You and I are both members of the club no woman wants to join, the unfortunate one in eight club…
I too have been diagnosed with breast cancer, a type linked to the BRAC gene mutation – the gene made famous by Angelina Jolie. It was in August 2006 when I was just 29 years old, so I know exactly what you’re currently going through.
While I didn’t have the many millions of engaged social media followers that you do to share my diagnosis with, I know how difficult it is to go public. I remember making the heart-wrenching phone call to my mum, who was back in my native England, while I was a half way across the globe living in my new home, Melbourne.
I am so pleased to hear you have such a supportive group of family and friends, because those are the people that are going to get you through this. With my family being a world away, I was lucky enough to have the steadfast support of my husband and a close circle of friends.
One of the best pieces of advice I received was to find someone who’s gone through something similar. They’re the ones you can go to when most in need, to laugh at cancer’s expense – you can only laugh or cry – and to talk frankly in the moment, without fear of judgement.
I’ve been lucky enough to get to know many women who’ve gone through cancer because of my affiliation to patient group Pink Hope, a group dedicated to supporting and educating women about breast and ovarian cancer.
The thing no one tells you about cancer is it that it’s the little things that get to you. I had an aggressive type known as triple negative, and so had to undergo both chemotherapy and radiotherapy. Neither of these really phased me, until that awful day when I started losing my hair. That’s when I really broke down.
I know it should’ve been the last of my worries, but it was in that moment I felt like I was losing part of myself to cancer. Also, no one ever tells you that getting chemotherapy makes you feel like you’re hungover, all the time, without even having the enjoyment of a few glasses of wine!
Receiving a cancer diagnosis can be hard to make sense of, but I must say life has a weird way of surprising you. In my case, four weeks after I finished treatment, I was in for another surprise; I was pregnant with my daughter!
From one woman to another, I am thinking of you during this challenging time. As someone who has been a fan of yours since you “danced like no one was watching” as Elaine, I know you will face cancer with grace and a sense of humour.
LISTEN: Jane McGrath's best friend Tracy Bevan explains how the McGrath Foundation began and the work it does (post continues after audio...)
A big part of the Pink Hope community is supporting families facing a breast or ovarian cancer diagnosis.
Pink Hope is hosting an information day in Sydney on Saturday 8 October at The Langham Hotel, featuring expert speakers, who will run sessions providing the latest information and research on breast and ovarian cancer. There will be a question and answer panel, personal stories and time for socialising. For more information and to register visit: https://pinkhope.org.au/events/nsw-pink-hope-information-day-tea-and-talk/.