Tammy Papalia survived breast cancer.
Tammy Papalia survived breast cancer. Blainey Woodham

Kingscliff mum tackles cancer with a sense of humour

ONE of the rare lighter sides of Kingscliff mum Tammy Papalia's cancer battle was the laugh her children got out of shaving her hair off.

"The kids thought it was hilarious," recalls Tammy.

In preparation for the fateful day when her hair started falling out as a side-effect of her treatment, Tammy had cut her shoulder-length hair shorter so her family could get used to it and also bought a wig.

"It's hard to know what's scarier - the big C or a 10 and nine-year-old coming at you with a razor, but the kids did a good job," Tammy said.

"I got out of it blood free."

At just 39, the TAFE teacher was diagnosed with the most aggressive form of stage three breast cancer, triple negative, in January 2012.

The 41-year-old says she owes her life to her vigilance in undertaking regular self-examinations.

She wrapped up treatment this month, which included chemotherapy, radiotherapy and participation in a 12-month clinical trial of oral maintenance chemotherapy.

Doctors have advised she is now cancer-free.

The now 41-year-old says she owes her life to her vigilance in undertaking regular self-examinations.

But there's the ever-present sobering reality that the cancer could reoccur.

Tammy admits that "cancer-chondria", the fear that every twinge and pain is a sign the disease has spread, is a constant companion.

She finds solace and moral support in discussing her experiences with other cancer victims as a member of the Young Pink Sisters Facebook support group.

Tammy urges women to self-examine and to take advantage of the free mammograms for the over-40s.



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