Mother’s Day Classic an emotional journey

Mother’s Day Classic ambassador Kelli Holtham-Felini and daughter Annie.
Mother’s Day Classic ambassador Kelli Holtham-Felini and daughter Annie.

ARARAT - This year's Mother's Day Classic will be a very different experience from the 2013 event for Kelli Holtham-Felini.

As ambassador for this year's classic, Ms Holtham-Felini will be completing the event as a breast cancer survivor on Sunday. Having been diagnosed with breast cancer in April last year, she took part in the classic surrounded by family and just a few days away from breast cancer surgery and all the emotions that came with such a devastating diagnosis.

The past year has been a roller coaster of emotions but this week Ms Holtham-Felini told The Ararat Advertiser that she was given the all clear at her six month check up.

The results have taken a huge weight off her shoulders.

"I didn't realise how much it sits in there (the back of your mind) and you don't realise how much it affects your day to day life. Even though it's not a conscious thought, it sits back there," she said.

"And then it was 'Oh wow, now what?'."

While the results were a relief, her journey isn't over just yet and she will continue to see her radiologist, oncologist and surgeon on a regular basis.

"They'll monitor me for the next five years and of course I go through my monthly mapping of my own breasts the way I've always done which is highly crucial," she said.

"Certainly finding mine early was hence why I had minimal treatments with a smaller surgery and less down time. Early diagnosis is still one of the thing that puts you in good stead for a better recovery or best possible outcome."

With the six month check up now completed, Ms Holtham-Felini said it was now time to move on, although despite her diagnosis and treatment she has never really stopped and she continued to operate her personal training business throughout the past year.

"But it's probably easier now because it feels like that weight's been lifted, to a certain degree. I'm getting right back into my work again and getting my physical strength back, which depleted a fair bit," she said.

"Even though I was fit, the work that I was in was a big factor in the whole recovery and being able to bounce back so quickly from surgery and treatment. I didn't stop during my treatment but I was no where near as into it.

"I've got back now and I'm full noise into it."

Ms Holtham-Felini said exercise is so important for anyone suffering illness, not only for the physical benefits, but also for the mental and emotional relief it can provide.

"The thing is, exercise is crucial with anything and certainly I found it was basically my life saver," she said.

While it was easy for the personal trainer, given her career and her already established fitness level, she said it was important to do what you can, no matter how unfit or unwell you felt.

"Go in and have a hit of exercise and get those endorphins running around your body - you'll just feel like you've got that extra energy," she said.

"Depending on what sort of surgery you have had, and you need to obviously let your body take that healing time and make sure you have good physical therapy advice ... then certainly get out and try to keep doing the minimum amount to start with.

"So getting out and going for a walk, you know, just anything that's going to get you that good hit of feel good drug that we've got in our own body and then (working) with your specialist, just keep on and start building on it.

"There's no reason, even during treatment time, once wounds have healed, why you need to stop, as long as you feel well you can do it.

"Good food, good nutrition, getting some exercise - it doesn't need to fade away because you've been diagnosed."

Ms Holtham-Felini said that having 'been there done that' she would be happy to help anyone who's had breast surgery or had breast cancer.

"I knew about this stuff before - but I really get it now," she said.

"Having lived it I get it now, I'm well aware of what you could and couldn't do as far as exercise."

With one in eight women diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetime, the disease is being found increasingly in younger women.

"There's a lot of post 60 (diagnosed) but also now in that lower bracket of the 40s - it's quite scary. It doesn't discriminate," she said.

"My biggest push is for people to be breast aware. You've just got to do the mapping, even if it's only once a month, early diagnosis is the key.

"I'm very thankful that, for whatever reason, I've always done it, because it could well have been a lot worse.

"People are a bit complacent about the whole thing, they think because there's no family history it doesn't mater, well, it does matter because everything starts somewhere and it doesn't necessarily have to be a family history, it can just happen."

Ms Holtham-Felini's family was hit with a double whammy last year, with her sister Sherri Holtham also diagnosed with the disease, and despite no family history of breast cancer, both women will at some stage undergo gene testing.

"This is the only thing hanging over my head, where does this leave our girls and even the boys? As I said it doesn't discriminate so it can be both," she said.

This year will mark the sixth year Ararat and district people have participated in the Mother's Day Classic, having raised more than $50,000 over the past five years for the National Breast Cancer Foundation.

There will be two events run on the day, with participants able to choose from either a four kilometre or eight kilometre run/walk with prizes for the first male and female to finish in both events.

The walk will start from Richardson Oval in Golf Links Road Ararat with registrations commencing from 9am and the walk/run kicking off at 10am. The cost to participants will be adults - $20, student/health card holder - $12, child (16 and under) - $10, family (two adults and up to four children) - $50, family (one adult and up to four children) - $30.

Ms Holtham-Felini encouraged everyone to join in on the day.

"I would like to see more of the greater community do it because at the end of the day there's not any one of us who isn't going to be touched by it (breast cancer) in some way shape or form, whether it's your mum, your sister your aunty, it's an epidemic, it's out of control," she said.

"The more funds we can raise, hopefully they can spend the money in the laboratory trying to find something that can slow this down."

Despite being very emotional during last year's Mother's Day Classic, Ms Holtham-Felini said the camaraderie and togetherness of the event meant a lot.

"You kind of really 'felt the love'. It's a whole group movement and you're all there for the same cause," she said.

"You see all these families doing the same thing together and you've got to remember that most of these people, not all of them, but a fair percentage of them, have been touched by it. There's a really strong feeling that whether you knew that person walking next to you or not, you knew somehow, someway you've got a connection, and it would be breast cancer.

"It's an emotional walk, a real feeling of togetherness, everyone working towards a purpose.

"I enjoyed it, cried it, every emotion there was, but felt quite on a high."


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