FIVE QUESTIONS is where we ask members of the community to talk about how they stay HEALTHY. Primary School teacher Leonie Turner from La Perouse (pictured below on the remote Black Cat Track in Papua New Guinea), has just had surgery for breast cancer. She shared this:

20230517 Leonietuner 5questions

1. What did you eat yesterday?

I begin every day with a coffee at 5:30am and then follow up with gluten free cereal and yoghurt. I’ve suffered with IBS symptoms for more than a decade and have found that I need to eat gluten free to feel good. For lunch I ate a slice of Nonnie’s Light Golden Bread (GF) with peanut butter (the good kind). Nonnie’s bread is the absolute best; even if I wasn’t GF I would still eat this, which is not something I thought I would ever say. For dinner, I had a slow cooked Moroccan lamb roast, with roasted potato, carrots and buk choy. My husband and I eat very early whenever we can, so we do not go to bed on a full stomach.

2. What exercise did you do yesterday?

I’ve learnt to accept the limitations my osteoarthritis in both hips places on my ability to run. It has taken some time to be comfortable with walking (as fast as I can) for 10km daily, rather than training for half marathons. So much of me was wrapped up in how I viewed myself as a long-distance runner. I’m fortunate though because I live on the coast, surrounded by golf courses and a national park, meaning my walks are very scenic and away from traffic.

3. When did you last see a primary health professional?

Recently I was diagnosed with breast cancer, resulting in having surgery a month ago. I start radiation next week, so I saw the radiologist on Monday for my planning session. The oncologists and allied health professional at Prince of Wales Hospital are amazing and in every step of my treatment I have been supported.

4. What do you do to improve your mental health?

My daughter suicided when she was seventeen (20 years ago) and two years after that I attempted suicide. There is a history of bipolar disorder, OCD, anxiety and social anxiety in my family, so I am aware that I need to be proactive in supporting my mental health. When needed I see a psychologist and have a wonderful GP.

Luckily, I was not successful with my suicide attempt and since then I have worked to keep my mental health in check. For me this means I need to have a regular schedule for sleep and exercise, so it’s bed by 8:30pm, waking at 4:30am followed by coffee and then a walk. What I know is if I’m rested, I deal with my grief well, but if tired/ exhausted/ overwhelmed I fall apart. I’ve also learnt to not feel guilty or embarrassed that this is what I need to stay healthy.

Since my cancer diagnosis I have taken time off work and surprisingly found that I feel serenely calm in my thinking, whereas when at work my mind is never still, not even when sleeping. I realise that my work situation is not good for my mental health and have decided to take leave next year and work casually.

5. What are your health goals for the next month?

Get through the remainder of my treatment for cancer, keep daily exercising and catch up with friends. Looking after my three-year-old niece gives me so much joy that it’s got to be good for my health!

Read previous ‘FIVE QUESTIONS’ here