CAN?T KEEP A GOOD WOMAN DOWN
By JENI FAULKNER
DYMPNA Keough, 74, says she is at the tailend of her life, but many would argue it has only just begun.
Diagnosed with breast cancer last year, Dympna made the decision to have a mastectomy of her right breast as soon as possible. She is now undergoing breast reconstruction.
"People say to me 'why at your age would you do this?'," Dympna said. "And my response is 'Well, why not'?"
After her breast was removed Dympna's balance was altered and she had trouble with her back. She tried a prosthesis but found it too hot and uncomfortable in summer.
"I am glad I had a mastectomy and if I got cancer in my other breast I would have another one," she said.
"It is a woman's worst fear that she is going to get breast cancer and die, that is why I was always so careful," Dympna said.
Every two years Dympna had a mammogram and, although it doesn't run in her family, she has lost an aunt to the disease.
Considering herself lucky, Dympna said it was amazing her microcalcification was picked up so early because these were often missed.
Formerly a nurse, the vivacious grandmother of six knew the dangers of cancer. For the past nine years Dympna has supported her husband through treatment for skin cancer and it was in between his operations that she received her own bad news.
"When I opened the letter and I read I had an abnormality I felt like I had been punched in the stomach," Dympna said.
"We had travelled to Sydney so much over the years and I didn't want to have to go through all that again. That is why I had my breast removed."
To many Dympna is a positive person and age is nothing more to her than just numbers.
"I wasn't going to let this interfere with life or my time left with my husband and my family."
Four months ago Dympna travelled to Sydney to have an expander put in her breast and this was followed up in Coffs Harbour by four injections of saline. In two months she will be given a silicon gel breast implant.
"Later, if I like, I can even have a nipple reconstructed and then the areola tattooed around it, and I might even get another tattoo while I'm at it?" she said with a devilish grin.
Dympna says women should not hide away after something like breast cancer and is doing a pictorial essay to show the different stages of breast reconstruction which will be used by doctors in the area.
She is an active member of the Young and the Breastless group, although she refers to herself as the 'old one', and is currently part of a fundraising team for the Dragon Abreast.
Dympna can't join the boating team until her breast reconstruction is complete, but for the moment she supplies breakfast.
"I work as hard as I can to make the dream of the Dragon Abreast group come true because there is so much fundraising to do.
"You could say 'Woe is me, I have breast cancer', but just look at the beautiful days and realise life is too short."
In her own philosophical way, Dympna said life was like a piece of fabric. It needs balance and colour.
"There are some dark threads, light ones, golden and silver. But this fabric is only at its best when all these are mixed together ? that is when you truly get a wonderful experience."
n Anyone interested in offering donations to the Dragons Abreast team can do so by phoning Lee Millard on 0432 305 689. A breast cancer update seminar, titled Keeping Abreast, is being held tomorrow at the Coffs Harbour Health Campus.