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Coast radio’s Lorna Subritzky throws everything at recovery

Earlier this year, Lorna Subritzky was among a group of tourists in Rarotonga who, after experiencing the joy of swimming with turtles, were asked an intriguing question.

On their journey back to the coast, their guide wanted to know what their superpower would be if they had one. Coast FM host Lorna didn’t hesitate when it was her turn.

“I immediately said that my superpower is that I am an optimist,” she says. “I’m just naturally a positive person and I always believe that the best will happen. It doesn’t always, but it makes the journey through the bad things better.”

Lorna has had to call on her superpowers more than ever in the last year and a half to get through a lot of bad things that life has thrown at her. She has faced one trauma after another, including the sad loss of her beloved brother Vernon Riley, who died of cancer last year, and now her own battle with breast cancer.

“I know some people aren’t wired to be positive, so I feel lucky that I am,” says the Auckland mother-of-three. “It makes the roller coaster that is life a little easier to bear.

“It’s not that I believe that positivity can heal you – no one was more positive than Vernon, who believed until the end that he was going to get better. When you have to go through all these things, it helps if you still can find the brighter things in life.”

Looking on the bright side is crucial for Lorna, 54, as she goes through chemotherapy following her breast cancer diagnosis a few months ago. This is the second time she has had the disease – the first was six years ago when a routine mammogram revealed she had DCIS, or early-stage breast cancer.

After a partial mastectomy and radiation therapy, she got the all clear, and she’s been vigilant about having yearly mammograms ever since.

However, a mammogram and ultrasound she was due to have in December last year were put on hold due to a backlog caused by Covid and she could not have them until May.

“Unfortunately for me they found something a bit more serious than last time – an aggressive grade three tumor in the other breast, and cancer cells in a lymph node as well,” says Lorna, who was called with the shocking news as she was driving after work. “Luckily, a scan showed it hadn’t traveled anywhere else in my body, so I’m very grateful for that.”

She had surgery to remove the 38mm tumor and 18 lymph nodes, and is now
part of several months of chemotherapy. This is followed by radiotherapy and she is then on a cocktail of drugs for a few years to prevent the cancer from returning.

While waiting for her blonde hair to fall out from the chemotherapy, she got it cut in a short spiky style and with typical Lorna pizzazz, it was dyed pink.

“The cancer journey can make you feel powerless at times – this was a way
to exercise just a little bit of control over the whole thing and have a little bit of fun with it too.”

Through everything she’s been through, Lorna works as hard as she can and says her radio show has been a handy distraction.

“I have wonderfully supportive colleagues and I’m very lucky that the radio station I work for, Coast, has a sensitive taste that colors everything we do,” she claims. “We don’t do doom and gloom, and it’s all about being optimistic. That helps.

“However, radio is a very intimate medium and I share my private life with it
my listeners, as I would with a friend. It’s humbling how caring and supportive they are.”

Lorna also shares a lot of what she’s going through on social media, regularly posting video updates on Facebook. One of the reasons she is happy to talk about her experience is to encourage Kiwi women to check their breasts and not put off a mammogram.

“Mammograms are the best tool we have to fight this terrible disease. Kiwi women are eligible for free every two years between 45 and 69. If you can afford it, you should have one every year after 40 . Early detection can reduce the chance of dying from breast cancer by about a third – that’s huge.”

It would have been a shock to receive the cancer diagnosis at the best of times, but for Lorna it was another blow after a few years which she understatedly describes as “pretty terrible”.

Losing her brother Vernon, 57, last year was the most devastating thing. Lorna wipes away tears as she recalls how Vernon, 18 months after being told his colon cancer was gone, learned in May 2021 that it had returned and spread.

“He was told he had less than 12 months to live, which was a huge shock to the whole family, and he died five months later, in October,” she shares. “I have three brothers – I’m number three in the ranking order and Vernon was number two – and we were very close.

“He had a few cards stacked against him in life and even though I was younger, I felt a bit responsible for him. We shared a lot of interests and he was very special to me.”

After his terminal diagnosis, Vernon moved in with her parents Gavin and Doreen Riley in Havelock North, and after the country went into lockdown in August due to Covid, Lorna was able to get a waiver to drive there from Auckland to see him as his health deteriorated .

“I feel very lucky that I could say goodbye,” she confides. “I was also able to get a waiver when he died so I could attend his funeral, which I officiated. That was difficult, but a real honor.”

In this desperately sad time, Lorna could find something to be positive about – the fact that as a devout Buddhist, Vernon believed that a better life awaited him. “That was a comfort, that he had that faith, and I hope he was right, because he deserved it.”

At the same time, Lorna was also suffering from her own health problems. She began to experience excruciating stomach pains that were sometimes so bad she could barely speak.

“That wasn’t great, considering what my job is,” she says with a wry smile.

She was worried it was cancer, so when she was finally diagnosed with severe endometriosis, she greeted the news with relief.

“My doctor thought it was one thing I wouldn’t have given my age and the fact that I have three children [endometriosis usually affects younger women and often causes infertility]. It’s not common at my age, but of course not impossible.

“My specialist thinks I’ve probably had it for a while but I was lucky it didn’t affect my fertility – in fact I had a surprise baby at 41. I know that for many people endometriosis is not a great diagnosis, but for me it was like, ‘Hallelujah! It’s not the big C. I can deal with this.’

After dealing with the extreme pain for nine months, she was delighted when the first line of treatment suggested by her specialist – changing to a different type of IUD – made a huge difference. “The pain just went away. I’m so glad it’s sorted.”

Then in March this year she ended up in hospital after another bout of excruciating abdominal pain. This time she was found to have a 7cm tubo-ovarian abscess, which required several uncomfortable procedures and weeks of daily intravenous antibiotic infusions to treat.

“I was lucky,” reflects Lorna, always positive. “It could have killed me and it didn’t.”

And while she was going through all the trauma in her life last year, Lorna also broke up her marriage to second husband Steve Subritzky. Lorna doesn’t want to dwell on what went wrong, but says that after evaluating her life because of Covid and losing Vernon, she started to think about what was important to her.

“It’s a changing world and with Vernon’s passing you think, ‘Gosh, life is short, what do I really want?’ I’ve always believed that you should be happy and not just go, ‘Oh, this is my lot in life.’ I felt I had to make some changes and look to brighter horizons.”

Fortunately, there have been bright spots amidst the darkness. One of the best things that ever happened to her was becoming a grandmother. Her beautiful great-granddaughter Kaia Te Atarangi Rose Kameta was born to her daughter Lucy, 22, and Lucy’s partner Chad on May 6, and Lorna absolutely adores her.

Lorna, who is also mum to Max, 23, and Zoe, 13, says Kaia has brought so much sunshine into the family’s life. She enthuses: “I can feel quite rough because of treatment, then she turns her big blue eyes on me and breaks into a toothless grin. At that moment I feel like the luckiest woman alive.

“We all live in the same house so I can be very handy. I’m glad I’m young enough and hopefully energetic enough to be useful to Lucy and Chad – and I’m also grateful that Mum and Dad recently welcomed their first great-grandchild have also met.”

Meanwhile, her family has been an incredible support to her, as have her friends.

It’s hard to know what she’ll face in the next six months or so, but she adds, “After that, this will just be a memory. I feel very lucky that this cancer was caught early enough to be treated. I have a a lot to live for and this is doable. I’ll beat it!”

Coast radio’s Lorna Subritzky throws everything at recovery

Source link Coast radio’s Lorna Subritzky throws everything at recovery

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