Diane Barrera

Q1) Tell us a little about yourself!

My name is Diane, I’m 39 years old (I’ll be 40 later this month WOOHOO!) and I am a survivor and thriver of post-traumatic stress disorder and triple negative breast cancer.

I am mum to my beautiful 6year old daughter Amina, step-mum to my equally beautiful 17year old step-daughter Bea, and I am married to my soul mate and best friend Bryan. 

I am a first generation Australian and the daughter of Lebanese Muslim migrants.

I am one of 7 siblings and I am aunty to 14 nieces and nephews. 

I have a Bachelor of Arts degree majoring in Tourism. I am currently unemployed but previously worked as a Tourism Manager in Local Government as well as a Volunteer Support Officer at the State Emergency Service. 

I am a serial volunteer, and have volunteered with multiple community groups and events. I love sharing my time with my community.

I am a parkrunner, and along with my husband, we launched Hamilton parkrun for our local community in 2015 after we learnt that the rate of overweight and obese children within the region was increasing, and the rate of sedentary activity amongst locals was also high. We wanted to introduce a safe, welcoming and inclusive weekly event that would give locals the chance to meet each other and improve their physical and mental health. We didn’t have any health qualifications at the time, just a passion for our local community and a desire to make new friends ourselves. Starting parkrun here changed our lives, and we have made lifelong friends as a result of it. I love parkrun so much that I am also a volunteer Event Ambassador for parkrun Australia. 

I lost my father, Ezzedine Bahmad, when I was 14 years old. He was murdered in November 1994 whilst at work as a taxi driver in Sydney. He truly was the best dad ever. He was so gentle and so kind. He used to sit and tell us stories about his life growing up in Lebanon and his decision to migrate to Australia in the 70’s. He loved Australia and had so many friends from all different backgrounds. Losing him in the most sudden, shocking and heart-wrenching way completely changed the course of my life. I went from wanting to be a journalist, to losing respect for the profession when some inconsiderate journalists showed up at our doorstep within hours of my father’s passing, for the “exclusive news” and raw images of my distraught mum, myself and my siblings. But this experience also taught me about the importance of community connectedness and kindness when so many people from around the country began sending their love, support and donations to us. I have never and will never forget how the community wrapped us up with love and support and it is one of the reasons that lead me into volunteering and giving back within my own community.

I am living with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and I am not ashamed to talk about it. I actually think society needs to talk more about PTSD to remove the stigma associated with it. I was diagnosed with PTSD in 2019 following a “search and rescue” mission whilst working and volunteering at the State Emergency Service. I was part of a team of 3 volunteers that located a missing hiker who tragically had taken his own life. This was not only an extremely heart-breaking outcome, but it was also physically and mentally difficult to deal with. I felt grateful that we found him and were able to help return him to his family, but so sad that he took his life. He was just 29 years old. And for me, I feel extremely blessed to have had the best support network around me, helping me as I slowly recover from that day. 

I am a Triple Negative Breast Cancer Warrior. On January 29 this year, I was diagnosed with TNBC, a ‘subtype’ of breast cancer that I had never even heard of! I completed 6 rounds of FEC-D Chemotherapy from February to May whilst the state was in COVID-19 lockdown. I had a unilateral mastectomy on the 1st of July and spent 8 days away from my husband and daughter whilst in hospital recovering. In late August I started 5 weeks of daily radiotherapy which I completed on September 25. I have finished all my treatment and all my tests, scans and pathology reports have now come back CLEAR. I am CANCER FREE! 

Q2) Tell us about what you do, and why you do it?

To be honest I struggled a bit with this question, because I am currently unemployed, and for the past 18 months I have been undergoing treatment for PTSD, and I have just completed treatment for breast cancer. 

But, I am a survivor and thriver who takes life’s crazy and sometimes painful and frightening challenges, tries to find the lesson to be learnt from each of them, and then adds them to my box of resilience tools to help me live a healthy and joyful life! 

I am open about my own struggles and I am passionate about sharing my story and life experiences with the aim of helping others discover their own strength and build their own resilience. I am writing my own story and hope to one day share it - maybe as a published book, maybe as an online blog. I haven't decided yet.

Q3) What makes you feel courageous?

My resilience makes me feel courageous. I have been faced with pretty serious, life-altering challenges over the years. I have learnt to believe in myself, to trust my instincts, and to not be afraid to ask for help when I believe I need it. I don’t always get it right, but I reflect and learn from each experience and know that it will help me grow into a stronger woman. 

Q4) What is one thing you wish you could tell your 16-year-old self?

My 16year old self had already felt painful grief, trauma, loss, racism, bullying, deceit and violence. 

But, 16year old me also knew what it felt like to love and be loved; the beauty of showing kindness and receiving kindness from others. 

I had survived and thrived already, but at 16 I naively thought that I had been through my fair share of challenges and that there wouldn’t be any more.

So, I wish I could tell 16year-old me to strap myself in for the rollercoaster that is going to be my life. I would tell her, "This is just the beginning mate! You are about to experience some super high highs that will give you so much joy and love and happiness, hold onto those feelings. Because you will also be put through some incredibly tough, heart-stopping lows that will require every ounce of self-love and inner strength to get through. Know that you have what it takes to focus, to learn, and to grow. Don’t ever give up but allow yourself to feel the pain and the hurt and cry it out when you need to, don’t bottle it up. Lean on those you love and who love you, for support. Ask for professional help when things get too tough #itaintweaktospeak, and stay kind. You will inspire others if you remain true to yourself. DON’T EVER GIVE UP!"

Q5) What is one piece of advice you can give a fellow lady who might be lacking courage?

I would say that you are not lacking courage, you are hiding your courage. You are giving away your energy to your fears and doubts and that is holding you back from showing off your truly courageous self. It is okay to be afraid, acknowledge it, accept it, but learn from it, and don’t let it control your days. Let yourself shine and show off your courage. You will go on to inspire others and it will be so worth it. 

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