Vivo are proud to be ongoing supporters of Sweet Louise, offering free hair and beauty services to nominated members. This October, during Breast Cancer Awareness Month, we will be sharing some of their heartbreaking, inspiring, and beautiful stories with you.
ANNIE MASTERS' STORY
I don’t know it’s Annie when I walk into Vivo Takanini Salon, but someone is laughing loudly over the sound of a hairdryer. “Oh I’m just having the best time!” I hear the voice say. Annie is sitting at the basin, her hair in little waves as the toner develops on her head, her face dewy and glowing from the day’s earlier facial. I walk to over to Annie and introduce myself; she greets me like an old friend. In fact, as soon as you meet Annie, you're drawn into her joyful presence. “I’ve just had the most fabulous day,” she beams, when I ask her if she’s enjoying herself. “It’s my birthday dinner tonight and I’m going to look amazing!”
It’s hard to reconcile the fact that breezy, fun Annie, retired Special Education Teacher, has incurable breast cancer. When we go and sit down for our interview, Annie wants to show me a book she has brought, freshly painted purple nails framing the title as she holds it up. ‘Advice for Future Corpses’, it reads, and Annie giggles. “It’s so sensible. It talks about dying in a really plain and simple, and funny way. I am enjoying it so much”. But as we talk, Annie reveals it hasn’t always been like this - it has been a journey to get to a place where she feels joy and happiness again.
In 2013, after a trip to Vietnam, Annie noticed some dimpling on her breast. A biopsy and ultrasound revealed she had breast cancer, but after initially being told she would probably not even need chemo, things went from bad to worse. A mammogram was performed, with a full body scan done at the same time, a procedure that would normally reveal any other cancers in the body. Unfortunately, cancer cells developing in the pelvis were missed, and by the time it was discovered the cancer had also moved into Annie’s spine. An incurable diagnosis was given, with a timeframe of 2-5 years left for Annie to live.
"I started seeing an Oncology Psychologist. It helped me so much, and eventually I started to change my attitude on everything. I realised that everybody is going through something and I feel I can connect with anyone now. I enjoy my life again.”
Then in 2016, more tragedy struck. Annie’s husband of 38 years, Fred, passed away. “I was an absolute mess at this point. Excuse the language, but I became Who Gives A Sh*t Annie! I lost it, I couldn’t see or feel anything but fear. So, I started seeing an Oncology Psychologist. It helped me so much, and eventually I started to change my attitude on everything. I realised that everybody is going through something and I feel I can connect with anyone now. I enjoy my life again.” Annie joined Sweet Louise, a New Zealand foundation helping New Zealanders living with incurable breast cancer, and found a like-minded community that could really understand her journey. “It was my birthday this week. Sweet Louise called me up to say I could come in to Vivo for a free makeover. I couldn’t believe it!” Annie says, grinning from ear to ear.
“The cancer has moved to my lungs now, and I’m on my second round of chemo medication. But I feel blessed, I feel fortunate. I enjoy the small things.”
This November, it will be 5 years since Annie’s initial diagnosis. “The cancer has moved to my lungs now, and I’m on my second round of chemo medication. But I feel blessed, I feel fortunate. I enjoy the small things.” Annie says, and you get the sense that she is living more fully than some of us without an incurable diagnosis. She hugs Vivo hairstylist Chanelle Clark and Beauty Therapist Radhika Murti tightly as she leaves, thanking them for the day’s services. You can tell, no matter what the future holds for her, that tonight will definitely be a very happy birthday for Annie Masters.
Content by Tereze Taber
ABOUT SWEET LOUISE
In 2005, Scott Perkins established Sweet Louise, named after his late-wife who had died from incurable breast cancer. Today, Sweet Louise supports hundreds of women across New Zealand who are living with metastatic breast cancer, to help them feel supported and cared for in their journey.