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Sophie’s Story: Cancer may have stolen my hair, appearance and energy, but it didn’t take my spirit.

Sophie’s Story: Cancer may have stolen my hair, appearance and energy, but it didn’t take my spirit.

I’m Sophie van Haalen, and I was diagnosed with Triple Negative Breast Cancer in May 2023. At the time I was 36 years old and a seemingly healthy, busy mum of two young boys (aged 3 and 6), happily married and working as Head of Marketing at Merlin Entertainments - leading the marketing for some of Victoria’s top attractions including SEA LIFE Melbourne Aquarium.

Despite following my intuition, telling me something wasn’t right, my diagnosis came as a complete shock given my age. While we do have a history of breast cancer in our family, I never imagined this could happen at my life stage. I am grateful I was proactive and want to spread the importance of listening to your body - prioritising YOUR own health, no one else can do that for you.
Sophie's seventh and eighth round of chemotherapy treatment.
The last year has been an emotional and physically taxing rollercoaster ride but I’m feeling lucky that the treatment is working. I’m nearly at the end of the health marathon - in May this year I will have completed 12 months of treatment including 16 rounds of chemo, surgery, followed by 5 weeks of daily radiation and 12 months of immunotherapy.
I will finish treatment 3 days before this year’s Mother’s Day Classic and will proudly be walking with all my family on the 12th of May, the day I was diagnosed a year earlier.
Sophie's first of chemotherapy treatment.

Involving Your Loved Ones: Strategies for Support

I have been very lucky to have incredible family and friends to help me through, they fed us and showered us with love and emotional support. My sister was there by my side for nearly every medical appointment and chemo session, while my husband took care of me whilst juggling work and our young boys (with our parents' ongoing help). We laughed, we cried and experienced every emotion in between.

3 Tips From Sophie On Getting the Support You Need:
  1. First and foremost, let your loved ones in, invite them to be in your 'cheer squad' and tell them you need their support.
  2. My friends and family put together a meal roster which was especially appreciated during the 6 months I was undergoing chemotherapy as I didn’t have any energy at all for anything other than going to the hospital and spending time with my boys.
  3. Plan things to look forward to during your treatment, whether it is a weekend away or a movie date with a friend, it is so important to have things to look forward to that aren’t anything to do with cancer or medical appointments.

Why I’m Giving Back With The Mother’s Day Classic

While I am eager to move forward, I will never forget the kindness our family has been shown and now I want to do what I can to give back. I’m passionate about raising awareness and supporting other young women whose lives are turned upside down from breast cancer.


When I was approached to be an ambassador for this year’s Mother’s Day Classic I knew immediately that I wanted to be involved with such an important initiative helping so many women across Australia.

Cancer may have stolen my hair, appearance and energy, but it didn’t take my spirit. I’m a true believer in the power of positivity. I have always had a positive outlook but over the last year it’s been more important than ever to stay positive, keep busy and remain as active as physically possible.

My unofficial motto was ‘the show must go on’. While I wept behind closed doors, I kept a smile on my face (most days) and tried to keep life as normal as possible for our small boys. I’ve found a new appreciation of not sweating the small stuff.

Let’s Fight Breast and Ovarian Cancer Together

Together we can fight breast and ovarian cancer. So, grab yourself a pair of Merry People's Bobbi Boots, and mark your calendars for the Mother’s Day Classic on Sunday, May 12th. It is a chance to walk or run with your friends and family to fund breast and ovarian cancer research.

Put your foot, and your boot, down to stop ovarian and breast cancer!



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