When Mooroopna's Kim Fulton was diagnosed with stage three breast cancer 15 years ago, her life became a seemingly endless sequence of pain and loss.
She lost her breasts, her ovaries, and most of her lymph nodes.
Her body was blasted with chemotherapy and radiation, and she was thrown into early menopause at 36 years old.
In her worst moments she nearly died, or was beset with worry about dying, and wrote letters to her daughters so they could remember her words when she was gone.
But while she felt she lost so much, she never lost her will to live, and credits her positivity and good humour for getting her through.
She documents her journey in a new book titled The Day I Thanked the Spider, which was released last week.
Because — in an fortuitous twist of fate — without the spider, she wouldn't be here today.
“I was bitten on the collarbone by a spider, and got an infection that went under my arm,” Ms Fulton said.
“A week later, my nipple started changing colour and shape.
“I wouldn't have taken too much notice if I didn’t have the infection.”
Fast-forward 15 years, and Ms Fulton is celebrating a significant milestone she never thought she'd reach.
She doesn't have to see her specialist anymore, and now only has to have yearly checkups with her GP.
It's a small taste of normality that makes Ms Fulton feel like she's escaped the shackles of her illness.
“Part of me is very emotional, because you reflect on everything,” she said.
“The other part is, you’re free.”
Ms Fulton found putting pen to paper cathartic, driven by the desire to document her battle for her family.
“For me writing is like speaking — it’s closure,” she said.
Even though she is confident in telling her story, which she has done before at Pink Ribbon events, delving into the darkness has never been easy.
“I’ve written bits and pieces over time, and it took about five years to get it right,” she said.
“It does get emotional, but it’s important to tell it.”
The book also drives home a message for all women: get your breasts checked at your regular doctor's appointments.
“Doctors know, so get them to examine you,” she said.
“Don’t be shy.”
And she's not modest at all, telling her story in complete honesty alongside front-on photos of her reconstructed breast — for the greater good.
“I’m telling a story about them, so I don’t hold back,” Ms Fulton said.
“If anyone wants to look at (my breasts) I show them, so people are aware you can look normal.”
Her book, with cover design by Allan Wright, has already sold a few dozen copies, and she said the feedback had been amazing from her network of family and friends.
Ms Fulton wants to keep the book local, and has asked any chemists or newsagents in the region to get in touch if they’d like to stock it.
But enough about the past; Ms Fulton has trained her focus on the road ahead.
Most of all, she can’t wait to spend time with her family, her partner Daniel, her two daughters Jacqueline and Chelsea, and her grandchildren Tayte, 2, and Kash, who's six weeks old.
“I’m taking life on, and I’m just enjoying what I’ve got while I’ve got it,” she said.
“While it’s a cliché, that’s who I am.”
● To purchase a copy of The Day I Thanked the Spider, or to get in touch with Kim Fulton, email [email protected] or call 0415 258 856.