Breast Cancer Stories


When a woman is diagnosed with breast cancer, she receives an avalanche of information. Amid the shock, all this detail can be difficult to process. With this in mind, and with our commitment to making a difference in breast cancer, Specialised Therapeutics decided to produce a series of stories that would provide women with relevant, up-to-date and useful information about the breast cancer experience.

We wanted to share personal stories, but also frank and factual information that has been reviewed by breast cancer oncologists. We wanted to address some of the issues women face during breast cancer.

The end result is BREAST, a comprehensive magazine produced and published by ST for patients. We have reproduced a collection of these stories on our website below, so they are readily available and accessible via our digital channels.

We hope you are inspired – as we are - by the courage, resilience and endurance of all the women who generously agreed to share their stories, in the hope that other women may benefit.

Our special thanks must also go to those doctors and other healthcare professionals who contributed to or agreed to be interviewed for this publication, and who shared the questions they hear regularly from their patients.

The information they have shared is practical and personal. Like us, they are striving every day to make a difference in the lives of breast cancer patients.

We trust that some of the information in our magazine will make a small difference.

We wish you and your families all the very best and look forward to your feedback. Hard copies of this publication will be available to patients via their treating oncologists.

Warm regards,
Carlo Montagner
Chief Executive Officer,
Specialised Therapeutics

Stories and Articles

Foreword by Associate Professor Elgene Lim |  ST worked closely with some of Australia's most respected oncologists to put together a publication for patients that would cover all aspects of the breast cancer experience. We were delighted when Associate Professor Elgene Lim agreed to take part, not only introducing our magazine in a foreword, but also providing us with insights about the sort of information patients were seeking.

Breast Friends & Modern Surgery |  The bond between a breast cancer surgeon and her patient is one of trust, forged at one of the most vulnerable times in a woman's life. Melbourne breast cancer surgeon Chantel Thornton generously shared her insights about modern breast surgery, while her patient Ally Fairbairn outlines her own experience and describes the lifelong connection.

Minds Matter |  The psychological impact of a breast cancer diagnosis can't be underestimated. South Australian psychologist Lisa Beatty says all facets of a woman's life can be affected, but there is help available.

An Early Breast Cancer Diagnosis |  Every woman's breast cancer journey is different. Sydney woman Heather Plaister says faith is giving her hope, family is providing love and strength, and medicine is giving her an opportunity to survive. She tells her story and how her family is coping with her diagnosis.

Cooling Caps |  When Melbourne woman Angela was diagnosed with breast cancer for a second time, she decided she wanted to try and retain her long blonde hair to retain some semblance of normality. Her oncologist Dr Yoland Antill discussed the use of cooling cap technology while undergoing treatment.

Managing your Diet |  Expert oncology dietitians advise that good nutrition can impact breast cancer treatment tolerance and recover, as well as reduce the risk of recurrence. Lauren Atkins and Elise Den are the co-founders of Oncore Nutrition, which specialises in oncology dietetics. In this article they answer patient questions about diet before, during and after cancer treatment.

The Weight-ing Game |  Weight gain can be an unfortunate side effect of breast cancer therapy - even when patients think they are 'eating right'! Oncology dietitians Lauren Atkins and Elise Den tell the story of Judy, who gained 12 kilograms after treatment but was able to lose this weight - and more - when she followed a program designed by Oncore Nutrition.

Week on a Plate |  So what can you eat to maintain a healthy weight after breast cancer treatment? Plenty, according to dietitians Lauren Atkins and Elise Den from Oncore Nutrition, who have provided the following seven-day meal plan as a general guide for breast cancer patients.

Start Moving |  Exercise physiologists around the world now know that moving your body is vital at all times, but especially during and after breast cancer treatment. Accredited exercise physiologist Dale Ischia explains why and how.

Garvan Exercise Study |  Imagine getting straight out of the chemotherapy chair and onto an exercise bike. Here's what happened when a group of Sydney women did just that, all in the name of research at The Kinghorn Cancer Centre and Garvan Research Institute.

Quality of Life |  Medical oncologist and cancer survivorship physician Dr Diana Adams says women can live well both during breast cancer treatment and beyond, but what matters is how well they are supported. In this piece, Dr Adams discusses how women can maintain quality of life.

Fear of Recurrence |  The fear of cancer recurrence is described as "an almost universal anxiety" for breast cancer survivors. In this piece, mother of three Monqiue Fruewirth says while she is a "glass half full" kind of person, she can't recall a day since diagnosis when she did not feel a little bit scared.

Let's Talk About Sex |  It’s a topic many breast cancer patients feel self-conscious discussing with their doctors, but Dr Belinda Kiely believes sex during and after breast cancer treatment is “a big deal”. The Sydney-based oncologist specialises in breast cancer and says sex and relationships are almost “inevitably” impacted by a breast cancer diagnosis and the subsequent side effects of treatment.

Managing Menopause & Breast Cancer |  Menopause can be difficult when a woman is well, but when it’s part of breast cancer treatment, symptoms can be particularly debilitating. Associate Professor John Eden from Sydney’s Prince of Wales Hospital says women should know that there is much that can be done to manage menopause both during and after breast cancer therapy.

How Can I Avoid Chemotherapy? |  Not all women diagnosed with breast cancer need to be treated with chemotherapy. For some patients, genomic testing is available to help guide treatment decisions. Dr Nicole McCarthy explains.

Keeping Your Career |  Some of Australia’s biggest employers have policies in place to help their people during a health crisis like breast cancer. We spoke with the National Australia Bank.

BRCA2 & Breast Cancer Risk |  For those women who are found to carry the BRCA2 gene, there is an increased risk of developing breast or ovarian cancer. When Melbourne communications executive Nina Bosco woman discovered she was a carrier, she decided to take control. This is her story.

Living with Metastatic Breast Cancer |  Around 10% of Australian women who are diagnosed with breast cancer are metastatic at diagnosis – meaning their disease has already spread. Sydney woman Louise Sceats was one of them and shares her thoughts.

Your Money and Breast Cancer |  Breast cancer is expensive. ST spoke to a Melbourne finance expert about managing money following a breast cancer diagnosis.

Can Do After Breast Cancer |  Families and friends all want to help when a loved one is diagnosed with breast cancer. One woman found an innovative, app-based solution following her own diagnosis. Now, it’s helping hundreds of others to corral support after a cancer diagnosis.

Kee-Moh Snacks |  A breast cancer diagnosis just weeks before she was to be married eventually spawned a new business for one Melbourne woman, who founded wrote two cookbooks after her hospital food experience.

Having Hope |  When a West Australian pharmacist had difficulty sourcing over-the-counter supportive care products to manage the side effects of her breast cancer treatment – despite being married to a medical oncologist – she decided to establish a business called HOPE – an acronym for Helping Oncology Patient Experiences. Naomi van Hagen has built the business with her sister Joanna, who is also a pharmacist.

Nursing Care: Your Oncology Nurse Practitioner |  Oncology nurse practitioners provide vital support to breast cancer patients, by “filling the gaps” in cancer care and helping patients to cope with their diagnosis and treatments. Meet Gill Kruss, who says oncology nursing is not an easy career, but is infinitely rewarding.

Research Saves Lives |  A West Australian woman who was originally given only a 30% chance of surviving five years post breast cancer diagnosis is doing well 12 years later. She says: “The reason I am here today is unequivocally thanks to research.”

Recipes from On Core Nutrition |  Specialist oncology dietitians at Oncore Nutrition have shared some of their favorite recipes suitable before, during and after breast cancer.

The Gift of Time & Space |  Need a break from breast cancer? An Australian charity gifts retreat accommodation to women dealing with breast cancer and their families. Click for more.

Inspired Research |  Professor Arlene Chan is an Australian medical oncologist who is passionate, driven and determined to make a difference to the lives of 17,500 Australian women diagnosed every year with breast cancer. A principal investigator on more than 80 clinical trials, she is constantly striving to find better answers and new therapies for all women confronted with the disease.

An Enduring Legacy |  Melbourne based high flyer Shelli Whitehurst was diagnosed with Stage 4 Metastatic Breast Cancer and given just 12 months to live. Within weeks of her diagnosis, she established a business called Kit for Cancer. She knew the business would outlive her, but was determined to leave an enduring legacy.

Reflecting on Breast Cancer and Palliative Care |  Dr Ranjana Srivastava is a medical oncologist, accomplished author, wife, mother and Fulbright Scholar. She says caring for patients at all stages of their breast cancer journey is “inspiring and deeply satisfying”.

Breast Cancer Myths |  These Breast Cancer Myths have been republished with permission from the Breast Cancer Research Centre in Western Australia. This information comes directly from specialists at the organisation, as a direct response to frequently heard misconceptions.

About Dragons Abreast |  Being able to do all those things in the company of others who have travelled the same path helps to restore the confidence, the spark and the sense of adventure needed to permit a full and active life, despite the breast cancer. That’s a great time to investigate Dragons Abreast Australia!

Doing it All |  Anne Mawhirt was 49, the mother of teenage children and a busy science teacher when she was diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer. By the time she realised she had a breast lump, her cancer had spread to her bones, her liver and lungs.

A Partner's Perspective |  Phil Stowe is a husband, father and farmer. He was devastated when his wife Anne was diagnosed with breast cancer “about 14 years ago”, but was inspired by her resilience. At the time, both worked for the iconic company Mars Chocolate, which is based in the regional city of Ballarat. At the same time, they were running a farm and raising three children.

Oncotype Story: Wendy |  59 year old Wendy Dunstone felt fitter than she had ever been when diagnosed with breast cancer in February 2015. Like many other women, she was keen to avoid chemotherapy – particularly because she had seen the impact of this treatment on a close relative.

Oncotype Story: Mary |  Mary Miras was vigilant about regular breast self examination. After discovering a lump, it turned out to be a 27 mm, grade 3 tumour. Cancer cells were also found in one of the lymph nodes under her arm. However, she was keen to avoid chemotherapy, if her doctor thought this was safe.

Time to Travel |  After being diagnosed with triple-negative breast cancer at 39, mother of two Wilma La Greca underwent genetic testing and found that she carried the BRCA2 gene – a genetic mutation that had placed her at higher risk of cancer.

Meet Keryn Barnett |  45 year old Keryn Barnett never really knew what she wanted to do with her life in terms of a career. While always employed, she was missing what she thought was her true calling. It was only after being diagnosed with triple-negative breast cancer in late 2014 and her subsequent treatment, that the answer finally dawned.

Live for Today |  Paula Beevor was just 39 and the mother of three teenage children when she was first diagnosed with breast cancer. After surgery, radiation therapy and hormone therapy, followed by anti-hormone therapy, she was quietly confident she had beaten the disease. So confident, that she made a life-changing decision to move to Australia from the United Kingdom.

Jane O’Brien discusses the Oncotype DX breast cancer assay |  Respected Australian breast surgeon Jane O’Brien discusses the Oncotype DX breast cancer assay. She explains how it works and who might benefit from this innovative breast cancer test.

Tenacious Women |  Meet Wilma, Keryn and Teresa - three ‘Tenacious Women’ who have all boldly and bravely faced a diagnosis of triple-negative breast cancer. This form of breast cancer presents without any of the three hormone receptors commonly found on breast cancer cells – the oestrogen, progesterone and HER2 receptors.

Oncotype Story: Susie |  Mother of three, Susie Nassour, was diagnosed with breast cancer just days before her 50th birthday. She had a 25 mm tumour and cancer was detected in one of her lymph nodes. She was keen to avoid chemotherapy, if possible.

Oncotype Story: Deb |  Deb Force was diagnosed with breast cancer after routine screening. While she could not feel a lump, doctors discovered a large, 45 mm tumour. Despite the size of her tumour, Deb was hopeful she could avoid chemotherapy.

TAILORx explained: The Australian Perspective |  Prominent Australian oncologist Richard de Boer discusses the landmark TAILORx study, which investigated the Oncotype DX breast cancer assay.