Choosing life over cancer

By Shane Scanlan

Some time ago Victoria Pajouhesh made a deeply difficult decision to have a double mastectomy as well as a hysterectomy to get on the right side of overwhelming odds of developing cancer.

More recently, the CBD business owner made the potentially-equally-brave decision to speak publicly about it.

Victoria’s beloved mother Emelia tragically died at 43 from ovarian cancer.  And, to meet Victoria is to realise just how young that is.

Now 43 herself, Victoria is a picture of health – fit, generous, catwalk-looks, intelligent.  She has so much to give and so much to live for, which is why she has chosen radical surgery over the fear of cancer.

After her mother’s death she underwent genetic testing which came up with abnormal levels of the BRCA1 gene, meaning an 80 per cent certainty of developing breast cancer and a 65 per cent chance of being struck by ovarian cancer.

“They recommended two steps – step 1 being a prophylactic double mastectomy followed by a full hysterectomy,” Ms Pajouhesh said.

“At first I thought I would just do everything in my power to maintain good health,” she said.  “But, over time, I came around to accept what the numbers were saying.”

About five years ago, Victoria found the inner strength and determination to undergo the double mastectomy.

It’s only now that she has come to accept the wisdom of having the hysterectomy as well and is booked in for surgery in December.

“All sorts of things go through your head. To deliberately choose to bring on menopause is not something you take on lightly. I wasn’t emotionally ready then, but I am now.”

In the end, Victoria says she took her decision for the sake of her two children.

“I need to be around for them,” she said.

Some of her friends with the same risk profile have chosen not to be tested.

“It’s their business and I respect their decision to rather not know,” she said.

Victoria’s journey on the fine edge of life has built and nurtured a passion for health.

She explained that she had always exercised and avoided known dangers such as drugs, tobacco and alcohol.  But, it was the relatively recent revelation of the dangers of sugar that motivated her to become chief cheer-leader for “super foods”.

Her business Cupp, on the ground level of the Manchester Unity building in Swanston St, is a testament to her passion.

Primarily a healthy larder for her dentist-husband and staff on upper levels, Ms Pajouhesh is on more of a personal crusade than building a business empire.

“Even if the business doesn’t make money, it’s worth doing for the health benefits,” she said.

“It’s become a necessity.”

She is proud that her food and personal advice has become a part of the curriculum for one of Melbourne’s finest private schools for girls.

Victoria raises funds for the Ovarian Cancer Research Foundation and has become close with leading luminaries.

“In Australia, one woman dies from ovarian cancer every six minutes,” she said.  ‘It’s important that people know that genetic testing is available and options exist to help avoid cancers.”

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