IN the lead-up to Daffodil Day on August 24, journalist Nadine Morton is looking at the subject of cancer in our city – from the support services available for patients to the volunteers who offer love and compassion to those fighting the disease. This is the third part in a six-week series.
PUTTING your hand up for help or support might be the last thing that some people want to do, but for many people undergoing treatment for cancer it is a vital part of their coping mechanisim.
Alice Hopwood was diagnosed with breast cancer in September 2012 and said support groups were vital as she progressed through her treatment journey.
“The breast care nurse linked me into with services that I needed because I got really sick going through chemo and I’m a single parent with two boys with autism so it meant that there was a lot of support needed to keep the family running,” she said.
“Without my breast care nurse I wouldn’t have got the second opinion [from another doctor] I wanted.”
Breast care nurse Marita Tipene is based at Daffodil Cottage in the Bathurst Hospital grounds and she is a specialist nurse in the field of oncology, in particular breast cancer.
“My position is funded by the McGrath Foundation, there’s quite a number of nurses across NSW who are funded by the McGrath Foundation,” she said.
“We’re funded to support patients – women and men – who are diagnosed with breast cancer, from their initial diagnosis right though their surgery, their treatment options, which often include chemotherapy and radiation therapy, up until their discharge from the service and that can be anywhere from five to 10 years, or a lifetime depending on what their diagnosis is and prognosis.
“Also part of the role is to support the families as well.”
Ms Tipene said support groups were a lot more than just sitting around and talking about cancer.
“Some people say ‘I don't want my life to all be about cancer’ but they’re not like that,” she said.
“There’s actually a lot of camaraderie, people come along, have similar interests. We often do a lot of social things and it’s a great group for finding out what’s available, what’s on and getting lots of needs met.”
It’s important for people to know there’s life after cancer.McGrath Foundation breast care nurse Marita Tipene
While it may be less common, men can also get breast cancer and Ms Tipene is there to support them as well.
“A lot of men don’t realise that they actually do have breast tissues as well,” she said.
“If they notice anything abnormal, any lumps or bumps or a sore that won’t heal they really need to see their GP and have it looked at.
“Unfortunately most men that are diagnosed with breast cancer are diagnosed very late in the piece because men tend to think ‘oh it wouldn’t be anything’ or put it off.
“Tragically that can be to their detriment.”
Ms Tipene said it was just as vital to support the family of the person undergoing treatment.
“We really try and look after not only the person who has the diagnosis, but the whole family and their support team,” she said.
Looking forward, Ms Tipene said it was vital to remember one thing.
“It’s important for people to know there’s life after cancer,” she said.
“Most people these days survive a cancer diagnosis and it’s a part of their life it doesn’t necessarily become your whole life.”