Connie Kalathas reflects on her breast cancer battle and not knowing if she’d survive

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“I didn’t know if I was going to survive. That was my biggest fear. And that’s why when people would say, ‘you’ll be okay,’ I would say, ‘I don’t know if I will be’,” Connie Rantzoglou Kalathas explains as we sit down for our exclusive chat.

When Connie was first diagnosed with Stage 2-3 breast cancer on August 29, 2017, she was horrified and scared. At the time, she was “50 years young” with no family history of the disease.

Sadly, she’s not alone. Breast cancer, which is the abnormal growth of the cells lining the breast ducts, is the most common cancer in Australian women. According to Cancer Council NSW, about 17,000 women are diagnosed with breast cancer each year and 1 in 8 will be diagnosed by the age of 85.

Connie Kalathas was only 50 years old when she was first diagnosed with Stage 2-3 breast cancer on August 29, 2017. Photo supplied.

Health professionals say early detection of the disease gives the best possible chance of survival. In Connie’s case, if it wasn’t for her colleagues at the Bank of Sydney, where she’s been working for over 18 years as a Branch Operations Manager in Adelaide, she wouldn’t have even done a mammogram (x-ray) of her breast.

“I was getting sharp pains in my left breast and the girls at work kept saying, ‘Go for a mammogram,’ and I kept putting it off until I turned 50 when I received a letter to go for a free mammogram. That’s when I thought, ‘I’m going to do it’,” Connie tells The Greek Herald exclusively.

Connie was initially scared to go for a mammogram. Photo supplied.

“I booked an appointment and ended up cancelling three times. But I did eventually go for the test and they rang me up afterwards and said, ‘we want you to come in for a biopsy.’ I knew straight away.

“I visited the doctor after my biopsy and when he said, ‘you are breast cancer positive with three lesions,’ my world just fell apart.”

Connie had to instantly undergo a full mastectomy (removal) of her left breast tissue, followed by 15 rounds of chemotherapy and 24 rounds of radiotherapy, five days a week.

Connie underwent 15 rounds of chemotherapy and 24 rounds of radiotherapy. Photo supplied.

The process was gruelling and “gut-wrenching,” especially as Connie’s father also passed away as she was undergoing treatment. But Connie says she’s still extremely grateful for the support of family and friends at the time.

“When I was first diagnosed, the doctors were throwing books and pamphlets at me and I just didn’t even want to look at anything,” Connie explains.

“But I was lucky to have a close circle of family and friends who supported me during every treatment and my dad’s passing. Even if it was just that initial hug or to have my friends vacuum or mop for me because I couldn’t do anything. That’s all I needed.”

Connie’s eldest sister Zafiro taking her to chemotherapy. Photo supplied.

And it looks as though that support really was enough because Connie has now been in remission for three years. Something she says is a relief but added that there’s still a long way to go with her recovery process.

“Even now I get days where I’m so tired and fatigued and I’m feeling down. But you’ve just got to lift yourself up and generally, I put my feet on the ground every morning and say, ‘thank you God, I’m here for another day’.”

A positive message of hope from an inspirational woman who has already been through so much trauma and heartbreak in her short 50 years of life.

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