The Chook’s Natalie Hug recently attend a high tea fundraiser in Wattle Grove for the charity Breast Cancer Care WA. She was so moved during a speech by Lisa (above) about her cancer battle and the invaluable support from Breast Cancer Care WA, she asked for a transcript, which forms the basis of this Mind, Body, Spirit.
My name is Lisa and I am living with metastatic breast cancer; which is also known as stage four, secondary and terminal breast cancer.
I was diagnosed initially with primary breast cancer 23 years ago in November 2000 at 35 years old.
It was a terrible shock given I was super fit, I did athletics training five days a week, I lived a very healthy lifestyle and there was no family history.
I then went through two operations: one to remove the tumour in my left breast and another to remove all my lymphatic glands from my left arm.
This was followed with six weeks of radiation treatment and six months of chemotherapy along with a daily hormone supressing tablet which I had to take for the next five years. Side effects were many but manageable. My busy life went on for 12 years.
October 2011 I had severe pain in my chest during a stressful business meeting. I put it down to gym work and had some physio done and thought nothing of it.
The pain returned again a few times and really strongly in late February 2012, again in another stressful situation, so I went to the doctors who given my history sent me for an ultrasound.
You soon learn if the doctor comes in with the technician at a scan it can’t be good and sure enough they said my sternum had been damaged and it looked like the cancer had returned.
On Monday 2nd April 2012, three days before my 47th birthday I found out that I had a tumour in my sternum and it was metastatic breast cancer.
The pain that I had been experiencing was the adrenalin going to my tumour when I was stressed. I was told to find an oncologist. I didn’t know where to turn as my medical team from 2000 had either retired or moved on. I contacted another cancer support line which ended up leaving me in tears with their lack of help and unsympathetic attitude.
This is when I contacted Breast Cancer Care WA and spoke to one of their amazing nurses. The empathy and advice that I needed so desperately was provided and I started the process of selecting a new oncologist and became a client of Breast Cancer Care WA.
In November 2012 they found another two spots in my bones in other locations, so I was changed up to a stronger hormone suppressant. The side effects increased dramatically.
2020 was not only the year that covid started but I had my third diagnoses of cancer. There was a new tumour in my collar bone and another in my sternum. So in May 2020 I started chemo again for three months. It was a tough year for all people with medical conditions and I felt sorry for newly diagnosed breast cancer ladies who could only have a support person for the first round and then they had to attend on their own.
Some newly diagnosed breast cancer ladies found it really tough and I felt confident to hand out the phone number of Breast Cancer Care WA to them. Even through the height of covid they continued to provide assistance.
My relationship with Breast Cancer Care WA had started many years before my second diagnosis in a volunteer capacity. I had done a few Purple Bra day fundraisers.
They had only just been formed when I was first diagnosed and in that initial journey I had to go it alone. With this diagnosis I needed all the support I could get as I was informed that the medium survival rate was 2-3 years. Since April 2012 they have been beside me every step of the way and I am happy to say I have just had my 11th year metastatic cancerversary.
The costs associated with this interminable disease soon start to pile up as I have come to learn having top private medical insurance does not help much at all.
Most things fall under Medicare and there is always a gap, the medications, doctors visits, CAT scans, bone density tests, bone scans, supplementary vitamins and not to mention the ridiculous parking costs at the hospitals; the list goes on. You also may not be able to work due to the treatment – it is a vicious cycle that is hard to get out of and this is where Breast Cancer Care WA can provide a helping hand.
This unique WA charity provides personalised emotional, practical and financial support to people affected by breast cancer. Their services help you get through your breast cancer journey whether you have primary or secondary breast cancer.
They provide emotional support to clients with access to specialist breast cancer nurses private counselling, support groups, therapy groups and peer support.
With their practical support they provide assistance such as transport to appointments, shopping, cleaning and gardening. They can help with information and referrals to financial counsellors, wig and prosthesis, and relevant resources.
Financial support is also another crucial service that is provided to clients going through treatment.
The program assists those in financial crisis with medical gaps, travel and accommodation expenses, and general household bills, rent, mortgage, and even fuel and food.
All of their services are provided free of charge and are also available to your family. They are only limited by funding and receive no government money. To donate or find out more about Breast Cancer Care WA see breastcancer.org.au