REAL LIFE: The person who was invaluable to ABC journalist Mary Lloyd during her breast cancer treatment

''As a dear friend said to me at the start of treatment, 'It's horrible feeling that you're alone. You can't ever allow anyone to feel like that'.''
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ABC journalist Mary Lloyd was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2019. She was supported by McGrath Breast Care Nurse Peta Brydon. Here she reveals how having a McGrath Breast Care Nurse helped support her during her cancer experience.

Making decisions is not normally something that trips me up, so when faced with life-changing choices during treatment for breast cancer, I usually zipped through them.

Surgery? Yes, definitely.

Get it done Monday or wait till after Christmas? No waiting – Monday’s good.

Covid is looking risky. Want to back off on the chemo? Hell no.

“Cancer treatment is confusing.”

(Credit: (Image: Supplied))

Cancer treatment is confusing. A diagnosis comes with unfamiliar terms and quantities that detail the severity of the disease.

Between first hearing those words and finding out their meaning, there was a heap of hoping they were saying I had a good one from a bad lot.

Then somewhere along the way language once foreign and scary became part of my lexicon and I was using it to weigh options.

In my case, I decided early on that being young and otherwise healthy with small kids I wanted to throw everything at it now, to avoid having to fight it again later.

All guns blazing was my motto.

But there are risks with that and some of them can be life-threatening.

So when my oncologist was away just as I had to choose between two types of chemo, I found myself in a quandary.

With the start of her chemo approaching, Mary was unsure of what to do.

(Credit: (Image: Supplied))

We had decided to analyse the genetic makeup of the tumour to see whether chemotherapy would offer an advantage.

The results showed it would, and that a stronger type would lower the risk of it coming back by a few more percentage points.

But that came with hair loss, an extra 12 weeks of treatment, potential nerve damage and a small possibility of blood cancers later on.

Absent Dr Dear’s insight and experience, I struggled to weigh the risk of discretion against that of valour.

With the start of chemo approaching fast, and no clear choice in sight, it was having a McGrath Foundation Breast Care nurse by my side that made all the difference.

My McGrath Breast Care Nurse Peta Brydon took me to a quiet space and helped me untangle what I knew from what I feared.

Mary (left) is so grateful for her McGrath Breast Care Nurse Peta Brydon (right).

(Credit: (Images: Supplied))

Together we unpacked the information I had absorbed, dismissed the bits that didn’t bother me (like hair loss), cleared space to confront the risks and landed a decision.

Having seen hundreds of women take on breast cancer and chemo, she made the daunting feel surmountable and gave me the confidence to choose the rougher road.

But most of all, she sat with me as I made sense of confusing and confronting facts.

I cannot imagine wading through all that as a second language speaker, with additional health complications or, worse still, alone.

As a dear friend said to me at the start of treatment, “It’s horrible feeling that you’re alone. You can’t ever allow anyone to feel like that.”

In Australia, the McGrath Foundation makes sure breast cancer patients never do.

The Vodafone Pink Test is more than just about cricket – it also helps to raise much needed funds for the McGrath Foundation and runs from Jan 5-9.

You can help support the McGrath Foundation by buying your Virtual Pink Seat here.

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