Rosina Watt: "Share your experience – it helps to talk"


On a typical Wednesday afternoon in 2012 Rosina Watt, then aged 65, went to see her GP about a harmless cyst on her neck that had been there for many years. During that consultation her doctor suggested she do a breast exam “while you are here”.

That was a suggestion that probably saved Rosina’s life. The doctor found something in Rosina’s breast that didn’t feel right so referred her for a mammogram.

Rather than waiting to have her mammogram in the public system, Rosina decided to have it done privately and immediately as she didn’t like the idea of waiting to find out if something was wrong. The mammogram was followed by an ultrasound and then a biopsy.

The radiologist called Rosina on Thursday evening to say she needed to speak to a breast surgeon as she had a four centimetre tumour in her breast. Rosina’s husband was in the United Kingdom at the time. When Rosina rang to tell him the news he said he would come home straight away but Rosina put him off saying let’s wait to see what the surgeon says on Monday.

Rosina’s daughter accompanied her to that breast surgeon’s appointment and the surgeon was half-way through explaining that Rosina needed a full mastectomy when there was a knock at the door. It was Rosina’s husband – he had ignored her suggestion to wait and had flown from the UK immediately, driving from the airport directly to the surgeon’s rooms.

That gesture of support still moves Rosina to tears.

Later that week Rosina had the mastectomy – something she didn’t hesitate to do: “I just wanted it out of me,” she says. Now Rosina and her husband have retired and live in Ohope, Rosina takes tamoxifen and believes life is good.

Rosina’s positive attitude is even more remarkable given the fact that at the same time as her diagnosis, her step-son, Andrew, aged 37, was very sick with bowel cancer and eventually died. During his illness his wife began her own battle with breast cancer. She was 42 when diagnosed and has now thankfully fully recovered.

With fate dealing you this many blows many people would simply want to retreat from the world, but Rosina wants to share her story in support of the Breast Cancer Aotearoa Coalition’s (BCAC).

“I received BCAC’s great Step by Step support pack and this is my opportunity to share my experience as a way of helping others – I know when I read breast cancer stories from other women it always makes me feel more ‘normal’.”

“I really believe it helps to talk and share your experience. And don’t be afraid to ask for help if you are struggling to deal with anything.”

Despite wonderful support from her husband, her children, colleagues and others around her, Rosina realised she needed professional help dealing with the emotional fallout from her illness. She says, “The counselling I eventually sought from the Cancer Society was amazing and really helped me.”

And she has another message for women: “Be vigilant. What my doctor found in my breast I hadn’t noticed and I did do self-examinations and had regular mammograms. Don’t be afraid to ask for your doctor’s help - get a regular breast exam as well as the mammograms.”