Helen Hackett was a busy woman.
Mother to 3 and a half-year-old twins, a 19 month old toddler and a husband with a thriving and time-consuming real estate business.
When she discovered a lump in her right breast she was told it was a result of breast-feeding. The diagnosis was a relief because she didn’t have time to worry about being sick. But the lump grew.
By the time Helen was accurately diagnosed, cancer had spread throughout her body, invading her lymph nodes and eventually vital organs.
Her busy life became a busy fight for life; surgery, aggressive treatment, followed by bouts of crippling sickness. But after 18 months, Helen lost her battle. She was just 31.
Her family and close friends were left reeling.
“It was such a surreal time. From the initial diagnosis, through the roller-coaster of treatments and the never-ending bad news – it was just such a blur,” said one of Helen’s closest friends, Carla Haddan.
“We were left feeling stunned. Helen’s sickness had been all consuming and after her death we thought, what do we do now?”
Carla helped form a Foundation in Helen’s name and approached the Wesley Breast Clinic in Brisbane, a busy centre that screens and diagnoses 25 000 women annually, on average 100 a day from throughout Southern Queensland and Northern New South Wales.
“There was a group of us, her sister and close friends. We wanted to do something productive and obviously it was also a way of coping with our grief.”
Dr Lisa Erzetich, Director of the Wesley Breast Clinic said at the top of the Clinic’s wish-list was Digital Mammography Equipment – technology that is particularly useful in diagnosing breast abnormalities in younger women or those with dense breast tissue.
“Digital Mammography produces greatly enhanced image quality, which is crucial for early diagnosis,” Dr Erzetich said.
“Digital technology also allows us to adopt other emerging technologies such as Computer Aided Diagnosis and Tomosynthesis. There are added benefits from reduced radiation doses and productivity gains, as the entire examination can be completed more quickly,” Dr Erzetich said.
After that initial meeting, the Helen Hackett Foundation was born and now it had a clear goal.
“I remember that first meeting so clearly,” said Carla.
“We all looked at each other and said ‘right, we’re going to raise enough money to buy this equipment.”