Christchurch woman battles breast cancer and red zones

A Christchurch teacher is urging women to get regular mammograms after an aggressive breast cancer was picked up during her routine scan just prior to the February 2011 earthquake.

Hannelie Bergmann, 56, is speaking out in support of the Breast Cancer Aotearoa Coalition’s (BCAC) 2014 Show Your Heart for Women Living with Breast Cancer fundraising campaign.

The campaign is supported by Arnott’s Tim Tam, with 20 cents from every pack of Arnott’s Tim Tam biscuits sold in Countdown supermarkets between May 12 and June 8 going to BCAC.

The funds raised in this year’s Show Your Heart campaign will help to pay for BCAC’s Step by Step support and information pack which is distributed free-of-charge to the 3,000 Kiwi women diagnosed with breast cancer each year.

Ms Bergmann, a South African who moved to New Zealand in 2008 and was diagnosed with breast cancer just prior to the February 2011 earthquake in Christchurch, says she would do almost anything to help other women diagnosed with the disease.

“You can’t begin to imagine the support I have had in the past three years, often from complete strangers. If I can repay some of that by speaking out about my experience and encouraging women to be vigilant about their breast health then I would gladly do it, again and again.”

When she was first told how aggressive her breast cancer was, Ms Bergmann’s initial reaction was to do nothing because she thought there was no hope of recovery.

But after taking some time to think, she realised she needed to do whatever she could to beat breast cancer.

But by this time, Christchurch had been shattered by the second earthquake which left the city and hospital in turmoil and meant Ms Bergmann’s surgery couldn’t be done there.

She eventually had a mastectomy and 29 lymph nodes removed at Ashburton Hospital.

As if this wasn’t enough, Ms Bergmann was also dealing with a house in the Christchurch red-zone. In the midst of 12 months of chemotherapy and Herceptin treatment she moved out of her ruined house, back in again and then eventually across the city when it was finally confirmed that there would be no repairs or rebuilding in her suburb.

“New Zealand is amazing. Friends in South Africa kept suggesting I go back as there would be no earthquakes and it was home, but I feel strongly that despite the lack of extended family here in New Zealand, the support I have had here is far greater than I would have had back in South Africa.”

Ms Bergmann hopes everyone will get out and support BCAC and New Zealand women with breast cancer by buying Arnott’s Tim Tam biscuits from Countdown supermarkets until June 8.

“The Step by Step support pack I received from BCAC really was wonderful and the more people who have access to information and support like this, the better,” she says.