October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, a time to encourage everyone to be more aware of the impact of breast cancer. Breast cancer is the most common type of cancer affecting Australian women. In 2021, it is projected that 20,030 people will be diagnosed with breast cancer, including 19,866 women and 164 men. An average of 55 people per day. (Source: https://www.bcna.org.au/)
We talked to Martine, a breast cancer patient at Prince of Wales Hospital to know more about her and to understand her journey with breast cancer.
POWHF: What was your experience like and your advice to others who are diagnosed with breast cancer?
Martine: The initial shock of being diagnosed is the worst part of the whole experience. I will be honest and say that it’s the biggest challenge I have had in my life and one I wish none of us had to experience but I am truly grateful to be here in Sydney and being looked after by the POWH. Everything is conveniently located together and all the staff are super helpful.
My advice to those who are going through the same experience is to take it one step at a time. Rome wasn’t built in a day, you don’t need to know everything at once nor do you need to be or feel a particular way each day. I have learnt that it is okay to cry and show emotion when I am feeling it. I would often bottle things up to protect those around me but it is good to cry. The whole experience will not be doom and gloom. I have had a lot of laughs too. I have laughed so hard at times that my sides have hurt. I have learnt to appreciate the small things in life and I don’t take one single day for granted.
A few things I have done to help me everyday:
- Make small goals for yourself each day. Some personal ones of mine include: counting my steps per day to reach my daily goal number, drinking so much water, 10 minutes of mediation/yoga, journaling every morning.
- Finally, this won’t define you or limit you. I have met so many women who are at the other side of their treatment and they have a new perspective on life – a better one. They look back on what they used to worry about and laugh about the smallest things.
POWHF: What is so special about the treatment at Prince of Wales Hospital. What sets our hospital apart ?
Martine: It would definitely have to be the breast cancer nurses, Gill and Jenny. They have been absolutely outstanding. I would be very lost without their constant support, reassurance, and ability to be available to me for whenever I needed them. I am originally from Ireland but I have been living in Sydney, Australia for nearly 8 years now. I call Sydney my home. I couldn’t help but feel alone and lost without my parents when I first got diagnosed however, as soon as I met Gill and Jenny, I felt at ease and I knew I was going to be okay.
POWHF: How are patients able to support their family through the journey?
Martine: Be open and honest with your family. They want to support you but they can’t do it if you don’t communicate with them. Give them the information they need or ask for. It is also a very stressful time for family. They have access to counselling too.
POWHF: Is there anything at our centre that could help patients through their journey?
Martine: It would be great to have a leaflet or document with all the relevant contact numbers on there in one place such as physio, out of hours oncology, support, counselling, etc. so that there is one document and it is easily accessed by anyone.