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Breast Cancer, those two little words which strike fear and anxiety into one's heart, and words which I thought I would never hear directed at me. But I did, and I have to say, with that came all the uncertainties for my future life. In February 2011 I moved from Adelaide to join my husband who had gainful employment with a company associated with the RAAF at Williamtown, NSW. It was an exciting time for us both and we were looking forward to living in this little bit of paradise in the Port Stephens region.

 

On June 2, 2011, we moved into our new home in Soldiers Point, and we were filled with plans for our future in such an idyllic setting. I felt fit and well and ready for a new start, but one morning I discovered some soreness in my left breast, not a lump I hasten to add, just discomfort along the base of my left breast. It lingered, then went away, so my thoughts were, 'not to worry.' A few days later, the same thing happened and I mentioned it this time to my husband. His response was, 'you must get this checked immediately.'

 

The following day I saw my GP, who was also unsure at that time, as there was no definitive 'lump' to be felt. However, I was sent off for a mammogram followed by an ultrasound, then biopsies and I immediately realised, with sinking heart, that I wasn't in a good place. The diagnosis was Stage III Breast Cancer with 15 lymph nodes compromised. My world fell apart. What on earth were we going to do, all my family back in Adelaide and Kevin just starting a new job. With absolutely no history of cancer in my family, I couldn't believe this was happening. After a myriad of tests and appointments with my breast surgeon at Gateshead in Newcastle, on August 18, 2011 I underwent a left breast mastectomy followed by 6 months of chemotherapy and 5 weeks radiotherapy. My nightmare had begun.

 

It was tough, I had the worst sickness and side effects from the cocktail of drugs necessary to kill this beast, but I also had the most wonderful support of a loving husband, family and friends (from afar, as they were all in Adelaide). However, as fate would have it, through the Lake Macquarie Private Hospital Oncology Unit, I had discovered the best support group of all time, the Tomaree Breast Cancer Support Group (TBCSG).

 

This group of ladies who ran this not-for-profit organisation were absolute angels sent. Drivers to take me to all appointments in Newcastle (Kev was relieved from this duty) and beyond, people to clean my house and cook if required, as well as maintenance for gardens and many other services, all done on a volunteer basis and free to all breast cancer patients within the region.

 

Through the TBCSG I've made many friends which has helped me in supporting my community and given me an insight into how valuable such an organisation is to so many people. I've been able to give back a little by being involved in various fund raising functions conducted by the TBCSG, notwithstanding our Annual Ball held each year in August to raise funds in maintaining such a unique and wonderful service for all breast cancer patients in need.

 

In closing, I would like to add that I'm now a breast cancer survivor being 5 years post all treatment. It was a very unexpected journey, but I feel blessed to have received such incredible support from the Tomaree Breast Cancer Support Group and to have made some great friends along the way.

 

Sue Sullivan-Gould

 


 

 

 

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