Denise Ashe

At the age of 36, in June 2017, Denise Ashe was diagnosed with Triple-Negative Breast Cancer. “A painful lump in my left breast prompted me to see my GP,” she recalls, “and after an examination, it was decided to put me on a two-week course of antibiotics, due to the fact that three years prior my right breast had an abscess, which was remedied by medication. Two weeks later, the pain subsided but the lump remained and had appeared to have increased in size. As a breast cancer survivor herself, my GP – Dr Clifford – was extremely proactive and immediately referred me to St Vincent’s Hospital for tests.” After numerous mammograms, ultra-sounds and biopsies, Denise was unexpectedly diagnosed with breast cancer. “I was floored! I was the fittest and healthiest I had ever been in my life. I had just run my first marathon the previous October, and I was running and circuit training up to five times a week. I am vegetarian, I don’t smoke, I only drink alcohol occasionally and I was only 36.” Although an enormous shock, from the start Denise was determined that cancer was not going to hold her back from living her best life. “I am fortunate enough,” she says, “that my strong mind and otherwise healthy body enabled me to keep running and working on my good days during chemo. Retaining my usual routine kept me mentally positive, and the exercise not only aided my recovery from treatment but it also enabled me to catch up with my running friends, who were of tremendous support to me. I am still overwhelmed by the amount of support and assistance I received from family, friends and neighbours. It still makes me emotional to think so many people had my back!”

Denise underwent 20 weeks of chemotherapy. “Losing my lovely long hair was tough, but I parked my vanity and told myself it was only temporary. I chose not to wear a wig but perfected the headscarf look and co-ordinated my headwear with all my outfits! At times the side effects from treatment were challenging, both physically and emotionally, but I found it manageable. For me, the good days far outweighed the bad. Having completed my treatment plan I now continue to live life to the absolute max. I wake with a smile every morning and I am genuinely grateful for each day, even Mondays!” Denise endeavours to continue fundraising for invaluable research that is gradually transforming breast cancer from an often-fatal disease to a treatable long-term illness. “Cancer treatment has advanced significantly in recent years,” she adds. “Thanks to research, treatment is now tailor-made for the individual and has never been as effective. I am a firm believer there is power in numbers, and together we will kick breast cancer’s ass once and for all!”