My partner Craig and I have been together for 8 years and I have two sons and two grandchildren. Craig and I migrated to Perth from the UK when my sons were 24 and 26, married and excelling in their respective careers. It was a very difficult decision to move to the other side of the world and leave behind my family, but we knew it was a fantastic opportunity and we were very lucky that our family supported our decision.
In November last year after a routine mammogram, I received a call to advise an area of calcium had been identified and a core biopsy was required. Two days later I had an appointment to discuss the results and Craig and I were told the devastating news that I had cancer in my left breast. We were shocked, speechless, and initially unable to ask any questions. I was holding back my tears, my mouth was dry, and I felt completely numb. I don’t actually remember leaving the hospital after receiving the diagnosis. The last thing I remember is sitting in the car and calling my sister, crying uncontrollably and unable to speak.
Reality kicked in quickly, as only three weeks after my diagnosis I was having surgery to remove a tumour from my left breast and three lymph nodes from under my left armpit. I then required a second surgery in January and another nine lymph nodes were removed. In total after the two surgeries, 6 out of the 12 removed nodes were cancerous. And it was an aggressive cancer – grade 3, stage 2.
A plan was put in place. I was to have a CT scan, bone scan, six sessions of chemotherapy every 21 days, and then finally six weeks of radiotherapy, 5 days a week. I knew my future was going to be a life-changing, challenging experience and certainly not one I had ever expected.
My medical team at Royal Perth Hospital recommended the Look Good Feel Better program to me and encouraged me to attend a workshop. I wasn’t initially keen to attend as I didn’t know anything about it or what to expect, other than it was highly recommended and it would be provided to me free-of-charge as a community service. I learnt that it’s the generosity of the community and corporate donors that ensures patients like me can benefit from the program.
On the day of my workshop, I had not yet started treatment and I felt apprehensive and nervous. I waited outside the workshop room with reality looking at me; the thought of losing my hair was very scary and most ladies waiting for the workshop to start had already lost theirs. I was not emotionally prepared for how I was feeling and wanted to leave. When I sat down in the room, tears started pouring down my cheeks.
Reflecting on the workshop, the whole experience was a big part of my journey and I am so very glad I attended. I left feeling as if it was all going to be ok, as I’d learned I wasn’t alone on this journey and realised how much help and support was available not only to me, but all women going through cancer treatment.
Although I had always worn make-up, I learned new techniques for its application and also learned how to care for my skin; both during treatment, and after I had finished. My friends and family have complemented me on how good my skin looks and how well my make-up has been applied.
It also helped me with my emotions surrounding hair loss and made me realise how many different options are available for head coverings. The demonstration of wigs and headwear was amazing; it gave me so many inspirational ideas whilst also being a lot of fun! I now have several wigs and options of head wear, having been given plenty of great advice from the Look Good Feel Better volunteers.
I thoroughly enjoyed the experience as I was able to gain strength and confidence and laugh. I would highly recommend that each and every person that is offered the chance to attend a Look Good Feel Better workshop take part. I’m so grateful it was part of my journey because the boost in my confidence, the emotional support and the kindness meant a lot to me and made a huge difference.