It takes a brave person to decide to share personal stories of adversity with members of the public.
That is exactly what former Bathurst woman Holly Hays (nee Russell) has done, participating in a creative fundraising calendar to raise money for breast cancer research.
It is part of the SoBrave project, which aims to raise awareness of breast cancer in women under 40.
Ms Hays moved to Bathurst in 2000 to attend Charles Sturt University, working at the Hub Espresso Bar, as a trainee flying instructor and for Fish River Roasters while she was in the region.
She married and started her family in Bathurst, having two children, and left in 2014 due to her husband’s work. She was diagnosed with breast cancer in August 2014 after finding a lump in her left breast.
She now lives in Bendigo, Victoria.
Ms Hays was 32 at the time of her diagnosis and now wants to encourage young women to be vigilant by familiarising
themselves and regularly self- checking their breasts for abnormal lumps and bumps.
“I didn’t know that every person’s tumour had its own individual characteristics and that these will determine your treatment,” she said.
“For me, everything seemed to happen very fast and there were so many things I didn’t know. In August 2014 I found a lump in my left breast and was diagnosed with breast cancer.
“You start to hear words like invasive ductal carcinoma, grade 3, hormone positive (oestrogen and progesterone), HER2, negative, chemotherapy, radiotherapy and menopause ... but what exactly does it all mean to me?”
It was recommended that Ms Hays undergo a lumpectomy, chemotherapy and radiotherapy.
She would then be on a combination of injections to suppress her ovarian function.
Ms Hays underwent a lumpectomy on August 8, 2014, two weeks before her soccer grand final, in which she was able to participate.
She started chemotherapy in October and requested to undergo genetic testing as her mother Michele Berry also suffered from breast cancer and was diagnosed at an early age, passing away in 2005.
Ms Hays was unsure whether she would start radiotherapy or choose to have a bilateral mastectomy to complete her treatment.
Following the genetic testing, she received news that she did not carry the mutated BRCA gene.
Despite getting the all-clear, Ms Hays still decided to get a double mastectomy.
The SoBrave project aims to empower young Australian breast cancer survivors.
Breast cancer survivor Rachelle Panitz brought together 12 young women who have been affected by the disease to create the fundraising calendar.
Each month of the fundraising calendar features each woman in full body paint, completed by internationally recognised body artist Wendy Fantasia, being photographed in beautiful locations across Australia.
The photographs aim to be a colourful visual representation of the metamorphosis each woman has undergone.
“The project for me was also about body image,” Ms Hays said.
“I was one of the only ladies who haven’t had a breast reconstruction and I feel like there is pressure to do so” she said.
‘The project made me more confident in myself, my body and my decision not have reconstruction.”
The calendars can be purchased online for $30 at http://sobrave.com.au/.
The net proceeds will go to the National Breast Cancer Foundation and The Centre for Personalised Nanotechnology at the University of Queensland.