My experience with breast cancer started over 50 years ago when I lost my mum. She was only 35 years old with two small children, a four-year-old and a one-year-old.
In those days, no one spoke about things like this, so it was quite some time before I knew she had breast cancer. However, the effects of losing our mother at such a young age has had a lifelong impact for both my sister and I.
Over the years, I have been involved in lots of different types of study. I love learning new things, with the thrill of a challenge being all part of the story.
One of my other passions is to help others by volunteering whenever I can. This has taken many different forms, from being involved with my children’s sporting clubs, schools, guides and scouts to volunteering for the Commonwealth Games, FINA 2007 and the ICC World Cup in 2015.
In 1990, I returned from living in the UK for nine years with my two children. While I had been living there I had learnt that my mother’s cause of death was breast cancer.
At the time, this really did not mean much to me, but when I went to see a new doctor in Melbourne and shared my family history, I was soon to learn that this put me at a higher risk than most others, for breast cancer.
I was 30 when I went for my first mammogram and underwent screening over the next 18 years. Fast forward to 2008, as part of my yearly screening process, it
was discovered that there were changes that needed further investigation. After a month of testing, MRI, core biopsy and core biopsy with mammogram, it was discovered that I had DCIS and that it was extensive.
With my family history, it was highly recommended that I had a mastectomy on the right side, followed by another mastectomy on the left as a preventative measure.
Once I had finished a year of surgeries, I felt it was time to find a new direction in my life. I went back to university and was accepted to study nursing at Deakin University, a long-held dream.
However, this was not to be.
About six months into the course, I managed to trip over a stair gate and smash my shoulder up very badly. I finished my first year, then transferred to health science and then was accepted into the Master of Public Health course.
However, by this stage I began to struggle – trying to do too many things – including volunteer work and being away from home too often to settle back down to study again.
In 2012, I attended an amazing conference in Sydney with BCNA. This sparked my interest to become more involved. I then undertook my training to be a Community Liaison and became part of the Review & Survey Group.
While I love these roles and am still involved, I was looking for something else, something that would allow me to use my study
and knowledge of health and research.
In 2016, I took part in the BCNA Consumer Representative training. Well, I had finally found my calling, my passion, and I felt at home. This role allows me to combine everything I am passionate about and also keeps my brain active and thinking. I have opportunities to be involved in a number of exciting projects, to meet some amazing people from all walks of life, to get involved in some very interesting discussions and to make a contribution to the future of women and men in terms of breast cancer diagnosis, care and future directions.
Thank you BCNA for giving me this opportunity.