I am Lori-Anne, I’m 53-years old, and a 3-year breast cancer warrior.
I received my diagnosis on the 25/10/2018, during breast cancer awareness month: Stage 4, HER2 +, with liver metastasis. A hard pill to swallow! I lost my dad that August to lung cancer, and my mom to pancreatic cancer. I knew that with stage 4, they treat you palliatively. They keep you alive as along as possible. They treat you till the cancer outsmarts the treatment. A bleak and grim prognosis, but there was a 2% chance of becoming cancer-free. From the age of 40, I went for 7 mammograms in a row, one each year. Then my gynaecologist and the medical aid protocol changed it to every 2nd year. Skipping one year resulted in this advanced diagnosis.
With the World Health Organisation (WHO) stats indicating that over 2 million woman are diagnosed each year, breast cancer is the commonest cancer among women worldwide. In South Africa, according to the National Cancer Registry (2017) one in 26 women are at risk of developing breast cancer, and it accounts for 16% of all cancer deaths.
I started treatment immediately and just 16 days in, after the first session of chemotherapy, my hair started falling out. I needed something to make me feel confident and beautiful, especially during the 9 months of baldness. I heard that some patients choose to wear wigs, and others headscarves. I found the scarves time- consuming and a tedious process to master.
When you lose all your hair you can feel dull and de-sparkled. People take hair loss for granted, but on a mental health level it gets to you. When you put on a hat, you make sure that you know the face that’s looking back at you is a face of value, a face you appreciate. I fell in love with the idea, and loved the way the hats made me feel. My hats made my day more colourful, gave me more sparkle, confidence and hope. I personally couldn’t find anything locally, so I decided to attempt making a hat with a friend.
Hatsbylori, founded in December 2018 via Whatsapp and Facebook Messenger is my journey, and also the story of how my hats bring joy and hope to fellow cancer warriors. We are creating a community that supports and encourages people to live with intention, even if that intention is embodied in a hat.
I have endured a double mastectomy and a failed reconstruction attempt, 16 radiation cycles, and there are more fat- grafting sessions still to come this year. I am living my lemonade journey, living my purpose and having a meaningful life full of blessings and joy. Some days are good and other days are bad.
After my mastectomy my doctor came to me and gave me the news that I had a complete pathological response. Which I found out later means being in that 2% they told me about. Being cancer- free, and having the outcome of a stage 1 Her2+ breast cancer patient is beyond belief. A medical miracle, she said.
I started a Facebook page to share my cancer journey with South Africans. A year after my diagnosis I was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis which comes with its own challenges.
When I finished my cancer treatment, my sister came on board, and hatsbylori got a website and an online shop for patients who may be in need of a beautiful hand- made hat. This has helped me streamline the process and has given me more freedom to create and enjoy my life.
So far so amazing: my vulnerability and negative situation has turned my chemo headwear business, hatsbylori, into a sustainable business.
My aim is this: when things are dark and it’s hard, I want every warrior to remember there are pretty things in the world. Going by without intention in your day is a day gone by with nothing to show. Helping my fellow warriors to sparkle when things feel colourless and hard is how I live my life.
My strong belief and my personal mission is to educate woman on the importance of breast self-examination and going for their mammograms. According to the Adapted Screening Guidelines average risk, all women should have a risk assessment by the age of 30, with annual screening mammography starting at the age of 40.
Early detection of your breast cancer is the best protection available to save your life!
Liefde or Love