Pink & Blue – not just women?

Learning to live with the BRCA gene and what comes along with that gene in your life is a big task for anyone. But for me the biggest shock was realizing that this is not just a pink female thing. After all the breast cancer events I’d been to with my darling friend Helena and all our ‘pink’ crew – I hadn’t realized the implication of BRCA on males. But it was about to smack me in the face!

I originally tried to get tested for BRCA because my mum had experienced breast cancer twice, and we also had ovarian cancer on my grandmothers (maternal) side of the family. So I was pretty surprised to eventually find out the BRCA2 gene had actually been passed to me by my father who passed away in 1993 of stomach cancer. And around the time of my testing in 2015 my uncle (fathers side) was struggling with male breast cancer.

Then in 2016, not long after my own mastectomy, my brother was tested in Australia and confirmed he also has the family BRCA 2 gene. And I now know that my 4 year old son Carlo has a 50% chance of carrying the BRCA 2 gene, which weighs heavily on me as a mother.

So when I recently learned about this documentary Pink & Blue I was really excited about it.  I’m really hoping this award winning doco will come to NZ soon so that more people can gain knowledge about BRCA and it’s affects on women and men!

I will keep you posted when I find out about screening. Watch this space…


More about Alan Blassberg the director here!

Soundcloud link to the documentary here!

And if you want to know more about BRCA1 & BRCA2 genetics, symptoms and treatments for men, check out the story below from this oncology nursing website.


I recall asking my mother’s oncologist in 1997, when BRCA gene testing was still in its infancy, about the possibility of testing her blood for this genetic mutation or freezing and storing her blood for future analysis. My mother was dying from recurrent metastatic breast cancer and, 5 years ear­lier, had been treated for primary ovarian cancer. As a fam­ily nurse practitioner, I was not only interested in this new testing for the sake of science but also personally concerned that my older sister, brother, and I might have inherited an increased risk of cancer associated with this genetic anomaly. My inquiry was dismissed with the nonchalant response that BRCA testing was just “too new to worry about right now.” In retrospect, a definitive result for my mother back then would have guided future healthcare recommendations for us.

After recently viewing the 2015 documentary Pink & Blue: Colors of Hereditary Cancer, I began to question why I had not sought genetic testing for the last 20 years. Pink & Blue not only educates the viewer about the BRCA gene mutations but also powerfully highlights the personal stories of both women and men with positive mutations, depicting their subse­quent journeys, including treatment, restoration, remission, or death. The documentary advocates that “knowledge is power” and speaks passionately about the need for increased awareness of genetic testing and breast cancer prevention.

One goal of Pink & Blue is to raise awareness of male breast cancer. Despite the overwhelming “pinkness” of the breast cancer world, men inherit BRCA mutations as fre­quently as women do. Regardless of gender, a parent with an inherited mutation has a 50% chance of passing it on to each of their offspring, whether the baby is a girl or boy.1 It struck me that if I were BRCA-positive, even my son could have a genetic mutation that might be transmitted to his children someday.

Up to 10% of all breast cancers may be linked to genetic mutations, with BRCA1/2 being the most common.2 A woman with a BRCA1/2 genetic anomaly may have up to an 80% lifetime risk of developing breast cancer, as well as ovarian, colon, skin, and pancreatic cancers. Although breast cancer is rare in men, the American Cancer Society estimated that about 2470 new cases of male invasive breast cancer were diagnosed in 2017 and that about 460 men would die from the disease.3The average lifetime risk of breast cancer in men is about 1 in 1000 (0.1%) compared with 1 in 8 (about 12%) for women. A man with an abnormal BRCA2 gene has a life­time breast cancer risk of about 8%, 80 times greater than that of the average man without a genetic mutation, and is 7 times more likely to develop prostate cancer than men without an abnormal gene.4 Although survival rates are simi­lar for men and women with the same stage of breast cancer, men are often diagnosed at a later stage. This is often because men did not report early symptoms and/or the cancer spread to adjacent structures due to less breast tissue.5 Healthcare providers routinely document medical histories and cancer risk of their patients, but many do not always refer high-risk patients, including men, for genetic counseling or testing.

Genetic counseling and subsequent testing require serious consideration. Some individuals may not wish to have addi­tional medical testing or recommended prophylactic sur­gery if faced with the knowledge of a positive result. Because genetic mutations affect all biological relatives, there may be emotional tension and fear within the family, factoring into decisions regarding marriage, childbearing, and career choices. Fear, hesitation, and doubt abound in the areas of employment discrimination; potentially higher health, life, and mortgage insurance rates; test reliability; and financial coverage for genetic testing. Individuals who may have posi­tive genetic mutations might also experience feelings of guilt and loss of control. However, the federal Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act of 2008, along with many state laws, prohibits discrimination based on genetic information in rela­tion to health insurance and employment, although it does not cover life insurance, disability insurance, or long-term care insurance.6

In addition to films like Pink & Blue, many online resources address cancer risk. A risk calculator on Bright Pink, a national nonprofit organization (, quickly pro­vides information regarding the user’s chances of developing breast or ovarian cancer. The Male Breast Cancer Coalition, a nonprofit organization, reminds the public that “men have breasts, too” and offers a related series ( Both organizations add blue to the traditional pink ribbon to recognize breast cancer in both genders.

Today, I am bold enough to pursue genetic counseling and testing for not only BRCA1/2 but also the comprehensive 34-gene panel that may identify my risk of as many as 8 dif­ferent cancers. My decision was based on neither my own 25 years’ experience and medical knowledge as a nurse prac­titioner nor my healthcare providers’ prompting. It was made after I viewed Pink & Blue and heard the powerful stories of people whose lives were positively changed by knowledge of their genetics. By taking the nonthreatening approach of consulting a genetic counselor, plus the simple act of sending out a freshly collected 1-cc sample of saliva, I will affect not only my health but also the well-being of my daughters, son, and grandchildren.

Some high-risk individuals might also be stirred to action by modalities such as film, social media, websites, and blogs. But why is it that we as healthcare providers do not consistently promote awareness of breast cancer risk to both women and men, as well as genetic counseling referral (when indicated) to our patients? When taking the family medical history, we all can address breast cancer risk, symptom recognition, and pre­vention. A caring, sensitive attitude is crucial to dispel myths and alleviate fears, especially those of a man who may feel emasculated by talk of self-breast exam, areolar masses, and nipple discharge. When indicated, providers must encourage patients with multiple breast cancer risk factors, regardless of gender, to consider genetic counseling and/or BRCA testing. For those who opt for testing, the results, whether negative or positive, not only deliver the power of knowledge but also afford healthcare providers the ability to make better manage­ment and treatment decisions.

Donna R. White, DNP, RN, CRNP, FNP-BC, is the director of graduate clinical faculty and clinical affairs at Duquesne University School of Nursing in Pittsburgh, PA.


Miss Universe NZ 2017

This year was the second year that I judged Miss Universe NZ, and what an absolute honour it was. Last year coming into this competition as a judge I felt like a bit of a newbee, coming into it knowing very little about how it all worked, with only the old school pagents in my mind. But I was really quite blown away at how far this competition has evolved and just how much effort the girls put in to Miss Universe NZ. So this year I was right in there, connecting with the other judges, and scoping out the contestants. I really enjoyed looking at all the ‘pre’ efforts these ambitious young women make to secure their place in the Grand Finals.

On the night it was all screened live on Bravo TV and streamed live on YouTube. The programme rated really well and it felt like so many of my friends in NZ and even overseas were tuned in!

From hundreds of entries there are only 20 places in the Grand Final, so the competition is very tough. What amazes me is that these young women (aged 18 – 28) spend 3 months running their own campaigns. This includes raising money in their local communities for Variety and other charities of their choice. Many of the contestants raised over $3,000 and one, a said winner, Harlem-Cruz Ihia – raised an astonishing $11,000. To achieve this goal you need to have, heart, soul, business smarts and determination.


As part of the competition the finalists were treated to a trip to five star Thavorn Village Resort in Phuket, Thailand. The trip was a chance for the girls to take part in the official Miss Universe NZ photoshoot, connect with the other girls and boost their social media pages with content for voting.

At our final ‘pre-judging day we heard each of these 20 women sit with us and explain their fundraising project outcomes to us, as well as a chat about themselves, who they are and why they are here? I cried my way through several of their talks. Some of these women were extremely empowered, some were proud, some were unique in beautiful soul-deep ways and some were already so accomplished that I was quite blown away.


The brands that power this event are really quite generous and the products that we tried were second to none. Beau Joie Champagne features stunning handcrafted copper bottles, that will no doubt feature on the mantlepiece for many evenings to come. The Caithy Argan Oil and Natural Creme’s were so nourishing, and the Avene beauty products were such a treat – you can’t go past anti-aging.


I was pretty chuffed with my Christian Paul watch, designed in Sydney, these time pieces are so stylish and perfect for everyday wear! Avene is a long time, respected beauty brand. And I’m loving my Anti-aging Eye & Lip Contour Creme. Plus we were treated to a lovely dinner at Azon, where they served a delicious soft shelled crab in coconut curry (amongst other yummy things). Check out that Filipino restaurant if you’re in Parnell!


And as for our deserved winner, Harlem-Cruz Ihia. Never have I heard a young woman speak with such passion about changing her community and aspiring to be a strong rolemodel for other young women in New Zealand. Harlem is passionate about bringing education to diverse areas, and she hopes that all women will strive to be the best they can be and realize their dreams. I was so moved by her talk with the judges and on the night of the Grand Finals I was really impressed with her poise and elegance. I should also add that Harlem raised the most money for Variety and the SCOT foundation. She was the true winner on the night and seeing her whanau perform the Haka brought tears to our eyes.

I look forward to seeing what Harlem will do with her Miss Universe Crown and I hope she’s having a great time driving around in her Honda Jazz!




Stay up to date with Miss Universe NZ:

The super-human parent juggle!

Sometimes I worry that what we see on social media isnt ‘real life’. We project the best versions of ourselves and try to look like super-humans, and often-times life can be so very different. That’s one of the reasons I wanted to do this story with the NZ Herald.

Being a single mum with a busy career is a full and rewarding life. I have many amazing supermum moments where I high five myself. Many days I juggle PR campaigns, run my beauty business, mentor juniors, make lego rocketships with my son, fit in a yoga class, cook an awesome dinner and fall asleep after meditating. But some days my car breaks down, my son is sick, technology is fickle and my work is so piled up so high that I don’t know where to start.

So when you start loading things on top of this, like major surgeries, recovery time, and trying to take care of children on your own – things can be pretty tough.  Through this blog I have met some amazing women. Many of them facing mastectomies and major surgery and most as single parents. I hope to see more general support available for these parents, and in paticular more short term benefit options so they can get through these tough times and avoid ending up on long term benefits.


Single parents struggle in the face of illness

Prominent public relations specialist Anna Jobsz is calling for agencies to offer more support to single parents who undergo major surgeries or illnesses.

Jobsz has opened up about her struggle caring for her son alone, while also recovering from two major surgeries.

After discovering she had a mutated BRCA gene, in April 2016 Jobsz opted to have a mastectomy to reduce her considerable cancer risk.

Months later she had reconstructive surgery. All the while, she cared for her 3-year-old son full time.

Her family is overseas and Jobsz could depend on friends occasionally, but Jobsz was disappointed to be told by Work and Income New Zealand her only options were to receive a long term benefit, or nothing.

“I think most single parents want to keep working despite illness, and they don’t want to get into further debt because they take three weeks off work to recover,” Jobsz said.

“When I came home from hospital I would have friends come over the first few days if they could spare an hour or three away from work, which was a big help, but the hardest part was at night.

“My son would often wake up two or three times in the night because he was unsettled after I’d been away in hospital and at that point I could barely walk and I was still on heavy meds. Getting up at night and lifting him out of his cot was difficult mentally and physically.”

anna & Carlo first day homeShe recalled five days after leaving hospital having to take her son to his own surgery to receive grommets. They were at the hospital all day. The appointment had been a long time coming and she didn’t feel she could cancel.

“I had to drive him, and get him into the hospital in his pram, upstairs in the carpark, and help him through the day while I was on heavy meds and just wanted to sleep. I had waited months for him to get on the operating schedule for grommets, and his hearing was so bad, I had to go. Those moments are truly tough.”

Following her surgeries Jobsz was readmitted to hospital after contracting infections, and at that point the hospital appointed a social worker because they could see she was struggling. The worker said a WINZ staffer would visit her to explore options, but no one showed up, Jobsz said.

After following up she said she was told to call her family, or go on a long term benefit. Dismayed to discover there is no short term option available, she’s calling on the agency to introduce one for solo parents who find themselves in her position- juggling work and a child, and extra costs including medication, childcare, and travel.

Only after her surgeries did ACC contact Jobsz to tell her what payment options she might be eligible for, and Jobsz fears that single parents who don’t think to ask, won’t receive.

She wants WINZ, ACC, and hospital staff to work together to ensure patients like her get the right support.

“I hope that together we can find a solution because with an alarming rate of breast cancer in New Zealand, especially amongst Maori women, I can imagine that many future single mothers will have to deal with this issue. How can we find a way to take care of our parents in a short term way without them ending up on long term benefits?”

A social media post where she spoke about her struggles received strong support from others, including Minister Nikki Kaye, who recently battled breast cancer.

Breast cancer survivor and breast cancer charity Paddle for Hope founder Karin Horen said the gap in support was a major issue.

Horen was first diagnosed with cancer at 26, which returned in her 40s. She has three children whom she cared for after her surgeries.

“There’s people who have no access to anything. You sit in this hospital for days and they don’t give you any idea what you’re entitled to. The problem with cancer is that it doesn’t finish with chemotherapy, or radiation, or an operation. It’s the ongoing effects that you’re dealing with.”

Breast Cancer New Zealand spokeswoman Adele Gautier said breast cancer survivors were often surprised at the financial impact on themselves and their families.

“We have a free healthcare system and getting surgery and drugs is not a problem, but the additional costs can cause a really hard time. It’s a tough situation made even tougher.”

A WINZ spokesperson said it had a range of benefits available for single parents and that what they were eligible for was dependant on individual circumstances. In emergencies assistance could also be provided for accommodation, childcare, and medical costs.

Pink Ribbon Breakfast @ MR TOMS

Every year NZ Breast Cancer Foundation empowers thousands of New Zealanders to take part in Pink Ribbon breakfasts. This year there were over 3000 breakfasts held in NZ during the month of May.

I held one in partnership with MR TOMS bar & restaurant in Ponsonby. They created a beautiful cooked breakfast, with goats cheese omelettes, salmon eggs bene and gorgeous pink cupcakes.

It’s important to me to support Pink Ribbon because they are the voice of the messages that help save women’s lives. And more than that, their ground breaking research will save countless lives in the future. Right now NZBCF is putting money into researching a vaccine to prevent young women developing breast cancer. That would be such a blessing for our future generations. It would stop Breast Cancer in its tracks, and hopefully eliminate the need for mastectomies.

Pink 4
Evangelina, CEO NZBCF came and said a few words. She talked about the alarming rate of women getting Breast Cancer in NZ, and the even greater risk for Maori women. I spoke about my journey with BRCA and the breast cancer in my family.

My dear friend Helena McAlpine was greatly missed. She was always the star at these events with her bold messages and insane sense of humour. Hosting these events without her feels a bit like going dancing without my high heels, but it was also a good reminder of how special she was, not just to me but to so many people in the room.


Helena’s husband Christopher Barton joined us in saying a few quick words of support for NZ Breast Cancer Foundation and there wasn’t a dry eye in the house.
Our brave speaker for the event was Tamzyn Adding, who was only diagnosed with cancer a year ago and has bravely fought through her mastectomy and treatment. She talked about how hard it was to tell her three children about her illness, and how scared she was on her initial diagnosis. But ultimately how hard she has fought to be alive. She is one brave woman!

(Tamzyn on the right & her sister on the left)

I thank everyone who made the effort to come to our special Pink Ribbon event… to listen, to connect and give money to this wonderful cause.

A special thanks to Essano – natural skincare products who donated a beautiful gift for every guest and prizes for the raffle. Along with the NZ Boutique Wine Festival, Tui Fleming from Dear Mummy NZ and Dani Strong from Dani Vitality Nutrition – who all kindly donated to the cause.


All together we raised over $900 for Pink Ribbon and which was the cherry on top of an awesome event, filled with important messages.

A big thanks to Olivia Mullholland, the Marketing support at MR TOMS who so passionately helped pull this event together.

And to Mianetto Prosecco who put together the sparkling pink Mimosas for guests to drink on arrival.

For more information on breast cancer in NZ check out… NZBCF Website

To work with MR TOMS on an event MR TOMS Website

Ladies Who Lunch @ Harbourside

Ladies Who Lunch Facebook Page


The fifth ‘Ladies Who Lunch’ event was held on 6th April @ Harbourside Restaurant in the Viaduct. 70 Auckland women attended this glamorous event, which started with a glass of Soho Wine in the Harbourside Bar area, overlooking the Viaduct Harbour and ferries.

Tickets sold out in a record 14 days to this event and I couldn’t believe the demand there was for women to come along! Every ‘Ladies Who Lunch’ ticket includes a 2-course meal, an impressive goodie bag and a glass of wine on arrival. Plus a bunch of prizes and special deals that are given away on the day.

The real purpose of the lunch is a fun social occasion that women can really relax and enjoy themselves at. The focus is on the ladies! And with the busy and often crazy lives we lead, I encourage these women to take a couple of hours out of their busy week and do something for themselves. Many of the ladies come on their own and everyone has made new friends by the end of the lunch. It’s also a great networking opportunity with many career women, business owners and mumtrepreneurs in the room.

We were lucky to be sponsored by brand new Dry Cleaning Ap – Laundromap, who gave every woman a $20 voucher to try their new wash/dry/fold service.

Also onsite was Dry & Tea with a mobile ‘Touch Ups’ Salon. So the ladies were treated to 15 minute sessions of professional hair styling which meant a room full of absolutely beautiful looking hair!

Glamorous fashion label Augustine was generous enough to give away a $200 voucher on the day and dress me in a beautiful gold dress. Every guest also received a current season Augustine Look-Book and Kelly Coe, designer of Augustine came to the event herself with her gaggle of gals and drew the winner of the prize.

MOR candles were definitely the beautiful touch that enhanced the room. Their fragrant candles added a sensory experience to the event while their beautiful selection of hand-creams, candles, soaps and pretty things made every table look special.

Also onsite was an Eco Minerals makeup artist there with products from online beauty store


There were so many great feedback comments from the ladies about the food at Harbourside. We enjoyed a delicious King Ora Salmon starter, followed by the choice of Crispy Skinned Snapper or Duck Confit main. The quality of the dishes was absolutely incredible. Not surprising as that Harbourside is currently ‘Winner Best Restaurant’ at the Hospitality Awards NZ!

The goodie bags were valued at over $150 per guest and featured beautiful Lindi Kingi bracelets, Kronenburg Blonde Beers, a European cookbook by Flip Grater, Absolute Essential ‘Stress Less’ oil, OI ladies products, Arbornne samples, Lemuriun Springs Water, Mildred & Co vouchers and heaps more.


One of the ladies who came along is talented photographer Carmen Bird who is a regular contributor to Woman’s Day. She took these Ladies Who Lunch photos!

Also onsite was Red Carpet TV’s talented Director and Videographer Deb Brynand.

Check out the Red Carpet TV video here!


To join the Ladies Who Lunch group simply like the facebook page for all the updates


Mediterranean diet could reduce your risk of Breast Cancer by 40%

We all know that eating a healthy diet can greatly improve our health. And in many cases we hear of ‘wonder-foods’ and superfoods that can boost our health and wellbeing in specific ways. But more recently researchers have started to look at diets from around the world, and the health impact on the people who eat these diets.

This huge study in the Netherlands followed 62,000 women aged 55 to 69 over a period of 20 years. The researchers found a strong link between the Mediterranean diet and reduced oestrogen receptor (ER) negative breast cancer.

Around 20 to 25% of all breast cancers diagnosed in New Zealand are ER negative, that’s 1200 – 1500 women diagnosed every year. According to this study, if we all followed the Mediterranean diet, 40% of those cases could be avoided.

The Mediterranean diet is rich in olive oil, fruit, nuts, fish, vegetables and whole grains, and is already known to reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke.


More information about eating a Meditteranean Diet HERE!


Silicone Success!

My reconstruction was completed in August 2016 by Dr Michelle Locke. I am so happy with the results, my breasts are now the size they’ve always been and they are a great shape, complete with my very own nipples. Of course I have small scars on each side of my nipples and overall they arent exactly like the real ones, but I think they are wonderful.

Growing up I watched my mums breast operations, and after so many she was left without any breasts or implants – just one big long scar. So I feel very lucky to have had this breast reconstruction through St Marks Breast Clinic.

Now that 2017 has arrived I feel like I’ve really achieved something getting through the surgeries. I’m naming 2016 as my ‘discovery year’. I discovered so much about myself through so many challenges. I’m pretty sure that makes this year my year for living!

ml2_2102   ML2_2002-w.jpg ml300492

You can read about my reconstruction here in magazine ‘The Beauty Book’:


Anna Jobsz is a do-it-all kind of girl with a boutique PR & Events business, series of ladies networking lunches, mineral cosmetics business and a 3 year old son.

In January this year Anna learned that she had the mutant cancer BRCA gene that significantly increased her odds of having Breast Cancer and other cancers. This busy single mum wasted no time in acting, and in April this year, at age 36, Anna underwent a double mastectomy with nipple sparing. This lifesaving procedure reduced her lifetime chance of Breast cancer from over 80% to just 1%.

Was it difficult deciding to have a Double Mastectomy?

No it was a very straight forward decision. I knew immediately that I was not comfortable with my extremely high cancer odds. With the BRCA gene from my dad’s side I had around a 60% chance of Breast Cancer but with my mum’s history of invasive Breast Cancer in both breasts – it raised my odds even higher. I wasn’t prepared to play the waiting game and inevitably end up with a life threatening cancer. I watched my dad die at 39 from a BRCA cancer and one of my best friends died last year from Breast Cancer at age 38, so I wanted to be proactive.

What was the hardest part of having a your big operation?

The single hardest thing for me was being away from my son every time I went to hospital. Not just because I missed him, but because he was too young to properly understand that I hadn’t just abandoned him. I think by the third hospital stay he was starting to understand that mummy was going somewhere to get better. Physically it was hard going, I was in a good deal of pain the first two weeks and unable to do even simple things. I had moderate to mild pain for 5 weeks after that. At no point did I regret my decision. I knew having a mastectomy would come with significant challenges and I was prepared to deal with whatever came my way. I also suffered a bad infection after my operation that put me back into hospital, it was a truly challenging time but the team at Auckland Hospital were amazing.

Tell us about your reconstruction and your cosmetic result?

After the removal of my breasts they pumped my expanders up each week with saline until I reached my pre-operation C cup size. Then you wait about 6 weeks for the skin to settle before having the reconstructive surgery to put in the silicone implants. I had an amazing team with Dr Vanessa Blair from St Marks Breast Clinic removing my breasts and Dr Michelle Lock doing all of the cosmetic surgery work. When I started this process at the beginning of the year I had no idea what my breasts would end up looking like, so to have such an amazing result has really been the silver lining on this bittersweet journey. I still have my original nipples and my size and shape is really quite incredible. I was told that BRCA operations are very tricky because they remove over 95% of the breast tissue which makes it hard to get an even result. So I’m very lucky to have such a great outcome.

What is your biggest learning from having BRCA and these procedures?

Firstly – I have had to accept that I am not always going to be in control. In the beginning I really struggled to accept the help, but once I gave in to my close friends life became much easier. They quite literally had a roster of pick ups, drop offs, sleepovers, washing, food, nursing and emotional support. I was blown away!  I’ve also learned that it’s not about ‘the right decision’ it’s about ‘your right decision’. I can’t keep trying to do what is right in life, I can only do what is right for me. That’s a biggie.

How have your surgeries affected your view on beauty?

Being beautiful isn’t just skin deep, it’s soul deep. If you feel beautiful in yourself people will feel it simply by being around you. When I first had my breasts removed it was an interesting process to go through. I had been worried pre-op that being ’breastless’ for several weeks would make me want to hide away. But it wasn’t the case at all, I felt brave! I rocked my A cup bras, it was surprisingly liberating. Now that I have my reconstruction complete I feel every bit the beautiful woman I was with my original breasts. Ultimately I think if you can’t be happy without your breasts then you have no chance of being happy with them!