10 May 2024

Ulladulla cancer survivor to mark third year as Mother’s Day Classic ambassador by walking alongside her daughter

| Kellie O'Brien
Start the conversation
Lauren Russell Mother's Day Classic

Lauren Russell with her husband Joel during a previous Mother’s Day Classic. Photo: Supplied.

Ulladulla mum Lauren Russell was just 33 when she was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2018.

Despite the overwhelm she was experiencing in that moment, on doctor’s suggestions she made the decision to freeze her embryos before undergoing her treatment, successfully saving four.

Now in her third year as ambassador for the Wollongong branch of the charity event Mother’s Day Classic, which raises funds for and awareness of breast cancer through a sea of people in pink walking at venues around Australia, this year will be her first taking part alongside her two-year-old daughter, Ruby.

The fun run and walk will be held on Sunday (12 May) at Stuart Park in Wollongong and will this year not only raise funds for breast cancer but also ovarian cancer research.

Nationally, the event has seen a 20 per cent increase in registrations, with 34 per cent of those registering to run, 25 per cent up on 2023.

For Lauren, walking was always important to her, having led an active life outside of managing a holiday letting service in Gerringong and Hyams Beach in 2018.

“I wasn’t even examining myself because I thought I was too young,” she said.

“I remember lying on my stomach one day and I got a pain.

“I kept noticing this pain and then I felt around and felt a bit of a lump.”

READ ALSO Cancer survivors create social group to help support those slipping through the cracks

She told her best friend Sally while out shopping one day, and then later her then-partner, now husband Joel, who both urged her to get checked.

“I went to get it checked and they sent me for a biopsy pretty much straightaway,” she said.

When Lauren was given the news she had breast cancer, she sought a doctor who was able to perform a lumpectomy, admitting it “all moved very quickly”.

In keeping with her highly active lifestyle, Lauren maintained exercise while undergoing her treatment, walking and training to distract herself.

“My partner and I are really into fitness and just keeping healthy, so we’ve got a gym set up at home and we’ve got a big dog we take for walks,” she said.

“I just found that really helped me and I think exercise gives you a positive mindset and distracts you from what you’re going through at the time.”

Lauren’s treatment included five months and 16 rounds of chemotherapy and three months of radiation in Wollongong, where she’s originally from and where family are based.

“It was challenging living two hours away in Ulladulla, but the family support is how I got through it,” she said.

Before undergoing treatment, doctors suggested she freeze her embryos and she was fortunate enough to get four.

Lauren Russell breast cancer survivor

Lauren encourages everyone to join the cause. Photo: Supplied.

“It was all a bit of a blur doing the IVF,” she said.

“I wasn’t really focused on the IVF treatment at the time, I was more focused on the cancer treatment.

“So I just followed what the doctors said and got that done before we started cancer treatment.”

As she chatted to Region, Ruby was vying for her mum’s attention in the background.

She laughed.

“But I’m so glad that I did it because now I’ve got Ruby,” she said.

After finally doing IVF, the couple found out Lauren was pregnant after their second round, eventually having Ruby in August 2021.

They still have two embryos left.

Before her diagnosis, Lauren had taken part in one Mother’s Day Classic years earlier, but forgot about it until her diagnosis.

READ ALSO Retraining as a doctor in oriental medicine now helping to improve cancer patients’ wellbeing

Now she goes every year.

“This will be Ruby’s first one – so my mum and dad and my husband and Ruby are coming along,” she said.

“It’s something I can do with my family that reminds me of how lucky I was to get through that.

“I’m fortunate I had the doctors and the research to get me through and still be here today.”

She encouraged others to be part of the event to raise funds for a good cause and because this year it extended to support ovarian cancer as well.

“I think that it’s really important to bring awareness for younger people like myself that weren’t really aware of doing self-checks,” she said.

“Since I’ve been diagnosed, I keep hearing of younger women that are getting breast cancer.”

The Mother’s Day Classic will be held at Stuart Park, Wollongong on Sunday (12 May) from 9 am. Registrations are now open.

Start the conversation

Daily Digest

Want the best Illawarra news delivered daily? Every day we package the most popular Illawarra stories and send them straight to your inbox. Sign-up now for trusted local news that will never be behind a paywall.

By submitting your email address you are agreeing to Region Group's terms and conditions and privacy policy.