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Wine, laughter & tears

28 May 2021
Kbank Local Hero 2019 Photo Set High Res 79 Smaller Cropped

We turn the clock back to January when Style met the wonderful chairperson from Shocking Pink. Anna Manson won a Kiwibank Local Hero medal for her work with supporting women with breast cancer. She talks about impromptu speeches, scan anxiety, and the ‘other side’ of cancer.

Congratulations Anna on your award – did you partake in a few celebration reds last night?
[Laughs] Yeah, it was a good night. Gosh, you should’ve seen the calibre of people, I felt really out of my league. There was a guy who was there after the mosque attack [March 15] and a guy who had served for St John for 60 years. I was just like, ‘Wow.’ It was humbling, really humbling.

You are not so shabby yourself I hear.
I don’t know about that! But they didn’t warn us that we could speak when we got our medal and then everyone started speaking and I was like, ‘Oh no, I should have had more wine at the start of the night!’ So I had to do an off-the-cuff speech, it was really embarrassing.

Oh no, you didn’t go all Kanye (West) did you?
[Laughs] No! I just talked about this argument I had with my friend on the night the awards were first announced. She was on Facebook commenting on the post saying, ‘Anna, you got an award’, and I was like, ‘No, don’t be ridiculous there is more than one Anna Manson’ and she was like ‘I really think you need to take this seriously’, and I was like ‘Whatever.’ And then the woman from Kiwibank contacted me on Facebook and said, ‘Anna, it is you’ and I was like ‘Oh!’ So yeah, that is what I said in my speech!

So, where have I caught you today?
I’m just at Christchurch Hospital getting chemo with my son. It’s not for me this time. He’s got a brain tumour that is benign, so the chemo is trying to reduce the size of the tumour.

You’ve had a heck of a journey to Shocking Pink. Talk to me about that.
I was diagnosed at 31 with breast cancer, so it’s about seven and a half years ago. It’s all a bit hazy now, which is probably a good thing. I’ve had a mastectomy, done chemo and radiation, been through umpteen amounts of drugs and had seven surgeries. It was a helluva lot. You go full thrust straight into it. The year before my relationship had ended, and everything was back on track, I had a good job and yeah.

And then you got told the news?
Yeah. Well, after two weeks of biopsies, scans and blood tests they called me to the office. And they told me to bring a support person, so I guess I kind of knew then. And they said, unfortunately, it is breast cancer. I said a few choice words and then I didn’t really hear anything after that. Within seven days I was having surgery. You don’t have time to adjust.

What is your role with Shocking Pink?
I’m the chairperson and oversee the organisation of the charity. I just organised the getaway too. This year, 30 went to Queenstown. We joke that between us we have about 10 breasts [laughing] so yeah, there is a bit of dry humour that goes around. Shocking Pink helps young women with any concerns they have and also financially, because having cancer is really expensive, we just help get you through to the other side.

What does the other side look like?
It can be frightening. Your world becomes full of scans, tests and treatment, and then it is all quiet and that can be terrifying. Suddenly, you are on your own and that is when the post-traumatic stress can really start to kick in. You are you, but you are totally different. And that can be really scary. We have people say who are 10 years on, saying they still have bad days and they feel guilty. But that is just what happens. Like scan anxiety. Getting a mammogram can bring up the emotions of the time when you were diagnosed. And suddenly you are back there again. Your hair has grown back and you have two breasts again, but that doesn’t stop the memories or the emotions.

How did you get through?
A lot of wine, I’m not going to lie [laughing]! Just putting one foot in front of the other. If I was having a terrible time I’d lie in bed and hop online [to the Facebook page] and instantly there was this support from women. You know, they’d say, ‘Oh my gosh, I’ve been there.’

That is quite a whirlwind. Where do you call home now?
I live in Springfield, just out of Christchurch. It’s my little spot of paradise. I have cows, calves and turkeys. We’re having a party out there for Shocking Pink. Everyone is just going to pitch up a tent out the back.

I bet there will be a bit of wine involved too?
[Laughs] There will be a lot of wine and laughter and tears.

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