Simone Rowles: One Year On

When Simone Rowles, the mother of Mariners defender Kye, was first diagnosed with breast cancer in November 2020, she was full of questions. With no prior history of breast cancer in her family, she was left wondering how and why she ended up with a cancer which impacts one in seven women.

Simone was largely puzzled by the diagnosis as she didn’t feel unwell or notice any lumps prior to getting tested, and she admits that she can’t explain what lead her to getting checked.

“I got tested just off a whim”, she said.

“I work with some ladies who are a bit older than me, and I was on their case because they hadn’t been checked for quite some time. As I was under 50, I never thought about it, and one day I just thought ‘on Friday I’ll have a health check day,’ not thinking anything at all.

“Two weeks later my world was turned upside down.

“I don’t have an answer for how I got to that place to have that mammogram. I was not unwell; I was feeling good. There was nothing to indicate that there was something wrong.”

Simone began chemotherapy prior to surgery, and she believes that she is lucky to have detected the cancer early.

Simone meeting with former coach Alen Stajcic

“The cancer I had was called a triple negative, meaning it’s very aggressive”, she explained.

“It grows very quickly, so for me to have my mammogram when I did, it meant there was no lymph node involvement and they managed to get it all in the surgery.”

Simone began chemotherapy, and as her cancer was diagnosed early, the surgery was successful in removing all the cancerous cells. She underwent another round of chemotherapy as a precaution to try and eliminate any smaller cells which might have been missed. Since the 26th of May last year, Simone has been cancer-free.

“It’s such a fantastic feeling”, she said through a joyous and relieved smile.

It was a special night at Central Coast Stadium

“It gives you hope for the future. You can start planning for things again, things which you mostly took for granted.”

Simone was determined to make her journey with breast cancer as normal as possible. She continued to work during rounds of chemotherapy and tried to maintain her usual routine. Her job as a real estate agent afforded her flexibility with her “amazing and next level” boss, who supported Simone and her family at every step of the journey, including the ability to work from home on her down days, and take time where needed for chemotherapy.

“What I didn’t want to do was sit at home and think”, Simone said.

“I wanted to keep working and make my life as normal as possible.

“Chemotherapy was a rough road, but we got through that. There was two weeks between chemotherapy sessions: week two Simone was normal, but week one Simone, well, you didn’t want to know her”, she said through pained laughter.

“It was just like a bad dream. I was well, then I got breast cancer, then I got treatment, then I had the operation, and then more treatment – and all of that time I was as normal as I could be. It was a very, very strange feeling.”

Simone’s journey with breast cancer ended last year, and she now feels confident that she can look forward to living her life with her family and friends. Despite the obvious downsides that comes with the life-changing experiences of having breast cancer, Simone is determined to change her mindset and look at life in a positive way.

“This whole experience has changed my outlook on life”, she said.

“We live across the road from the beach, and I tend to take that for granted. You just see things a little bit differently, and you don’t stress about the small stuff.

“There have been things that I’d wanted to do, like travel, that we wouldn’t end up doing for work commitments or whatever. Now, I’m just like ‘let’s do it’.

“Life’s too short and you only have one life. It would be so sad if you just looked back and thought, ‘I wish’. We bought a caravan, and we want to do a lot more travelling around Australia and just enjoy life.”

The annual Pink Round, now in its tenth year, is always a big occasion for the Central Coast Mariners. Over $100,000 has been raised for the Cancer Council Central Coast since the inception of Pink Round, and the club is proud to support families just like Simone’s.

“Last year’s Pink Round was amazing”, said Simone.

“The Central Coast family is just incredible, and the amount of money they raised for an organisation which helps me, it’s just amazing what they’re doing.

“The club getting the word out about breast cancer makes a big difference.

“This year, I’m looking at the Pink Round a little differently because I am cancer-free. It’s more of a celebration. I’m going to be watching the game with my whole family, and it’s going to be a very, very special moment.

“I’m honoured to be part of the Pink Day and to share my experience. To have the awareness of breast cancer put out there – I just hope there’s someone else that takes the message on board. If they’re concerned at all, it doesn’t matter how old they are, they have to get checked. Walking out with the match ball last year, I wasn’t just me doing it for me, it was me doing it to ask any man or woman to get checked.

“It’s so important, and to be able to be a part of it whilst watching our son play football for a team he loves, it’s just the icing on the cake. He had the biggest look of pride when I saw him after the game last year.”

The usual message is for women over the age of 50 to get tested, but after Simone’s experiences, she believes that women of any age should get tested. She strongly believes that once a woman turns 40, she should get tested every couple of years to enhance the chances of early detection, something that was crucial in Simone’s survival.

“You don’t realise until you’re going through all of the chemotherapy yourself of how many women have this disgusting, terrible disease”, she said.

“Cancer doesn’t discriminate. There’s no cancer history in our family, and you just don’t know.

“I think getting checked every few years is so important. I don’t know how long I had it for before I had my mammogram, and they can’t tell me either because it’s such a fast-moving tumour.

“Getting checked early is absolutely lifesaving.”