HaiHa Lee

"Back to the Rafters" actress shares her breast cancer story.

Breast cancer is something that can never happen to you. Breast cancer will never happen to anyone you know. Breast cancer never happens to men. Right?

Wrong.

Breast cancer is the most common cancer in women in Australia. It is the second most common cancer to likely cause death in women after lung cancer. It happens to men as well as women.

What is breast cancer?

Breast cancer is the abnormal growth of cells lining the breast ducts and/or lobules. Those cells can grow uncontrollably and spread to other areas of the body.

Diagnosis and survival

It was estimated last year that 19,866 women and 164 men in Australia will be diagnosed with breast cancer in 2021. A staggering number of women. The overall survival rate for those with breast cancer at five years is 91%.

If the cancer is solely confined to the breast and hasn’t spread, then after 5 years, approximately 96% of patients will still be alive. If there is regional spread to lymph nodes, then that 5-year survival rate drops to 80%.

It all pales into significance when you are sitting in front of a doctor, and he has just said the “C” word to you. You only hear the C word, cancer. You don’t hear “we caught it early”. You don’t hear “nothing to be worried about”. You don’t hear “no further treatment”. You just hear ‘Cancer’.

One such person who has lived this scenario is Back to the Rafters actress Haiha Le.  Haiha shared her story on her social media and after a conversation through messenger,  very kindly gave me permission to share her story.  

Here is Haiha`s story:

“October is breast cancer awareness month. Around this time last year, a bulldozer ripped through our lives, I was diagnosed with early-stage breast cancer and began a gruelling treatment schedule including chemotherapy, radiotherapy, and double mastectomy.

When I was lost at sea, I would look for stories of people who survived this and cling on to hope, that’s why I wanted to share my story.

It was hands down the darkest chapter in my life, and incredibly scary for my little family. A year on….I can see it was also a time of deep healing, acceptance and gratitude.

Cancer is so incredibly shit, it confronts you with your mortality, the thing with breast cancer for me was that I felt it stripped me of everything that made me feel feminine, my hair, my breasts, my confidence.

Throughout treatment my body was so foreign and spiralled out of control, I really had to learn to love and accept this version of me in the mirror and inside of me.

I’m so proud of my body and how quickly she has healed, and I am sure looking forward to perky new boobs!  To quote Leonard Cohen “There’s a crack in everything, that’s how the lights gets in”

Shout out to my wonderful husband who told me I was beautiful every day, even when I did not believe him and my gorgeous family and friends whose kindness and generosity were like bright fireworks in the dark sky. You know who you are. Thank you.”

Haiha`s story is by no means unique. Breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in Australia with a total of 1 in 7 women diagnosed in their lifetime. It affects men too.

The key…

Early diagnosis. Check your boobs ladies and don’t delay any appointments. Health always comes first.