Kirstin Pretorius might say she was living a pretty great life. She was happy in her marriage, and her kids were thriving. At 34, the Australian mother was at the top of her health and fitness game, too.

She was strong and lean, keeping a rich, plant-based diet. Good health was a focus in her home as well, as she schooled her daughters on the importance of healthy living. The mother of two packed her girls’ lunches full of superfoods in plastic-free containers. She even maintained her family’s home with chemical-free cleaning products.

As she wrote on Instagram:

Everything was beautifully bright.

Suddenly, everything wasn’t.

As Pretorius revealed on her social media account, “Kicking the Big C,” she was sick but didn’t know it. Despite feeling great and never getting physically ill, she had cancer. Specifically, she had three tumors in her breast.

A routine checkup discovered the lump.

In an interview with 9Honey, Pretorius said doctor assured her at first that the lump was likely nothing:

“But the ultrasound led to a mammogram, which led to a biopsy, which came back as cancer. It happens so quickly — it was maybe two weeks from the first check-up to diagnosis.”

Pretorius explained that since her diagnosis, she has been sharing her battle against cancer on social media to keep family overseas apprised of her health and to give people a look at the “reality” of the disease.

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This danger space zone is actually me having my first chemo! The scalp 'cooling' machine (ha more like scalp 'freeze' and 'suffocate' machine) was the first challenge. Fortunately once they froze my fingers, the hour of frost bite torture took my mind right of my throbbing scalp. Small victories!! Ooh well, anything to prevent these finger nails from falling off! Challenge number 2 was watching the nurse climb into full toxic waste protective gear (goggles and all) just in case some of my poison splashed… But oh no it's perfectly safe to put it directly into your blood stream! BUT, Chemo one is done and dusted. ??? Thank goodness I had my beautiful blankie and pashmina from gorgeous friends to keep me warm all day. ? and i felt all the love sent from across the world ?… Thank you! #breastcancer #chemo #cancersucks #cancerwarrior #scalpcooling #frostbitefighter

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One truth about cancer — that it does not discriminate — was captured in her inaugural post on Instagram. The first picture Pretorius posted was from her 10th wedding anniversary.

By anyone’s account, she and her husband, Maurice, looked like the perfect couple. But the image of the happy husband and wife was hiding a tragic secret: at the time it was taken, Pretorius had cancer. She just didn’t know it yet:

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In this picture, I was living with cancer. I just didn't know it yet. Ironically, this year marked the peak of my 'health' and my fitness. I've never felt better, stronger, or more comfortable with myself than I did turning 34. My marriage had never been better and my children were thriving. Everything was beautifully bright. But, despite feeling perfectly well, I went for my routine yearly health check. And that's when they discovered 'the limp'. The lump. I look at this picture from a simply blissful family holiday celebrating my 10 year wedding anniversary and all I can think is… 'KIRSTIN how can you not know that there are 3 tumours thriving away in your breast? How can you not FEEL the cancer slipping into your lymph nodes? Why don't you FEEL sick? How can you be so stupid?!' But I didn't know and I didn't feel. If my doctor hadn't examined me, I'd still be blissfully unaware, reaching new fitness goals with my body, eating my futile little anti-oxidant high virtually-vegan wonder food diet… I'd be packing my little plastic-free super food school lunches for my girls, lecturing them on healthy lifestyles. I'd be chemically-free cleaning my home wondering why the whole world doesn't use essential oils. All the while growing and feeding my precious cancer. So check your boobs. Know your body. Cancer happens. To anyone. #breastcancer #breastexam #cancersucks #knowyourbody

A post shared by Kirstin Pretorius (@kicking_the_big_c) on

As she explained in her caption, looking at the “blissful” memory makes her question how she couldn’t tell what was really going on in her body at the time:

‘KIRSTIN how can you not know that there are 3 tumours thriving away in your breast? How can you not FEEL the cancer slipping into your lymph nodes? Why don’t you FEEL sick? How can you be so stupid?!’

The answer is simple. She just didn’t know:

But I didn’t know and I didn’t feel. If my doctor hadn’t examined me, I’d still be blissfully unaware…

Unbeknownst to Pretorius, her lifestyle was “growing and feeding” her “precious cancer.”

As 9Honey reported, after the successful removal of Kirstin’s tumors through the removal of her breast, doctors discovered that the cancer had spread to her lymph nodes. She now must undergo chemotherapy, which Pretorius called a painful, “emotional” process. Through it all, however, she has shared that journey with others.

From appreciating her glorious hair more than ever before:

To letting her husband and children take part in helping her shave it all off:

Pretorius’s honesty when it comes to her battle with cancer means showing all sides of it:

Even if it takes some getting used to:

It’s a move she credits for helping her daughters cope with their mother’s diagnosis.

Pretorius described her Instagram account as featuring “the good, the bad and the ugly” of having cancer.

And one day, she may even add the word “joy” to her journey, as she told 9Honey:

“You realize life happens, and you’ve got to work with the direction it’s sending you in and adjust. We all chant these mantras, that whatever life throws at you, you’ve got to make the most of it.”

“But it has taught me that you have to still live. You have to still have joy.”

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