Lorraine Heather

 

"When I was diagnosed with cancer in 2014 I couldn’t quite believe it. I had been sick for a few weeks which was very unusual, I was a healthy and active person. The next day, after my GP’s diagnosis and specialist appointment, I was told I had stage three breast cancer and went into surgery for a lumpectomy that day. The operation was exactly 10 years after I lost my father to breast cancer.

My chemotherapy treatment followed for three months and I also underwent 32 rounds of radiotherapy. I discovered I have the BRCA 2 gene, which means you are more likely to develop breast and ovarian cancer. As a result, I made the personal decision to have a double mastectomy and my ovaries removed. 

When I think about having cancer it feels like it’s happening to someone else. It’s like I’m standing on the side watching. For me, the best way to cope with the emotional side of things is to be really positive and listen to others going through the same process.

My husband, mother, family and friends were hugely supportive but I knew they were all devastated by the news. I was overwhelmed by the masses of flowers I received. It was such a lovely way for people to show me how much they care about myself and my family.

I don’t particularly like talking about me, I am more interested in how other people are coping and feeling. Getting the support I needed when I was diagnosed and during treatment really helped me. During my treatment I decided to see a cancer counsellor. It was great to be able to talk about my experiences with other cancer patients. In my group I tried to help my fellow patients to be positive by doing small things like wearing bright colours. My counsellor, Nunzio, told me that I ended up giving him counselling with laughter and tears.

On a practical level, my husband and my mother became my carers and supporters. My daughter-in-law, Claire, is a Specialised Nurse and she took the time explain all of the technical medical terms to us and came to all of my operations and appointments. Along with my PA, these are just some of the people who were with me every step of the way. I feel well at the moment and I’m so grateful to be where I am today. If my cancer comes back I plan to undergo treatment again. 

Every year I attend a Biggest Morning Tea with my friends and workmates and make a donation. For me, supporting Cancer Council through Australia’s Biggest Morning Tea is one way that I can help others affected by cancer to have access to things like support services."