other cancerous cells elsewhere in it. Well?
And so it began...
As Denise's remarkable story unfolds she finds the courage to follow a different path than the one her oncologist begs her to take. After much research, it leads her to a different lifestyle which she so passionately believes in.
Denise wrote a book to share her cancer journey and has just launched a website to educate, provide research, and to help people make lifestyle changes.