Crisley said her diagnosis came as a massive shock. “I felt a lump in the shower last October; it felt like an olive. I don’t have a family history of breast cancer and thought I’m too young, so I brushed it aside, but the next month I decided to see my GP. I had an ultrasound, then a biopsy, and was diagnosed with breast cancer in March – the same month as my 29th birthday.”

“It was so unexpected. Given my age, I had the option to freeze my eggs, so I spent two months going through a fertility process and started chemotherapy in May.”

By the time the Foundation first met Crisley, she had endured 16 rounds of chemotherapy, and it was her last day of treatment: “I have butterflies; today feels like a new beginning,” she said. “The next few days will be hard with chemo side-effects, but then I’m done with it.”

Speaking that day, Crisley said it had been a roller coaster of emotions. “I started off feeling really positive, but sometimes it’s been hard to stay upbeat, especially when I had to stop working. Luckily, I have the best friends and I have amazing doctors, which has made a big difference.”

Since her diagnosis, Crisley has been cared for by Auckland DHB’s Cancer and Blood Service (Regional Cancer Centre), which provides cancer care, treatment and support for 1.5 million people in greater Auckland.

Crisley counts herself lucky to be surrounded by the best specialists, nurses, and surgeons. Auckland DHB Oncologist Sheridan Wilson (below) came to see Crisley before her last chemotherapy. “Sheridan has been with me the whole way. She is so good at passing on all the information I need,” said Crisley that day. “I’m so excited she’s given me the all-clear to fly home to Brazil to be a bridesmaid at my best friend’s wedding next week. Auckland has been home for seven years now, so I’ll be back for surgery to remove the lump.”

Auckland DHB’s Regional Cancer Centre treats all patients in the Northern Region (north of Mercer), and is the only public provider of radiation therapy in the region.

With so many people relying on Auckland DHB’s Cancer and Blood Service for life-saving care, the Auckland Health Foundation is a positive fundraising force to help patients achieve greater positive health outcomes.

Crisley’s journey with Auckland DHB’s Cancer and Blood Service continued on her return from Brazil when she underwent surgery in October. “It was hard leaving my family after the wedding, but I was overwhelmed by love and support from everyone here, and the surgery went well. It was only a lumpectomy, which was good news, and even better news that the removed tissue had no cancer cells. The chemo had worked.”

Since then, Crisley has undergone four weeks of radiotherapy, finishing in February. “It was precautionary, in case any cancer cells were left, and to reduce the risk of it returning. I feel so relieved that it’s finally done.”

Crisley is now working on emotional healing, which is one of the biggest challenges she has faced. “I always kept finding reasons to feel grateful and blessed and was determined to keep smiling. ‘Crazy Crisley’ was never a fan of giving up and, step-by-step, we are putting things back together. I’m back working full-time at My Food Bag and applying for citizenship, which will give me more freedom to enjoy whatever lies ahead.

“I’m finding my ‘new normal’ and I’m happy that sharing my journey has touched people all over the world, helping them fight their own cancer battles. The more my story can help others, the better. I’ve been helped so much by Auckland DHB’s awesome cancer team, and would love to inspire donations that make the service even better.”