A Family AFFAIR
Narrabeen resident Iris Cox is a true fighter, having survived breast cancer in 1997, 1999 and 2004. Now 75, Iris has been cancer-free for 13 years and is an avid dragon boat racer with Pittwater Pinks, made up of fellow breast cancer survivors.
"I enjoy the support and encouragement of paddling with other survivors and reaping the health benefits dragon boating provides," she says.
"We have that same understanding and camaraderie -especially when someone is going through a hard time."
When she was diagnosed in 1997, the cancer was initially detected through an ultrasound.
"It was a total shock," says Iris, who has three children -Dwayne, Craig and Chantelle. "You always think it happens to someone else. I had a lumpectomy and some lymph nodes taken out, but I was in denial... I'd have to go to the Mater Hospital every morning, but was still in at work at 9am."
Not only has Iris survived cancer three times, she also cared for her late husband, Tony, who passed away from stomach cancer in 2012 after a six-month battle.
Iris was declared cancer-free in 2009 after 35 radiation treatments, and credits local support groups for helping her through it all.
"I went to one particular group once a week for six weeks, and it was so helpful as everyone was going through the same journey. The first time I was diagnosed, there wasn't much support at all, and it was tough," she reflects.
"I was frightened my children and grandchildren would be left without me, but luckily it's all worked out beautifully - I'm still here, and now I have 10 grandchildren."
Putting people half her age to shame, Iris appreciates her health more than ever and competes around the world dragon boat racing, is a Rural Fire Service volunteer, and recently did a six-day Outward Bound course in Canberra.
"We camped out in minus nine degrees," she laughs, "I went abseiling and did the high walk on the ropes - that was seven kilometres through the national park. It was brilliant."
Iris' son Craig, who also lives on the peninsula, says, "Mum's fought cancer three times but I think we were affected by it most the third time, as beforehand she kept it very much to herself.
"But she got through it. Before my father died, she was dedicated to looking after him. "We're all extremely proud of her and the activities she does. She's really inspiring."
Peninsula powerhouse Lori Luhrmann was 54 when she was diagnosed with stage 3 breast cancer in 2015. What followed was six months of chemotherapy, a double mastectomy, breast reconstruction and radiotherapy.
"Before my diagnosis, I was a consultant in organisational development and was always away, missing family events," says the mother-of-three.
"My diagnosis made me feel I was having to learn a life lesson. I drastically modified my work, and I hardly go away now. I'm also living really clean - chemo changed my palate."
There's organic food on the table every night, with greens and fish instead of meat, and Lori eschews anything stored in plastic like water, and beauty products with parabens.
Her outlook on life has also changed dramatically, explaining, "I no longer sweat the small stuff. When you're faced with a time limit on your life, it makes you re-think what's important."
Husband Brett Luhrmann (film director Baz Luhrmann's brother) put the brakes on his career as an international speedboat racing champion to be constantly by Lori's side, and so far, has raised $20,000 for breast cancer.
"I've taken a razor blade to so much crap in my life and have cut out people who are negative or energy draining," he says.
"Now, I just focus on Lori - we used to spend a lot of time apart but this has brought us closer together."
Daughter Teegan, 31, adds, "My mother-in-law died of breast cancer and I was determined it didn't happen to Mum. I come over every day to make sure she's eating right, staying hydrated and getting enough rest. I've changed my diet too, to support her."