Sharing and support
FROM the stress of diagnosis, to the joy of remission and the grief of terminal diagnoses – breast cancer nurse Jodie Finlayson has seen thousands of local women and men go through it all in her 16 years in the job.
A staff member at Northeast Health Wangaratta, Jodie worked in district nursing and community health before assuming her current role.
She said while there have been many highs and lows over the years, she finds fulfilment in her work.
Among one of her proudest achievements is establishing the Go Girls support group, which has evolved to become a strong friendship and fundraising group, also catering to those in remission.
She said her work sees her work closely with a range of services at NHW and beyond, from diagnostic teams to doctors and allied health workers, as well as those involved in end of life care. Jodie also offers information, help and referrals. “Being able to make things a little bit easier” for patients has been among the positives of Jodie’s work, and she said she feels the best when she sees former patients in the community “doing normal things and enjoying life”.
While the survival rate for breast cancer is very high, around 90 per cent, Jodie said the lows of the job include losing people she has come to know – “you take that very personally” – but said she takes time to remember each person lost.
“It shows how fragile and important life is,” she said. “You can’t take it for granted.” Jodie urged members of the public to be vigilant about any unexplained changes in their bodies, as breast cancer has a variety of symptoms.
“Women know their bodies better than anyone else,” she said.
October is national Breast Cancer Awareness month, and the risk of being diagnosed with breast cancer by 85 is one in eight for women and one in 631 for men.
More information about breast cancer care and related services is available by calling (03) 5722 5473. Helpful links
BreastScreen Victoria: www.breastscreen.org.au.
National Breast Cancer Foundation: nbcf.org.au.
Among the women in the North East living with breast cancer is Goorambat resident Anne-Marie Greenway, who was diagnosed in July with metastatic breast cancer that has also spread to her bones.
It was discovered after she saw her doctor to address some recurring rib pain.
“I would ask women – and men too – to take advantage of every possible check.
“But it can’t always be found – mine shows it has been there for some time but was missed on my last breast screen (noone’s fault as it was well-hidden), and can still not be felt by myself.
“X-rays showed my ribs and spine were full of pockets of cancer (which will now be turned into holes, making my bones more fragile), and this was then traced back to being the secondary to breast cancer.”
But Anne-Marie, already a survivor of an unrelated brain tumour over eight years ago, said she has been very pleased with the help she has received so far.
“I was very impressed with the way the health system kicked in after my diagnosis, and I immediately had scans and mammograms, visited a breast surgeon and two oncologists.
“I was sent straight to Albury for radiation treatment on my bones, which I have been told is ‘spot-welding’ on the holes in my ribs and spine.”
She is currently personally campaigning to have a drug “which could significantly help me”, palbociclib, placed on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) as it currently costs $60,000 a year to buy it.
The alternative to the drug is a round of chemotherapy, surgery and radiotherapy.
“I currently see a breast care nurse named Kerry, who has been wonderful,” she added, saying that her GP and other allied health professionals have also been helpful.
“Health-wise I have been doing far better than expected, with pain levels being really low so far, and lots of support.”
You can assist Anne-Marie in her fight to get palbociclib on the PBS by completing a consumer survey at www.pbs.gov.au/info/industry/listing/elements/pbacmeetings/pbac-consumer-comments.
CONTINUED CARE: Northeast Health Wangaratta radiology nurse Rozilyn Ham with breast cancer nurse Jodie Finlayson, radiographer Kasey Flanigan, and radiolology nurse Suz Ginnivan are among the many staff members helping breast cancer patients during their battle with the condition.