Mandy Forteath OAM remembers the “terror” she felt when she was told she had cancer.
Giving others somewhere to turn when they've received that shocking news is what drives her to continue her work today with the Breast Cancer Network Australia.
She was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2004, and back then, there wasn’t much support around.
“The network had just started and they sent me a book called My Journey and I found it to be really good,” she said.
“I read it and read it and read it because I’m a person that wants to know why. And I still don’t know why I got it.
“Then I thought, others would feel the same and when I talked to a few different people - I used to go to the Holman Clinic, and you’d start chatting to the person next to you, and you’d all feel the same, and every cancer’s the same.
“To be told, ‘I’m sorry, you’ve got cancer', is a shock.”
Mrs Forteath now runs the support group in Launceston and last week, the network celebrated its 20th anniversary in Melbourne.
“The network is based in Victoria, and the Governor of Victoria had offered a reception to mark 20 years since they started, because one lady set it up finding there was no support 20 years ago.
“I was invited to the government reception. There were about 120 there – I was the only person from Tasmania. It was a lovely evening – I was very thrilled and honoured to be able to go.”
Since Mrs Forteath's diagnosis, the network has grown significantly, with more than 100,000 members now.
“We lobby, we support people and we offer all sorts of advice and information.
“There’s an online support that’s on 24 hours, so you can go on any time and just tap in and there will always be somebody awake in Australia with the same problems or issues and you make lots of friends.”
To mark 20 years, the network is also holding a Field of Women event at the MCG in August. There will be 18,500 people on the field, which is how many people get diagnosed with breast cancer in a year, nationwide.
“We all get pink ponchos, some men get blue because men have breasts and also get breast cancer.
”About 15 of us from here are going and some have got friends and family and interstate family coming down.”
For more information, visit bcna.org.au.