Breast cancer surgeon Ros Pochin with Jody Pierce, Lyn Zampese, and Julie Wotton who are following Victory Boxing’s breast cancer survivor class, led by Paul Hampton. Photo: Jonty Dine.

Women leading fight against cancer


After winning the fight against cancer, a group of Nelson women are donning boxing gloves and taking on their next life challenge.

Julie Wotton’s journey with breast cancer started in 2010. After her diagnosis Julie underwent a full mastectomy, and in 2017 was discharged after five years cancer-free.

However, another lump was soon discovered in her reconstructed breast and Julie was forced to endure two more lots of surgery, six rounds of chemo, five weeks of radiation and was thrown into early menopause while raising her 10-year-old son alone.

After defeating the disease, fatigue was a major issue for Julie. Having been a runner prior to her cancer battle, Julie found she would tire quickly, experience pain and, unable to sleep properly at night, frequently took afternoon naps.

“It was hard, my body just felt like it’s not going to do what you want it to.”

Then at the start of 2019, she discovered boxing classes for breast cancer survivors at Victory which she says have been a godsend.

“It’s a lot of fun, after surgery I had my lymph nodes removed and so your arms lose a lot of strength, now they are probably stronger than they have ever been.”

Julie Wotton taking the fight to Victory Boxing’s Paul Hampton. Photo: Jonty Dine.
Julie Wotton taking the fight to Victory Boxing’s Paul Hampton. Photo: Jonty Dine.

Julie says to exercise with women experiencing similar things is inspiring.

“I feel my energy levels back, even if I’m busy and stressed at work I come here and I just feel good.”

She says she would unreservedly recommend it to women with breast cancer. “It is one of the highlights of the week.”

Ambassador of Nelson Regional Breast and Gynaecological Cancer Trust, Ros Pochin, says the classes have multiple benefits for women.

“When you go through breast cancer surgery you obviously take a physical hit, but you also have a mental hit and definitely a confidence hit.”

She says boxing helps with women’s emotional well-being, resilience, and confidence.

“This is a perfect combination because you get your physical fitness back, you’re doing it in a trusted environment with women who have been in the same boat, so you don’t feel self-conscious about your body image.”

Ros says, following surgery and treatment, women enter an “active surveillance” stage and a drastic change in routine which can cause anxiety and stress.

“Then you start the emotional journey, which is longer, harder and takes much more time to get back to normal.”

She says most of the women have never boxed before but are welcomed into the environment to form relationships and connections.

“Doing something you thought you couldn’t do and doing it well with a group of women is really empowering.”

The classes are run by Victory Boxing programme director Paul Hampton.

“It’s a privilege to work with these ladies, they have had a big fight with cancer and it’s great to be part of their recovery and help them regain their fitness and self-esteem.”

Paul incorporates plenty of fun into his classes through music and dancing.

“They love being in here, they don’t feel judged at all, it’s all about enjoying it.”