The Beacon June FY22

HOW TO BE THERE WHEN YOU DON’T KNOW HOW TO BE A breast cancer diagnosis affects not only the person diagnosed, but also the people around them. The Beacon spoke to two women who have been diagnosed with breast cancer and their supporters to find out what they found helpful and what they didn’t. CINDY AND CHRIS’S STORY ROS AND ANNE’S STORY Two months after the birth of her second son, Ros was diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer at age 38. ‘The first few months were extremely difficult’ says Ros. ‘We had to draw in as much support as possible. For me, that was my husband, my mum and dad and my sister.’ Finances quickly became a concern as Ros could not return to her very successful career.

C indy Scott was first diagnosed with breast cancer in 2016, as a single mum with a young son. In 2020, she was diagnosed again with early breast cancer only six weeks out from her wedding to her now husband Chris. She reflects on her different responses to each diagnosis . ‘The first time I did everything wrong. I didn’t ask for help. I kept going with work because I was self-employed and needed to work. I refused some treatment. I think I was in denial that I even had breast cancer,’ she says. The second time, Cindy had to cancel her wedding two weeks out from the big day, close her business, and begin treatment just as COVID-19 closed international borders. ‘It was an absolute disaster. I’m an executive and leadership coach and know all about mindset. I’m also generally a positive and pretty resilient person, but this was a lot,’ she says . ‘I was a wreck. Eventually my husband said “you need some help”. He rang the Cancer Council and they offered me counselling and it was exactly what I needed.’ Cindy says she learnt to be vulnerable and ask others for help. Receiving messages from people made her feel loved and supported. She also found journaling helpful, eventually turning her entries into a book about healing to help others going through difficult times. While Cindy faced her own challenges, Chris admits he found the pressure of becoming her carer difficult at times. ‘We suddenly went from thinking about marriage to thinking about mortality. I tend to give a lot and initially rejected help for me because it wasn’t about me. But the pendulum sometimes swung too far and I started to run out of capacity,’ he says. It was at these points Chris would take a break, heading out on his bike or going to the gym to burn off some energy. ‘I’d return to my caring role and be revitalised,’ he says. ‘Ultimately, I tried to give Cindy as much love, and take away as much of her care and concerns as possible.’ Chris says it’s important to talk to each other and communicate how you feel and what you need. ‘Carers need to monitor the diagnosed person and vice versa,’ he says. ‘There will be plenty of rough times, but we now look back at it as another speedhump we needed to negotiate. It just adds to life’s tapestry.’

The family moved in with Ros’ parents for just over a year. Her mum, Anne, provided care while Ros’ sister helped to ensure that Ros received the insurance and income protection to which she was entitled. Ros used her entitlements to purchase and renovate a home for her family. Whilst the family makes a team effort, it is Ros and Anne who deal mostly with the issues of the diagnosis. When problems have seemed insurmountable, Ros and her mum sit down together to find solutions. Together they found a support group for women with metastatic breast cancer. This was a positive game- changer for Ros. Together they have had many confronting talks about options presented to Ros by her wonderful and amazing medical team who Ros regards affectionately as her family. Together they have sourced and secured affordable and valued help in the home and for Ros’ overall wellbeing. Together they have entered into the school life of both little boys plus making sure that they are both financially protected in the future. Together they have gardened, solved home maintenance problems, lightened days with a little retail therapy, created bright spots outdoors to sit, reflected and laughed about old times with a cup of tea. Fatigue is a given for Ros’ husband and family team. Anne feels that friends help us all to recharge energies. Anne’s valued friends have listened, often offered sound advice plus practical help when needed. Ros is now in her seventh year of diagnosis all the while dealing with relentless metastases that have involved many surgeries, continuing radiations and chemotherapies. She has shielded her family from medical appointments which she attends on her own. Ros will continue this bravest of fights with enormous tenacity and resilience because her reason for being is her two beloved little boys.


June 2022 | Issue 91

Breast Cancer Network Australia

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