By Bina Brown
THE body contact associated with roller derby would be enough to send most people off their skates, but for Natalie Evans-Sandell and Jodi Fraser the fitness and camaraderie is a good reason to stick to the track despite their cancer treatments.
Natalie, also known as “Boob-one-ic Plague” or “Boobs” for short (because everyone in roller derby has a name to match their personality), is on a mission to not only live the life she wants, but to regain her fitness and shed some of the weight involuntarily gained after years of treatment.
The well-researched link between the production of oestrogen and weight gain and breast cancer concerns Natalie after her own weight gain from treatments. The other concern is research and a cure for metastasised cancer or “mets” as she refers to it.
The discovery of tumours on Natalie’s brain came mid 2018, just four months after the completion of a year of target treatment following on from six months of chemotherapy, radiation and a mastectomy after a diagnosis of breast cancer in June 2016.
Natalie believes her initial breast cancer diagnosis could have been detected earlier.
“Just as I thought I was clear after the treatments I was paddling in Italy at the international Dragons Abreast meet and I developed an enormous headache. There were more tests and an MRI and they found two tumours in my brain,” she says.
“I have accepted that I had brain mets but that doesn’t mean I won’t keep doing what is important to me and that includes keeping fit,” says the psychologist.
Coincidentally, Jodi Fraser also turned to roller derby and dragon boating – well known for its benefits to breast cancer survivors – to enjoy life and get back on track after treatment.
Jodi – aka “Whole Latte Trouble” in reference to her love of coffee and coincidentally her current job as a barista – was diagnosed with breast cancer 4.5 years ago at age 34.
“After you finish active treatment you think ‘what next?’ The Dragons Abreast ladies and the Varsity roller derby crew have both been really supportive. It’s been a great way to meet people and keep fit since relocating to Canberra,” she says.
Varsity Derby League president “Denominator” loves the fact that the women feel safe and supported roller derbying.
“Noms”, as the maths teacher is known, is currently coaching Natalie on how to referee a game and avoid body contact rather than let her hard-earned roller skating skills go to waste.
Natalie and Jodi hope to be part of the Dragons Abreast crew that annually paddles on the lake surrounded by about 4000 walkers and runners as part of the Women in Super Mother’s Day Classic on May 12.
New statistics show that 1 in 7 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetime.
The Mother’s Day Classic is Australia’s largest breast-cancer fundraising initiative with funds going directly to the National Breast Cancer Foundation for vital breast cancer research.
The annual event that is held throughout the country celebrates the lives of people touched by breast cancer and includes a 5km run or walk or a 10km run as well as a range of food and fun activities for families to enjoy.
“Mother’s Day Classic is not about breaking speed records. We are all about delivering a fun and inspirational community event that involves celebrating and supporting those touched by this disease,” says MDC Foundation CEO Sharon Morris.
“Our focus is on participation, whether you walk, run, donate or volunteer. It’s a fun morning, with many dressing up: you’ll see everything from pink stormtroopers to teams in fairy wings and dads in tutus,” says Sharon.
This year’s goal is to reach $2.1m for life-saving breast cancer research.
Register, volunteer, fundraise or donate at mothersdayclassic.com.au
- An average of 53 women are diagnosed with breast cancer in Australia every day.
- An average of eight women lose their lives to breast cancer each day in Australia.
- Since 1994 the five-year survival rate for people diagnosed with breast cancer has improved from 76 per cent to 91 per cent – statistical proof that research positively impacts survival rates.
- Improvements in survival are attributed to earlier detection of breast cancer through regular mammograms and better treatment outcomes – more proof why funding research is so important.
Author Bina Brown is a volunteer on the Canberra organising committee for the MDC.