FOR Janet Kake, fighting breast cancer not once but three times was "a gift". The 53-year-old Eumundi grandmother speaks of her diagnoses with grace.
Rather than seeing her breast cancer bouts as battles and setbacks, Janet calls them her "journey". She is also very proud of her "crotch nipples".
"Having breast cancer has brought so much love into my life," the mother of three told Weekend.
"For me it has been very positive. Of course there have been tears, but it has taught me about who I am. It has been an amazing gift. I wouldn't be the person I am today. I have found balance."
Janet was first diagnosed with breast cancer when she was 33 years old.
"Breast cancer is not in my family at all," she said.
"I took my son to an after hours doctors at midnight with a sore toe. I said to the doctor at the time, I have a pain under my left arm. He was an older man, he didn't even look at me, and wrote out a mammogram referral, which in those days no one did for a 30-year-old. He saved my life."
Janet had the mammogram and while her left arm was not suspect, she had cancer in her right breast.
"I never had a lump or any pain (on the right side)," she said. "I would have been dead in one year if I hadn't found it as it was quite aggressive. That was the beginning.
"I didn't tell anyone and I had the operation. I was running a large real estate agency in Brisbane at the time. I kept it to myself. In my space there was no room for anything other my career."
Her sons Cody and Blake were six and eight at the time.
Five years later, at age 38, Janet was told she had breast cancer for a second time. Her daughter Lili Rose was eight months old. It was a turning point in her life: the start of her "spiritual journey".
Janet underwent radiation and a second lumpectomy on her right breast.
She left her hectic life of working seven days a week in Brisbane and moved back to her home town of Eumundi where she found solace on a hilltop property and developed a love for horses.
"I was a workaholic. The first time (breast cancer diagnosis) I ignored it. The second time it gave me a real kick.
"I bought 43 acres on top of Cooroy Mountain. A friend said come and have a look at this auction. I went along. I bought it in less than 10 minutes. I did not even know what I was buying. I went from a career woman to forging a spiritual journey and raising my daughter."
That was 14 years ago. Janet now runs Eumundi Mountain Retreat. "I have no wi-fi, no TV, I'm surrounded by clean air and have water from the spring. I eat organically and stay fit and healthy. I also spend a lot of time with my horses."
Pivotal to Janet's story is the impact horses have had on her, particularly one named Arnie.
"Horses are very healing," she said.
"I'd never had anything to do with them until I ended up with 12 horses when I bought this property.
"Arnie was a rig, an uncut horse, which is very dangerous. Everyone thought he was going to kill me because I love riding fast through the bush.
"And that I think comes from the fast life I had in the corporate world. That horse came into my life for a reason."
Janet now rides with the Light Horse every Anzac Day.
Her most recent cancer diagnosis came just two weeks after she told her parents, Gay and Jim McNamara, that she wanted a double mastectomy. She was 49.
Janet had five cancer and reconstruction surgeries in one year alone.
"Later, I had my nipples made out of my crotch. They look so real," she said.
"Two weeks ago I had my nipples tattooed. I think I'm one of few in the world to have my nipples made out of my crotch, then tattooed."
Janet said her family and close network of friends have been her strength, as well as sharing her story.
Kiri ten Dolle
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