Absolutely humbled . . . Sarah Smith and schnauzer Jazz, with the post-surgery pillow she received from volunteers at the Breast Cancer Foundation. PHOTO: HELEN HOLT

by Helen Holt

A Winchester woman living with breast cancer is volunteering at the Dunedin NZ House and Garden Tours as a way to give back to the Breast Cancer Foundation.

Sarah Smith (53) was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2018, after a routine mammogram.

Following a mastectomy and then reconstruction, she thought she was cancer-free.

However, in 2020 she was told the cancer was metastatic and had spread to other parts of her body.

The mother of three daughters said she had felt very looked after by the foundation.

“They’re fantastic, and they help out in so many ways.

“Living in a remote, small town, it’s been tough not having any breast cancer support groups nearby.

“When I joined BCFNZ’s online community, I was able to connect with a lady who lives near me going through a similar situation and it made all the difference.”

The garden tours will take place in March around the country including Dunedin and Christchurch.

They have been running for the last 12 years and have raised more than $100,000 each year for the foundation.

“I’m not really a ‘stand on the street’ person. But if I can go to Dunedin and help out, it’s a way I can give back and help others going through cancer,” Mrs Smith said.

The foundation provided many services to cancer patients, including online forums, counselling, physio, and nurses contactable by phone.

They also sent handmade pillows for comfort after surgery, which she said was “incredibly humbling” to receive.

Mrs Smith is a member of online support forums such as Sweet Louise, which she said gave her the opportunity to meet some fantastic people.

“Sweet Louise has been such a huge support. I’ve met some fantastic people who shine light into your life. And it truly helps to talk to people going through similar situations, or have had the same surgery you’re about to have.”

Mrs Smith was originally from Christchurch, but moved to Winchester 26 years ago after meeting her husband.

Mrs Smith is now on medication and said she was able to do everything she did before she was diagnosed.

The former medical social worker said she felt very blessed not to be working, and to just spend time with family and friends and do things she enjoyed, such as gardening and walking her dog Jazz.