ONJ Centre patient, Tina (not her real name) recently attended our Metastatic Breast Cancer Forum held at the Wellness Centre.
"The seminar was empowering for me," Tina says.
"I've never met other women on a similar journey. It was the most comfortable and safe space I've ever been in. I will continue to look for more opportunities to connect with women living with breast cancer. It's nice not to have to put up a front."
When Tina's sister was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2017, it was recommended that she see a genetic counsellor to test for BRCA1, a gene that puts you at greater risk of developing ovarian or breast cancer.
"I had young kids and a full time job, I was very busy. The test was something I knew I had to do, but just kept putting off."
It wasn't until a year later that Tina had the test done and found she has BRCA1.
"In November 2018, I woke up one morning and I just felt different. I had extreme tiredness. I just knew that something was wrong."
Tina delayed going to the doctor. It wasn't until February 2019 that she was diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer and stage 4 liver cancer, at just 38.
Tina says that if there's one thing that other women can learn from her story, it's to put your health first.
"If something doesn't feel right, you need to make time to go to your GP."
Changes to look for include:
• a new lump or lumpiness, especially if it's only in one breast
• a change in the size or shape of your breast
• a change to the nipple, such as crusting, ulcer, redness or inversion
• a nipple discharge that occurs without squeezing
• a change in the skin of your breast such as redness or dimpling
• an unusual pain that doesn't go away.
Elizabeth Foster has worked as a breast care nurse at Austin Health for 19 years. It's a role she finds both rewarding and challenging.
"My role is to get people back to their normal lives and really thriving. It's also about supporting people through the difficulty of receiving a cancer diagnosis or the challenges of living with cancer."
Recently, Elizabeth helped organise the Metastatic Breast Cancer Forum.
At this event, Medical Oncologist Belinda Yeo spoke to patients about the different treatment options available.
"We're so fortunate to have such high quality staff, who can share their specialised knowledge."
The next Metastatic Breast Cancer Forum will be held in 2020, however Elizabeth says there are other resources such as Counterpart who regularly run information sessions and the Breast Cancer Network peer support group.