October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month and the sea of pink everywhere attests to the impact that this devastating disease has had upon society, affecting not only the sufferers but their carers and families too. Breast Cancer is a book written by Cath Filby solely with the purpose of empowering women to make informed choices about their treatment, from diagnosis to post-operative options, using her own experiences throughout.
This is a profoundly moving and inspiring book, dealing with one of every woman’s greatest fears – the diagnosis of Breast Cancer. As a survivor whose cancer is thankfully now in remission, Cath Filby tells her story of what it was like for her from the moment she suspected something was wrong, through to breast reconstruction after a bi-mastectomy.
Filby is convinced that her cancer began to take hold of her body from the time her eldest son was killed in an accident. Her opinion that a sudden tragedy causing extreme mental stress can trigger malign physical changes in the body is supported by Professor Hamer, who linked traumatic events in the lives of his cancer patients with the causation of disease – “all had gone through some exceptionally stressful episode prior to developing cancer.”
What began as an exercise of record keeping became a repository for a database of information concerning everything from possible treatments to their side-effects. It included the different complementary therapies available that not only offered relief but improved her ability to cope with the devastating effects of the cancer and chemotherapy. As Filby explains,
“In documenting my illness, it gave me a clear vision of the ‘how and why”. I then realised that this knowledge would help other women too.”
She writes with a mission to provide women with the questions they should ask their physicians. Filby tells of how, “as a lay person with little medical knowledge, this learning journey enabled me to do something positive, rather than to focus on the negative, resulting in my becoming a repository of useful information that could help others.”
She stresses the importance of people taking responsibility for their health and says, “Prevention rather than cure is my aim, educating people to understand what they can do to help themselves.” Statistics prove her to be right to be concerned for women in Australia. “Although in certain parts of the world such as the UK and the USA, Breast Cancer is decreasing, unfortunately in Australia it is on the increase. Internationally 1 in 8 women develop Breast Cancer and 1 in 5 of those are below the age of 50.”
After much research, the procedure Filby chose for her breast reconstruction was one that used the transfer of the patient’s own tissue from the stomach or buttocks to reconstruct the breast. This is called the DIEP procedure. “It was a much more natural process….I didn’t want to put any artificial products inside me.” In her book, Filby had written about how the loss of her breasts had affected her life – not only of the pain and disfigurement she felt, or the sexual and emotional aspect of losing her breasts, but also of the physical emptiness, the lack of balance and how “Losing your breasts also deprives you of the warmth that they provide at the front of your chest and rib-cage.”
Filby’s book also documents the benefits she derived from a diet of raw foods and supplements such as Flaxseed Oil in her efforts to strengthen her immune system. For her, taking control of her own lifestyle meant that she was giving herself the best chances of survival and recovery. Her experiences motivated her to write with the aim of empowering other women to have the same choice and advantages that had worked for her.
A great believer in the power of hope and positive thinking, Cath Filby was always going to fight hard for survival. As she says, “It’s a good life – one doesn’t realise how good it is until you are faced with your own mortality.”