Lorraine Burtenshaw (right) was diagnosed with breast cancer in May and will undergo surgery this month, supported by her family, including sister Kathy Patch.
Lorraine Burtenshaw (right) was diagnosed with breast cancer in May and will undergo surgery this month, supported by her family, including sister Kathy Patch.

Brave mum battles breast cancer

ON HER 44th birthday this year, mother-of-two Lorraine Burtenshaw was prodded and poked with needles and forced to endure a biopsy to determine whether a “dimpled” section of her breast was due to breast cancer.

Despite a dreaded diagnosis that confirmed the suspicions, the strong-willed woman has vowed to beat the illness and has marked Christmas as the date for her to have overcome the cancer.

“I don’t think of myself as having a cancer that is going to kill me. We’re going to get rid of this – it’s going to be gone,” she said.

Mrs Burtenshaw said the most frustrating thing since being diagnosed was losing the ability to carry out the tasks she had no problem undertaking before.

Describing herself as having been “fit as a fiddle” before the diagnosis in May, she said the inability to muster the energy to get off the couch some days had been overwhelming.

A positive attitude has helped Mrs Burtenshaw deal with her diagnosis and she only admits to losing her cool once since her diagnosis.

She said on the way home from hearing the words “it’s cancer”, she swore and stomped her feet as she tried to absorb the news.

“It never crossed my mind it would be cancer and people kept saying, ‘you’ll be fine’ and ‘it’s probably just a cyst’,” she said.

“But far as I’m concerned this is just a battle I have to overcome,” she said.

After enduring four rounds of chemotherapy to shrink the tumour, Mrs Burtenshaw will have surgery later this month to remove what is left of the growth in her breast.

Mother to 11-year-old Dana and 14-year-old Cassie, Mrs Burtenshaw said she and her husband have enlisted an open and honest policy with their daughters regarding the illness.

“We’ve never held anything back from them and we don’t believe in sugar-coating the truth,” she said. “They know it’s serious but it’s something mum is going to get through.”

Following a round of chemotherapy, Mrs Burtenshaw said it is sometimes even difficult to muster the energy to get from her bed to the couch, where she will often spend most of the day.

Her sister Kathy Patch frequently travels from her home in Lismore to help her sister through the rough periods that follow a brutal round of chemotherapy.

“You just want to be there as much as you can and I wish I could be there when she wakes up from the surgery,” Mrs Patch said.

The sisters said the illness gave them some valuable bonding time and saw them do something neither of them thought they ever would.

“The most bonding time we had – and I said I’d never thought I’d be doing this with my sister – was when I shaved her head,” Mrs Patch said.

Mrs Burtenshaw said she had no interest in buying a wig to replace her lost hair and said her children’s collection of Canteen fundraising bandanas compiled over the years had now been put to use.

The family received a small welcome boost last week when Mr Burtenshaw bought a ticket in a raffle to raise money to send Christmas care packages to Australian soldiers overseas.

The prize was a timely win for the family, with Mr Burtenshaw saying the family had ploughed through their wood supply this winter.

Johnno Felton and Sgt Kev Neal generously travelled out to the Burtenshaw’s residence to drop off their prize, with Mr Felton saying he couldn’t think of a more deserving person to take it out.



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