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Sofi Leota Is On A Mission To Help Other Young Breast Cancer Survivors

Diagnosed at just 23, Sofi is now a powerful voice for the community

At just 23-years-old, Sofi Leota’s life seemed on track. But while she was ready to start a family with her high-school sweetheart, Brisbane Broncos star Joe Ofahengaue, Leota’s world was turned upside down when she discovered a lump on her right breast. Diagnosed with breast cancer in 2018, Leota’s story, while uncommon, is a reminder the disease is a reality many Australian women will face – no matter their age. 

Since that diagnosis, Leota has become a powerful voice in the breast cancer community, candidly sharing her journey through her blog, 23 & BreastlessIt features first-hand accounts of her diagnosis, a letter to her future self and how others can care for loved ones who have been affected. 

“What inspired me to start my blog and share my story was the hope of being able to help other women out there,” she tells marie claire Australia. “The night I was diagnosed I was on google trying my best to find something to relate to – being so young – I eventually stumbled across somebodies blog from the U.S and it resonated with it so much so I thought if I was able to help somebody in those dark moments like this ladies blog helped me I’d be so happy.”

She adds, “I also found that when I started to write it was therapeutic for me. To get those words out. Anytime I’d have a breakdown or freak out Joe would tell me to go and write and almost every time it would make me feel that little bit better.” 

Leota’s latest venture into raising awareness comes as she fronts ghd’s Take Control Now campaign, with a percentage of proceeds from every purchase going towards the Breast Cancer Foundation. To date, the limited-edition collections have helped raise over $19 million globally.

To be asked to represent both Australia and New Zealand out of so many inspiring women is such an honour. I couldn’t be prouder of myself and the other beautiful women who are also a part of the campaign,” Leota says.

Diagnosed as such an early age meant Leota had to make decisions that would affect the plans she and Joe had set out for themselves. Her dreams of starting a family, “a football team of kids” as she describes, were put at risk with chemotherapy and hormone-blocking treatments known to affect the fertility of female cancer patients.  

After her mastectomy, Leota made the decision to undergo two egg retrieval procedures in the midst of chemotherapy and radiation. As of January 2019, Leota has been in remission and she and Joe have since welcomed their first child in May of this year – a daughter, Mila. 

“The journey was and has been beautiful,” she says. “Challenging definitely but so beautiful. I think what I went through with my cancer battle really prepared me for pregnancy and for motherhood – in so many ways, but especially physically and mentally. I’ve learnt to appreciate my body and all its magic so much since finishing treatment, so watching it grow and go through so many physical changes was really special to experience. And mentally, I’m just so much stronger and more willing.

“I won’t lie and say it’s been easy but being mentally strong has for sure pulled me out of the hard days.”

(Credit: Instagram)

Two months after going into remission, Leota took to her blog to write a candid and open letter to herself and reading it a year on even she can’t help but marvel at everything she’s overcome. “That letter makes me so proud of myself,” she reflects. “The letter took me so long to write as I had to think back to all the emotions and everything I had been through and I could not stop crying. It’s definitely my favourite blog post that I’ve ever written.”

In that letter, she described her diagnosis as a “blessing in a hideous disguise,” and admits now that she’s come out the other side with a “new outlook, love and appreciation for everything”. 

And while Leota is looking to the future, she’s continuing to use her own experiences to help other young women through the journey. “My best advice would be to just take one day at a time and put one foot in front of the other. It really can be a lot, so just focus on the present and each moment. Appreciate and be grateful for anything you can, especially the little things.

“And lastly but especially; everybody is different so don’t compare what you’re going through or what you’re feeling to anybody else.”

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