Diagnosed in 1997, I certainly did not feel inspired, but frustration drove me to improve things – just because they were so wrong!
I got new ideas every time I attended a BCNA event. It started with small things like writing a newsletter for my support group, pretty bags for women to carry their drains in, toiletry packs for women in hospital, ‘bottles of hope’, Encore and aqua aerobic classes.
I campaigned for a breast cancer nurse for our hospitals. Eventually a breast cancer care coordinator was appointed.
I addressed the lack of breast reconstruction for Queensland women. At a community cabinet, I discussed breast reconstruction with the health minister.
After a long wait to obtain accurate information about the waiting lists, we determined that the waiting time was 20 years. I wrote letters and collected evidence from women all around Queensland before meeting the new health minister. That led to 63 Queensland women who were longest on the waiting list having their reconstruction in 2010.
In 2008 I started on access to lymphoedema services for women in our area. It was difficult to get the facts about waiting times – women had to wait four weeks for initial assessment and 12 months for treatment. I continued writing letters that were mostly ignored, until in 2013 the health minister set up a working party to review our district lymphoedema services.
The review group developed a clinical pathway combining providers from public, private and non-government organisations. That pathway is now being rolled out at our local hospital.
I now realise that I have made positive changes in my community. It was not easy, but I have achieved things I never would have believed possible before my diagnosis. I am very grateful to BCNA for inspiring me to do these things.