HAVING already been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, Jen Warburton thought that, statistically, the chances of her having breast cancer as well were unlikely.
But unfortunately the often heard phrase 'cancer does not discriminate' rang true for Ms Warburton and she was diagnosed with the disease in October last year.
Prompted to have her first mammogram when a portable BreastScreen WA bus pulled up in her home town of Kojonup, Ms Warburton was told she had stage 4 breast cancer which would require immediate surgery.
Due to the aggressiveness of the cancer, after the surgery she also underwent six rounds of chemotherapy and six weeks of radiation treatment.
Based on a 5000 hectare sheep and cropping farm, which was in the middle of harvest at the time, Ms Warburton decided to stay with a friend in Perth while undergoing her treatment to help lower her risk of infection.
Supported by her husband Rob, who had been diagnosed with Hodgkin's lymphoma 20 years prior, and their two daughters Lucinda, 19 and Zara, 15, her family stepped up by doing the jobs she normally would around the farm.
"Usually I drive the chaser bin but I couldn't last year so my daughter did, but I will be back to driving the chaser bin this harvest," Ms Warburton said.
"For me, in terms of the chemo, I felt ill for a few days afterwards but they have so many good drugs these days it wasn't as bad as I thought it was going to be.
"I thought I'd be incapacitated in a bed and not able to get out or eat, but the medicines they provide you with help prevent you from losing weight and make you feel as well as you possibly can under the circumstances.
"Most of my chemotherapy treatments affected me for about a week and then I'd start to feel OK again."
With her mother acting as her carer, Ms Warburton also used her time in Perth as an opportunity to further her flower business, Lucinda Everlastings, which began about the same time as the birth of their first daughter.
Ms Warburton planted a crop of everlastings, which now covers five hectares of their property and began selling the flowers as well as harvesting and selling the seeds.
Due to the physical nature of the business and no backpackers being available to pick the flowers due to COVID-19, Ms Warburton has since stopped selling the flowers locally and to Perth stores, but has kept selling the everlastings seeds.
"We don't plan on letting that business go as it's good fun and it's not that hard to do because I can get other people to do the packing," Ms Warburton said.
"I couldn't physically manage picking the flowers with my MS and the situation with my health, but we use a special adaption on the header to harvest the seeds of our everlasting crop each year.
"That business is really busy from March through until September, so it has slowed down a bit now thankfully."
Wanting to share their beautiful paddock of everlastings and create a bloom festival event to put Kojonup on the map for 2021, Ms Warburton decided to hold a long table luncheon to raise funds for Breast Cancer Care WA on their property earlier this month.
"The purpose of the event was to raise awareness for people to have cancer mammograms to check for the disease and also as a way to say thanks and raise money for Breast Cancer Care WA, whose nurses made my own journey tolerable," she said.
The luncheon was a huge success, raising more than $30,000, with 150 people from all over the State booking out accommodation in Kojonup to attend the event, which cost $170 per head.
"Almost everything was donated including produce and prizes, with the event sponsored by my stockbroker, accountant, sheep trader, local machinery dealerships, insurance broker, agricultural suppliers and even our farrier," Ms Warburton said.
"The goodie bags were amazing too - they included chocolate made using everlasting petals, earl grey tea using the petals, Vasse Virgin soaps, vouchers... and the list goes on.
"If we had to pay for any item, it was heavily discounted."
Donations of big ticket items included chainsaws, a blowvac, whipper snippers, Frankland River retreats, accommodation packages and Bodhi J vouchers, as well as a pair of pink steel boots (which had a retail price of $180 and were auctioned for $580.
"The auction itself raised $10,000 alone and the people that attended were so incredibly generous," Ms Warburton said.
"The flowers and everlasting petal candles made for the tables also sold for ridiculous amounts."
Ms Warburton mowed a loop through the everlastings crop before the luncheon so that people could walk through the paddock of flowers and cleared an area for a marquee in which to serve champagne and canapes.
A pink velvet couch placed in the middle of the everlastings paddock proved to be a crowd favourite, creating an opportunity for people to capture a pretty photo from the event.
Admitting that putting the event together was quite a stressful experience, Ms Warburton said it was worth the effort due to the amount of money raised.
"Stress can trigger relapses with MS, but I just decided to go against all of my doctors advice and organise the luncheon anyway because it's such an important cause," Ms Warburton said.
A year on since her breast cancer diagnosis, Ms Warburton has finished her treatment and plans to focus on getting her health back.
"I just have to take (hormone therapy) Tamoxifen every day for the next 10 years, as that vastly reduces the chances of your cancer coming back and I will have a mammogram once a year rather than once every five years," she said.
"I haven't had a PET scan to say 'tick, you don't have cancer anymore' because having had the surgery, chemotherapy and radiation there is no more I can do anyway."
With the muscles in her legs already weak due to her MS, Ms Warburton said the chemotherapy treatment had made the muscles even weaker, to the point that she started using a zimmer frame recently.
"Through my diagnosis I learnt to put a few things on the backburner and just focus on those things that are actually important to me," she said.
"My focus now will be on my health, working with my physiotherapist to increase my muscle strength in my legs and building my energy levels back up again."
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