New Idea



- By Courtney Greatrex

Sarah Gibson was understand­ably anxious about the journey that lay ahead of her, when she was diagnosed with breast cancer.

With many bumps along the way, including two spells of anaphylact­ic shock before her bilateral mastectomy surgery, the 45-year-old mum of two says she couldn’t have got through it without her Mcgrath Breast Care Nurse, Sarah Maguire.

The Mcgrath Foundation raises money to place nurses in communitie­s across Australia to support cancer patients from diagnosis and throughout the various stages of breast cancer.

With October marking Breast Cancer Awareness Month, Sarah is taking the time to thank the woman who helped her get through the hardest days of her life.

“Without her I would have been in a dark place,” Sarah tells New Idea. “I knew she was there when I needed her.”

Sarah was 44 when she first noticed a lump on her breast. She booked a GP appointmen­t right away, and was referred for a mammogram and an ultrasound. The results didn’t show anything to be concerned about, but her gut instinct was telling her something was wrong.

“I’d felt off for about a year. I just felt like I was run-down, like I was always about to come down with the flu,” Sarah recalls. “I knew something wasn’t right, but I had no idea it was cancer.”

Her doctor agreed to have the cysts biopsied anyway, and it was there her cancer was discovered. For Sarah, breaking the news to her sons Callum, 21, and Riley, 19, was one of her biggest challenges.

“Telling my sons that I had breast cancer was the hardest thing in all of this, just having that conversati­on with them,” she says. “They are such resilient young men – I am so proud of them. They asked questions and supported me the best they could.”

With Sarah’s own mother being diagnosed with breast cancer around the same age, she knew she should have both breasts removed as a precaution, so she booked in for a bilateral mastectomy. Five weeks after her diagnosis, she was admitted for the surgery, but an unexpected complicati­on found her recovering in the intensive care unit (ICU).

“Within a couple of minutes of having the anaestheti­c, I went into severe anaphylaxi­s. I ended up in ICU and surgery had to be cancelled. It was quite a mess for a few hours, it was not looking good.”

Sarah later discovered she was allergic to all available muscle-relaxant drugs that can be used in anaestheti­c, making her terrified she wouldn’t be able to undergo the surgery at all. Luckily, she had a nurse, also named Sarah, to console her.

“She reassured me that the anaestheti­st and surgeons will work out a plan and it will still be able to go ahead,” she says.

Unfortunat­ely, a reconstruc­tion of Sarah’s breasts would no longer be possible since her body wouldn’t be able to handle the massive procedure.

“It took six weeks for me to feel well again after the anaphylaxi­s. I had so many fears about the cancer progressin­g during this time. – I was stressed, anxious and not sleeping well.”

But nurse Sarah was there to reassure her. “Sarah would just reassure me that it’s going to be OK, that I needed to build up my strength for the surgery and waiting a little

longer wasn’t going to change the final outcome. She was great at keeping me in the moment and not letting my mind race around with too many what-ifs,” she says.

Two months after the first attempt, Sarah underwent surgery again. While she again suffered anaphylact­ic shock to the blue dye used to locate lymph nodes, the surgery was only postponed for a few hours until her condition stabilised.

“Even though I woke up in the ICU again, I was extremely relieved they had done the surgery,” she says.

Medics found more cancer than expected, so Sarah needed six months of chemothera­py – and nurse Sarah was by her side the whole way.

“The first round was really nerve-racking, so Sarah sat with me to support me and


make sure I didn’t go into another anaphylaxi­s,” she says. “She would always try to find humour in the situation. She’d say things like, ‘Oh, be careful. If I get too close to you, you might be allergic to my perfume and have anaphylaxi­s!’

“When you have cancer, not many people joke about it with you. It really helped me to not lose myself.”

Now, Sarah is on the mend and has even made the return to work in allied health, as well as teaching ice-skating.

“I always felt that I was quite resilient, but I had no idea I was as mentally strong as I am,” she says. Now I feel so much more confident in myself and I trust my gut instinct even more. I know I can get through what life throws at me. I feel extremely grateful to everyone that has ever donated and supported the Mcgrath Foundation,” she adds. “Their support is just invaluable.”

To find out more and to donate, visit mcgrathfou­

 ?? ?? Sarah, who underwent chemo, says telling her sons Riley (left) and Callum (right) was one of the biggest challenges.
Sarah, who underwent chemo, says telling her sons Riley (left) and Callum (right) was one of the biggest challenges.
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 ?? ?? Mcgrath Breast Care nurse, Sarah Maguire (left), was by Sarah Gibson’s (right) side when she had treatment.
Mcgrath Breast Care nurse, Sarah Maguire (left), was by Sarah Gibson’s (right) side when she had treatment.

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