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Sally’s warning: Pregnancy side effect was a symptom of her cancer

Pregnant woman giving herself a breast examination.
If you're pregnant, this is normal. But it can also be a symptom of cancer. (Image: Getty).

Here’s how Sally Obermeder saved her company from near bankruptcy, and her advice to other business owners.

Around 55 Australians will be diagnosed with breast cancer today. Tomorrow, another 55 will be diagnosed, and the day after that, and the day after that too.

It’s the most commonly diagnosed cancer in Australia, with 20,000 people diagnosed each year.

In October 2011, television personality and business owner Sally Obermeder became one of them.

Looking back on her diagnosis nearly 10 years later, Obermeder’s lesson is straightforward.

Feel like something’s not right?

Get. It. Checked.

“It was incredibly out of the blue,” she told Yahoo Finance.


Sam's story:

“I was pregnant, I’d had an amazing pregnancy, I felt really well, really healthy, I had no history in my family, and it was just a routine appointment.”

She had noticed a small lump in her breast, but she was pregnant and knew that lumps weren’t unusual during pregnancy. With zero family history, it would have been easy to write-off as her body simply preparing for an infant.

Nevertheless, she got it checked out.

Jaz's story:

She was diagnosed with stage three breast cancer, and it was highly aggressive.

“I wouldn’t wish it on anyone, but while it was one of the worst things I’ve been through, it has changed my life also in the best possible way.”

It changed her perspective, her purpose and everything about how she lived.

“But was it a horrendous time? 100 per cent.”

A lifeline: Launching a business

Obermeder launched an early iteration of her lifestyle and wellness business SWIISH (Stylish Women Inspiring Inner Strength, Health and Happiness) while still recovering from treatment.

While the idea of launching a business while recovering would be unthinkable for many, for Obermeder, it was a way to claim back some ownership over her life.

“I needed it. When you’re in treatment, everything belongs to everyone else,” she said.

“In a way, your body belongs to everyone else, your treatment cycle is out of your hands, you’ve got no control over anything and I really needed something to work on that allowed me to not think of me and what I was going through.”

Cathy's story:

As she progressed through the therapy, she began questioning what she wanted her life to look like on the other side.

She knew she wanted to get back to her television job, but also knew she needed to create something that would give back to the community.

For a long time, she had wanted to find a way to disseminate information and products that would help other people.

SWIISH, was born. At the time it was a wellness and lifestyle blog, but it’s since expanded to include wellness products created by Obermeder and her sister and co-founder Maha Corbett and curated fashion and lifestyle items.

Briony's story:

“It was really therapeutic,” she said.

“Recovery happens regardless of whether you’re working on a business or not, the recovery has to happen and that takes a long period of time.

“It took a few years, because you’re recovering not only physically and emotionally from the trauma. So for me, it was really healthy [to have the business].”

Sally Obermeder is a 2021 judge of the Telstra Best of Business Awards, a nationwide program recognising businesses for the positive impact they are having in addressing the economic, social and cultural issues of Australia.

Nominate an exceptional business here, until Monday 12 July.

- Are you a woman with a great money story? Get in touch here.

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