Breast Cancer Awareness Month falls in October each year, with the intention to shine a light on the impact that breast cancer has on thousands of people, every day.
The World Health Organization state that breast cancer is now the most common cancer, worldwide. Accounting for 12% of new cancer cases per year. Although men can be diagnosed with breast cancer, it is more common among women. With the American Cancer Society, noting that 1 in 8 American women will be diagnosed with this cancer in their lifetime.
Some good news—with thanks to research—is that the National Breast Cancer Foundation of Australia, state the survival rate of this cancer has continued to rise from 76% to 91% since 1994. With their mission being Zero Deaths from Breast Cancer by 2030.
We’ve spoken with the inspiring, Kellie Hush, fashion entrepreneur and former editor-in-chief of Harper’s BAZAAR, about her journey with this cancer and how important it is to take care of your breast health.
KORA: Firstly, thank you for joining us, Kellie. Would you mind sharing what your diagnosis was and at what age?
Kellie: I was 39 and had recently started as editor-in-chief of Harper’s BAZAAR Australia. At first, I put it down to stress. I wasn’t feeling right and I was very hormonal, which wasn’t like me at all, and I had one tender breast. My husband encouraged me to go and get it checked out as I had a family history of breast cancer with both my mum and cousin breast cancer survivors. I will never forget that day. I was at the Sydney Breast Clinic for hours and hours as I had to have a mammogram, an ultra-sound, then a biopsy and the results weren’t conclusive, so my cells had to be sent off for further pathology. The 24-hour wait was excruciating and that phone call from my doctor was so awful. I found out on a Thursday at work that I had breast cancer (I should have stayed home but wanted to be distracted) and on the Monday I had a lumpectomy.
KORA: May we ask what impact this had on you, and your family?
Kellie: It was very frightening for everyone, my husband, David, especially as we had two young daughters aged six and three. My mum and brother were very emotional and as soon as they heard drove to my house. We didn’t say it, but we all knew being diagnosed with breast cancer under 40 wasn’t great statistically. My mum was in her 60s when she was diagnosed and my cousin in her 30s so we had seen the difference in their diagnosis, surgery, treatment and prognosis.
KORA: And what treatment program did you undergo?
Kellie: This is where my story takes a positive turn. My breast cancer had been caught early and my tumour was small, just 1 cm, and it was contained in my breast and hadn’t spread to my lymph nodes. Before I started any further treatment I had genetic testing because of my family history, but again, I was lucky, and I don’t carry the BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene. I had discussed with my surgeon and husband that if I was BRCA positive I would have a double mastectomy and hysterectomy. I wanted to live life without fear! After many weeks of waiting for results, my final treatment included radiation therapy and for five years I took hormone therapy Tamoxifen. I was so lucky!
KORA: What helped you through your healing journey?
Kellie: It was a tough healing process physically and mentally. The radiation therapy severely burnt my skin on my chest and I didn’t like anyone seeing me naked for quite some time. Especially my children. And I was so scared of dying, even though I knew my prognosis was good. I barely had any time off work, just a few days either side of my diagnosis and surgery. Work, I felt, provided a distraction and my radiation oncologist actually suggested I slow down. I did go and see a dietician who put me on an alkaline diet but I ended up losing too much weight. In reflection, I should have nurtured myself more but for me getting busy was the only way I felt I could put my cancer behind me. But almost a decade later, I now know you will never forget because being diagnosed with breast cancer is life changing.
KORA: Is there any advice you can share with women for good breast health?
Kellie: Listen to your body because you know it best. If I had ignored how I was feeling my breast cancer story may have been very different. It is also your cancer. When I was told I had breast cancer I immediately went online and started reading everything about breast cancer and of course it was frightening. I was crying hysterically one night and my husband, lovingly but firmly said: “This is your breast cancer so please stop reading other women’s stories until we know exactly what the prognosis is.” And he was right. It is also your health, so it is paramount that you make the time to take care of you. Check your breasts, have your mammogram, and do both regularly.
Thank you, Kellie, we’re grateful for you sharing your inspiring story with us!
You can read more about the BRCA1 & BRCA2 genes here.
How to Check Your Own Breasts
The McGrath Foundation for Breast Cancer, Australia, suggest following these three steps to check your breasts as often as you can:
Look at the shape and appearance of your breasts and nipples in the mirror with your hands by your sides.
Raise your arms above your head and have another look.
Feel all of your breasts and nipples, looking for anything that isn’t normal for you.
Feel from your collarbone to below the bra-line, and under your armpit too.
Learn what’s normal for you!
Breasts come in all different shapes and sizes, so get to know your normal. See your doctor if you notice any changes.
KORA Organics xx
Kellie Hush is considered one of the most influential people in the Australian fashion industry today. Formerly Editor-in-chief of Harper’s BAZAAR Australia, a role she held for six years, Kellie is a regular fashion commentator on television, radio and in print media across the globe. Before joining BAZAAR, Hush was the Editor-in-Chief of GRAZIA Australia and fashion editor of The Sydney Morning Herald.
Kellie left working in the media fulltime in 2018 to launch a fashion retail business and a brand and marketing consultancy. Today she consults to FinTech, digital start-ups and fashion brands locally and internationally assisting them in creating their brand DNA and guiding them in B2B and B2C strategy including areas such as brand, marketing strategy, publicity strategy and content creation.
Kellie is a Melbourne Fashion Festival Board Director and a Trustee of the Museum for Applied Arts and Sciences and St George Foundation. She is also a former Royal Hospital for Women Foundation Board Director and a founding director of the Australian Fashion Council. She was also a driving force behind the We Wear Australian campaign established in 2020 during COVID-19.