My strange, lonely struggle with breast cancer 41



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I’ve just finished reading a feature in the latest Australian Women’s Weekly on breast cancer, which predominately focussed on some wonderful individuals whose role has been to support women with breast cancer, as well as the work of the McGrath Foundation. My experience has been a little different.

Almost twelve months ago, I discovered a tiny, pea sized lump in my breast which felt different to the general lumpiness I’d always felt in my breasts. After the usual barrage of tests, I was informed (over the phone) by my most recent GP that I indeed had breast cancer and would be contacted by a major hospital in my area in terms of what would happen next.

The first visit was at the Breast Clinic. My sister and a young friend (studying to be a doctor) came with me. I saw the surgeon, the breast clinic nurse, got given a bag full of “paraphernalia” to read and my lumpectomy was scheduled. Two weeks of waiting for the pathology resulted in the “best” outcome – no cancer cells in surrounding tissue, no cells in the sentinel node, and 16 consecutive days of radiotherapy and subsequent hormone therapy. My “support team” again was with me for the update. Then I was on my own.

No one to take me; no one to hold my hand. For 16 consecutive days, I gratefully accepted transport from the Ambulance Patient Transport Service and had my breast turned into something similar to an underripe, sunburnt rockmelon. It seemed that, given I hadn’t been given the “death knell”, I could manage the rest on my own.

The breast clinic nurse didn’t ring me again. Not even a follow up call from the GP (until recently, when she received updated documentation from the hospital – I’ll see her at the end of the month). Apart from ‘follow up’ appointments at the hospital, it seems my ‘health scare’ is a thing of the past.

Have you (or a loved one) had to deal with cancer? What kind of support did you/they receive? Share your story in the comments below.

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Susan Leighton

  1. My experience was much the same. I went back to work early after the surgery and did my radiation treatments on my lunch hour. The thing I learned about all of this is that your body sometimes heals quicker than your mind. I should have taken the time off from work to allowed myself to heal from within.

    3 REPLY
    • I was the same. Apart from oncologist and surgeon, I have not heard from anyone. My family is great, but I was expecting calls from The Breast cancer co-ordinator and you do feel abandoned. We get bombarded with requests for donations, so I expected at least one call to see how I was coping. Finished 5 weeks of radium in August and still nothing.I thought they contacted support groups in your area.

    • No one can understand how difficult it all is unless you have walked in our shoes. Living in a rural area there were no support groups. I totally understand your feelings of abandonment. I’m sure you were scared. As women we have a tendency to put on a brave front for our families and the need to have someone unbiased to listen to our fears is overwhelming.

    • I am not rural. I live on Redcliffe Peninsular in North Brisbane. I can’t fault the staff at Redcliffe or Royal Brisbane hospitals. I heard there would be contact from the Breast cancer nurse and social worker and would be contacted to see if I needed financial help. Apparently the Cancer council will help with parking fees or pay car rego. for year. It is scary and you feel so crap towards end of radium. We do need someone to talk to and I thought that someone would do that.

  2. So not fair for that woman to go through that at a worrying time as it is you need help understanding support & care at this time

  3. So much for donation to breast cancer research. Surely some of that money could go to support and after care??

    1 REPLY
    • If you want your donation to go to research, donate to research. If you want your donation to go to support, donate to the McGrath Foundation.

  4. I don’t think I would have coped on my own. Had wonderful support from family and friends. Also my surgeon and radiologists were fantastic. Had plenty of follow up calls to see how I was doing.

  5. So sorry to read your story. I hope you are now well and have also mended from within. I wish you well.

  6. I wonder if it depends on what region you come from in Australia. I was so impressed at the detailed care from diagnosis through all treatment for my Cousin in Western Australia. I’m really sad for the almost dismissive way you were treated Sue,and it seems from other posts that you are not alone. Time for the system to be accountable to the whole person,not just the body part presented! Very Callous and Heartless!

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