Ali took a trip to the GP. Within 4 hours, she was sitting across from a medical team.

A trip to the GP for a young woman is often one filled with anxiety, with the worst-case scenario almost always being the C word.

In August 2023, at 28 years old, that fear was realised for me. I sat in the medical room with my very kind GP as she walked me through the details she knew from the biopsy, as my boyfriend jumped in a taxi from work. I had breast cancer.

While you're here, watch the story of Lea, an international exchange student who at 21 years of age was diagnosed with Hodgkins Lymphoma. Post continues after video.

Video via Mamamia.

Within half an hour, my parents were in the car driving to Sydney from rural NSW. Within four hours, I was sitting across from my oncological team — hearing that I would need to undergo IVF before one year of treatment commenced.

I was to undergo chemotherapy, radiation, immunotherapy and surgery. I would be put into medical menopause to protect my fertility. I would lose my hair, eyebrows, and eyelashes. Sitting across from me in her pink shirt was my McGrath Breast Care Nurse Alex — the person who became my translator of the world of cancer I knew nothing about.


Ali during treatment. Image: Supplied.

I have always known the power of care. Prior to my diagnosis, care came in the form of a phone call from my parents, or flowers from my best friend. Care came in the form of a "Did you get home safe?" text, a reminder from a friend to slow down, or a funny TikTok to make me laugh.


Following my diagnosis, care became my lifeline. My mum moved in so that I never had to go to a single appointment alone, and so she could ensure I was fed well, hydrated, and never alone when I had one of my many emotional breakdowns.

My terrace house was filled with gifts of love, from flowers to fluffy gowns and slippers. I received messages from friends who had, or whose loved ones had, undergone the same treatment — messages of hope from people who had walked this path before me.

Care was my boyfriend making me laugh every single day — even when I felt my lowest. It was my oncologist telling me they were curing me so I could live until I was 80, and my GP assuring me I would get through this. My spirit was bolstered by love, and at the centre of it all was my care nurse Alex.

Ali after hair loss. Image: Supplied.


On the day I was diagnosed, Alex organised every appointment for me. She set up my IVF, my blood tests, and my scans. She gave me her number and assured me she was available for any question that came up — big or small.

She informed me about my options from a beauty perspective. Did I want to get eyebrow tattoos? Did I want to wear a wig or a scarf? She told me about beauty products that came highly recommended, including a balm that would stop my fingernails and toenails from going black from the chemo.

The prospect of losing my hair was devastating, and she validated it completely. She ensured I would maintain my dignity during a treatment that, for a 28-year-old girl, can be completely undignifying, and reminded me that I was not alone.

When the treatment commenced, Alex's care transformed. She became my friend in the know, the person who I could ask "What does this blood test mean?" after it had already been explained by doctors but still didn't make sense to me.


Image: Supplied.

She learnt not to tell me what symptoms to look out for (because as an anxious person, I always managed to manifest them psychosomatically), and rather let me know to always call her if I was concerned about anything. She would show up at the moments she knew I needed distraction like when I was starting a new drug I was sure I would have an allergic reaction to (a fear born entirely out of anxiety).


She would remind me that my treatment was going well when I found myself in a state of panic, having stumbled across a tragic story on social media. And when two medical questions arose about my treatment, she was my connection to oncologists between appointments.

Alex referred me to multiple people who became pivotal in my cancer journey: a cancer coach who helped with wellbeing, an acupuncturist who became my Chinese medicine guru, a cancer psychologist who helped me to stay positive throughout the process, and women's health physios who assisted me to regain strength post-surgery.

The power of this care prompted my siblings and boyfriend to organise a fun run to help raise money for the McGrath Foundation. My friends and family came together to run 10km or a half-marathon to raise money — which resulted in us raising almost $34,000.

Ali with friends fundraising for the McGrath Foundation. Image: Supplied.


A cancer diagnosis at 28 was a card I never thought I would be dealt. But with the power of care, from my family, friends, doctors and nurses, I was able to stay positive. I was able to undergo my treatment with confidence. I felt empowered to finish law school and was able to tackle cancer with a sense of humour. It takes a village to care for a cancer patient, and I’m grateful to live in a country where that village included Alex.

You can donate to Ali’s Fundraiser for the McGrath Foundation here. You can follow Ali on Instagram here or TikTok here.

This International Nurses Day the McGrath Foundation is celebrating the power of care. Find out more here about how you can help give the power of care.

Featured image: Supplied.

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