“My name is Julie Abbott and this may sound rather strange . . . but my cancer journey commenced with a guardian angel in December 2017.
It all started when I was woken up in the night a couple of times with my fingers on my breast and I was convinced I had heard a voice telling me to ‘go and get that checked.’ Following a visit to my GP before Christmas, for a totally unrelated issue, I nearly forgot to mention it. I was examined and informed that a lump was probably nothing, but it was wise to get it checked anyway. Christmas came and went and on the 5th of January 2018, my world turned upside down.
I am a nurse, and as always in healthcare, you look to your colleagues and friends for the very best people in our profession to take care of us. I was so fortunate that everyone to whom I sought advice came up with the same recommendation – Dr Willsher (Specialist Breast Surgeon) and Professor Chan (Medical Oncologist). As a nurse you think you have a good medical knowledge base, but I had to admit that oncology was not my area of expertise and I remember feeling very naive about breast cancer and oncology.
I arranged to see my breast surgeon who conducted some tests. I must admit that I hardly absorbed what he told me. Thankfully, I had taken a dear friend with me (also a nurse) and she took over asking the important questions on my behalf as I sat in a bit of a haze of shock. Following the appointment, I was referred to a specialist breast nurse, Dawn, who was wonderful. She was my shining light that gave me hope. I’ve never forgotten the words she said to my mum and I before the surgery to ease my anxiety, ‘Tuesday you have breast cancer, Wednesday it is removed, and look at the chemo as a cleansing to get rid of anything unwanted,’ she said. She has been there for me through this journey and has been amazing.
My treatment took two and a half years of my life, and throughout that time I cannot deny that it has been tough in places. My dad suffered with dementia and I would often take him to my chemo sessions in order to give mum a little break. Sadly, he passed away during my treatment and then my mum was diagnosed with cancer. However, we are a family of fighters and are not giving up yet. How strange life is that I now find myself using my knowledge and experience to help my mum as we fight her battle together and she calls me her guardian angel.
I have not at any point given up and do try to stay positive and busy. I started studying and completed a teaching qualification, bringing my books into the hospital to study whilst having my treatments. The chemo nurses could not believe what I was doing as I pushed on and completed it when I could have so often given up. My family are so proud of my achievement, as am I.
Over the last few years, I have been so pleased to watch BCRC-WA grow. I hope that I have played a small part in this by attending a focus group meeting to share ideas for the new centre. I personally got a lot from the meeting as the ladies present were going through the same experience as myself, albeit at different stages. This really helped, as although you go through this journey with supportive family, friends and colleagues who try to help in so many ways – it can still feel a lonely journey.
It has to be said that the care of my specialists has been overwhelming and to say thank you did not seem enough. I wanted to do something more – so I signed up for the City to Surf 4km walk to raise some money for the excellent work of BCRC-WA. Much to my amazement, my initial target was exceeded and quickly reached $5000. So, whilst undergoing my treatment, I set off with family (even my sister from England travelled to join me), friends and colleagues to walk the 4km in order to hopefully help others who find themselves in the same position as I did with this dreadful disease.
The team at BCRC-WA are doing an outstanding job to enable people like me to carry on with life. Admittedly life will never be the same again, but that is okay . . . as I still have that life!
Please support breast cancer research at BCRC-WA, your gift will help save more lives.”
Julie Abbott, patient