After a life-changing year battling breast cancer, Monica Huynh took on a new challenge: a 10km run to inspire others.
Crossing the finish line, Monica burst into tears.
The 31-year-old was one of thousands of faces in the Run Melbourne crowd, who’d finished the run.
But Monica’s journey started nine months before this race.
On 29 September 2014, when she was just 30 years old, she was diagnosed with breast cancer.
“Doing the run after my diagnosis was almost like it was proof that I was still a capable human,” says Monica.
“For me I felt often like I was useless but knowing that I could run 10km after everything... Well that was something else.”
Two days after she was diagnosed, Monica underwent a nipple-sparing bilateral mastectomy.
Soon after, she started chemotherapy where she endured painful and uncomfortable side effects that left her hospitalised.
Almost a year on, Monica is cancer-free. She still has regular injections and takes medication to help prevent a reoccurrence.
Monica says setting a physical goal, like a 10km run, was an important part of her recovery.
“Throughout this entire process your body changes so much in response to all the different stresses and treatments,” she says.
“For me these changes were predominantly negative; weight gain, hair loss, body aches, flushes, nausea etc. And having a physical goal allows your mind to work towards something more positive post treatment.”
“Knowing that I had signed up to run 10km got me started again with exercising post treatment because I had lost a lot of my fitness.”
“I needed to tell myself that training was like brushing your teeth or sleeping or drinking water. It's automatic and your body needs it.”
Monica says trying to stay positive was a really important part of her cancer journey.
“I also realised how incredibly powerful your mind is.”
“What you tell yourself each and every day dictates how you think and what you will want to do. Positive thoughts = positive day.”
It’s a message she hopes to share with others by talking openly about her experience.
“I happily share my story and journey in the hopes that it will help someone else along their journey.”
“If I have helped even just one person, then to me it would all be worth it.”
As a young woman with no family history of breast cancer Monica wants all women – regardless of their age – to check their breasts regularly.
“It should really become a once-a-month quick routine that you should start as soon as you have breasts so you can notice any changes in your body.”
“It's such a small thing but so crucial in early detection,” she says.