SUE – STANDING UP FOR HER LIFE

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This is the second out of three stories that have been published in the NZ Herald Canvas Magazine. Stay tuned for the last one coming out in next week.

Sue Cooper believes she is one of the “lucky ones” living with incurable breast cancer.

In September 2017, 58-year-old Sue was diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer. It was 12 years after her primary diagnosis. Her cancer returned to the area where her breast had been removed. It had also spread to her bones and lungs.

Sue feels lucky she is only on her first type of treatment (hormone inhibitors) and has several other options ahead. She is also fortunate to have the positivity and means to advocate for herself in the years ahead.

“Right now, there is no cure, but it is about living the best life you can. If I (and others), can get access to medication that will give us a year or two of a fairly good quality of life, then we can still give back and continue to contribute to society.”

But it is not the same for all families.

“My husband and I are middle class people, we have worked all our lives and our children are now adults. But there are families who have to make tough decisions in order to get more time while their children are young.”

Sue works part-time at appliance company, The Jones Family Business. Her job provides the perfect work-life balance as Sue now looks after her 15-month-old grandson Nolan, one day a week. “If this disease had not come back, I would still be working full time and probably have seen him two hours in the weekend. Now I get a whole day. It is very precious.” She has another grandchild in Melbourne whom she also visits regularly.

Sue has been grateful for the support she has received from Sweet Louise since joining last year.

“It’s so nice to hear how others are getting on, and to be able to meet in a safe environment. We are all in the same ocean in different stages.

“It is not a club that we chose to join but it is a lovely way to have some fun – we have had a high tea and seen a performance of Chicago.”

Sue also uses vouchers received from Sweet Louise to treat herself to things she normally wouldn’t have done, including yoga and physiotherapy.

She made her “New Year’s resolution” early this year, on the anniversary of her secondary diagnosis. “My resolution was about learning to live with cancer, living the best, most authentic life that I can and creating memories with my grandchildren.

“We so often say ‘one day,’ but now is the time to do it. Your focus changes. It’s now about spending quality time with people you love. My primary diagnosis was my first wake up call. At 50 I learned to ride a Harley Davidson. I still have a lot to do, but now I don’t put things off to another day, because one day may not happen.”

“I am living with it, not fighting it. I want to be a role model to my children and grandchildren, and I want the legacy I leave to be positive.”

Sweet Louise is watching with interest Pharmac’s drug funding review. Many of the drugs under consideration can extend the lives of New Zealanders like Sue who are active and contributing members of society.

Sweet Louise receives no government funding and relies totally on the generosity of New Zealanders like you.

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