019: Facing Breast Cancer at 32 – Rachelle Panitz

The Fearless Females Podcast - Rachelle Panitz - Episode 19

In this episode:

In this episode of The Fearless Females Podcast your host Tegan Mathews interviews Rachelle Panitz who shares:

  • How she faced breast cancer diagnosis at 32
  • The fears you face as a young mother when you have breast cancer
  • How she turned it around and is now producing the So Brave calendar
  • The unexpected rewards from the So Brave calendar project
  • The steps she took to make it through her cancer treatment

Tegan's Take Aways:

  1. Get support when you are going through a challenging time – you cant be fearless alone.
  2. Ask for what you need – this allows others to help you how you need to be helped and they too will appreciate the direction.
  3. Don’t try and be a superhero! Tell the people close to you how you are truly feeling. It’s ok to have feelings.
  4. Radiate your issues outwards from the person dealing with the challenge – e.g. they talk to their circle of trust which may include you, and then you talk to your circle of trust, don’t put your challenges back to the person with the challenge – radiate outwards.
  5. Create a list of cheerleaders that know that if you are having a rough day, their job is to tell you it’s going to be ok and that you can get through this. These simple words don’t necessarily fix the issue but they can definitely make a difference to how you feel.

About Rachelle Panitz

Rachelle Panitz is the founder and organiser of the So Brave Breast Cancer Fundraiser Project. An initiative to empower young women who are breast cancer survivors by providing a once-in-a-lifetime bodypaint and photoshoot session.

As a young breast cancer survivor herself, Rachelle started her business early last year with a mission to empower women in practical ways. She has taken this mission to women in business through her Brisness Women small group networking and educational events and since August last year has been organising the massive undertaking that is the So Brave project.

Rachelle is incredibly proud of the transformative effect of the So Brave project. The bodypaint and photo shoot days are life-changing, especially for the young women who have participated as models, but also for the photographers, documentary crew, bodypaint artist and her team and all the families and friends and communities who have rallied behind and supported it. Her project is raising awareness that #youngwomengetbreastcancertoo and for all women to be #breastaware and funds for breast cancer.

Contact Rachelle Panitz

A Gift for Listeners From Rachelle Panitz

Rachelle has kindly gifted to every listener a ten step process to creating the ultimate vision board. Not just any vision board but one that will get you to clarify what it is that’s truly important to you and how to achieve it

Show Notes: Episode 019: Facing Breast Cancer at 32 - Rachelle Panitz

Rachelle Panitz’s Fearless Story

  • Rachelle Panitz was diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 32. At the time she had a new born and a three-year-old to care for. There was no history in her family and it was completely unexpected.
  • As a survivor she has put together a calendar with young breast cancer survivors, such as herself, as the models, to raise money and awareness that it can happen to you at any age, not just when you’re older.

What made you decide you wanted to do the SoBrave.com.au calendar?

  • I have always done these sorts of things, as in charity work, and even raised funds for breast cancer awareness prior to being diagnosed myself.
  • Even at school I was always the one organising everyone for social events and more recently when I had a job I still organised out of work activities and fund raising activities.
  • After my own experience I realised that’s what I wanted to do to raise the awareness and much needed funds.

What age were you when you were diagnosed and how did you handle that?

  • I was 32 when I was diagnosed and the shock would have been worse but I had a friend who was 36 and had been diagnosed and she had been heavily promoting that it can happen to younger women.
  • And it’s often up to the woman to push to take things further because even the doctors don’t expect that it can happen and it will come down to the fact that you just know something isn’t quite right.
  • So that’s the message I want to get out there with this project is that #youngwomengetbreastcancertoo and it’s not just the over fifties. Although the numbers are less, it’s still important they are diagnosed early or the effects could be detrimental.
  • Not just breast checks but also pap smears and skin checks. Just look after the body you have.
  • When I was diagnosed I was only one of fifty women who had been diagnosed that year who were pregnant. I know that’s not a lot but that’s fifty women who didn’t expect it at all.

How did you get through it?

  • I was lucky enough to have an extremely supportive family. My mother basically slept on the couch for the three weeks when I was diagnosed and then realised she had to go back to work.
  • After that she was there every morning and night and for a period of time there we moved in with her because it was so difficult. Young children need support and so do those going through chemotherapy.
  • It was also a very lonely time because it was supposed to be when you are at your happiest with your new born baby and getting to know him and getting into a routine and all the happy stuff.
  • Instead we were dealing with life and death and so we didn’t get caught up in the usual milestones we could have if the diagnosis wasn’t there.

How long have you been cancer free?

  • That’s an interesting question because as a cancer survivor everyone has different times that they feel they were free of it. For some its when they had their surgery and for others its when they finished their treatment.
  • For me, I had 18 months of treatment after the surgery and will have to take hormone treatment for the next ten years but I consider it from May last year, so it hasn’t been too long.
  • The healing process started for me when I was diagnosed because finally I felt like someone listened to me and I knew what was going on.
  • I kind of describe it like a rabbit hole where on one side people are telling me to get breast checks and once I was diagnosed then it’s like a rabbit hole of different things to deal with.
  • Young women especially are faced with decisions such as fertility because chemo can bring on early menopause so you have to decide really quickly if you want to do IVF treatment.

What’s the reason for choosing to do the SoBrave.com.au calendar?

  • For a lot of young women, their body image is closely associated with their breasts and when they lose them or are told they have to have them removed, they think that they aren’t beautiful any more.
  • By participating in the calendar they can be reminded that they are beautiful, even for those who aren’t models, just those who we have come in contact with, the thought of being in it, starts the journey towards a more positive body image.

How does the diagnosis of breast cancer affect relationships?

  • For a lot of young girls, with young families that are already under pressure because that’s just what young children do, it is hard work. Consequently, there are a lot of relationship breakdowns.
  • I’ve heard of some awful stories of women going off to treatment and their partners treating it like they’re going off to a new job or something.
  • Which has a lot to do with people not understanding what it’s like to have to go through something like that, especially if they’ve never known anyone else who has had to go through it.
  • It’s like that saying that talks about, you don’t know how strong you are until you’ve had to be and this disease will test how strong you are and everyone around you.
  • It will bring out the best and worst in people and we had people who we hardly knew that would show up at our door to help us look after the kids, bring us food and clean my house. I will be forever in debt to them because it was with their help that my family was then able to support me.

What steps did you take and what advice do you have for others facing a similar challenge?

  • The first thing I did was tell people how I felt and what I needed for support.
  • I would also recommend seeking professional help from counsellors etc who are experienced in dealing with the same issue.
  • I also enlisted my husband and mother to come with me to the initial appointments because there was just so much information that I couldn’t have taken it all in. And then I trusted them with their advice.
  • The other piece of advice we were given is to radiate out your issues. I was in the middle of the circle and I could radiate out my issues to my inner circle of trust and then they needed their own inner circle of trust to radiate out to, rather than putting it back onto me because I couldn’t handle much more.

What’s been an a-ha moment for you?

  • At one point I joined a group where I thought it was going to be like AA but when I showed up we all did art and through that we ended up sharing our stories which was really good.
  • Later down the track I found that I was being asked about my experience by those who had just been diagnosed and I suddenly realised that I could help them to get through it easier by sharing what I had learnt. That was an aha moment for me.

What is it that you do exactly?

  • Doing the calendar has enabled me to see more clearly that what I do is I empower women and I do it in a number of different ways. There is the calendar and I am also an empowerment coach and a mentor.
  • I also run a face to face group where it’s only small but you get to really connect with each other and the speaker and create the type of connection that I feel is missing from networking events these days. It’s called Brisness.
  • I also do some one on one mentoring and with the calendar that’s plenty for me.

What exactly is the So Brave Calendar?

  • It’s a 2017 calendar of twelve models under the age of forty who have been diagnosed with breast cancer. Each model has been body painted in a way that depicts their journey and then photographed at an iconic location in Australia.
  • The calendar is now available at www.sobrave.com.au

What is something in your future plan that scares you?

  • Not being around for my kids is what scares me and most other women who have been diagnosed with breast cancer who have children.
  • The other is that we find a cure for cancer which is more a goal than a fear I guess.

What makes you happy?

  • Being around my children and knowing I’ve made it through that experience and I’m still here for them. Plus all the support we have had for the calendar. That makes me happy.

Five Fast Fun Fearless Facts about Rachelle Panitz

  1. Who inspires you? People who have gone through this before me such as my school friend who was diagnosed two months before me. She was an amazing source of support for me, we had each others backs as we went through the same things together.
  2. Favourite thing to do each day? To have a shower. As a mum, just having those few minutes of peace is bliss.
  3. What's something that still scares you? There isn’t a lot that I’m afraid of now but probably the fear of loss.
  4. Favourite technique or app or book? I know this is going to sound lame but Facebook has been instrumental in me connecting with people. There are some women who I don’t meet until the day of the shoot and I wouldn’t have met them if it wasn’t for Facebook so I love it for the connections it has created for me.
  5. If you could wave a magic wand and fix one thing in the world right now, what would it be and why? Yes, obviously I would want a cure for cancer but what I would really want is a cure for all of the debilitating diseases and if they could come across a cure that works for all of them, that would be my wish.

 

Final Question for Rachelle Panitz

If you could turn back time what's the one piece of advice you wish you could give your fourteen-year-old self?

  • Stick to your guns and trust yourself. Who knows how my life might have been different if I had stuck to my guns but I know with anything, no matter how it turns out, if you have trusted yourself and backed yourself then it doesn’t matter the outcome.

Where can people reach out to you? www.rachellepanitz.com  AND www.sobrave.com.au

Facebook – Rachelle Panitz

A Gift for Listeners From Rachelle Panitz

Rachelle has kindly gifted to every listener a ten step process to creating the ultimate vision board. Not just any vision board but one that will get you to clarify what it is that’s truly important to you and how to achieve it

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