Living well after cancer

WHEN Penny Johnston began breast cancer treatment 12 months ago, her life became a “rollercoaster of specialists and really scary tests”.

But she found the end of her medical procedures almost as bad.

“You finish this intense round of treatment surrounded by specialists and the medical model, and then you’re finished,” Mrs Johnston said.

“In a sense, you’re left to try and pick up the pieces and left wondering what to do next.”

Luckily, Mrs Johnston’s McGrath breast care nurses stepped into the void, both during and after treatment.

“The McGrath breast care nurses were literally lifesavers. They made such a difference. They turned up just before I was about to hit a crisis,” she said. “They were such a huge support, especially through some really hard medical stuff.”

Breastscreen Ballarat and Support 4 Cancer have joined forces to hold a Beyond Breast Cancer forum on Friday, March 14.

It is designed for women who have been diagnosed with breast cancer and their families and friends.

Breastscreen Ballarat program manager Kim Kyatt said she had been to other breast cancer forums which focused on the medical model, rather than emotional or lifestyle issues.

“I went to a forum where a husband stood up and asked for nutrition or exercise tips to help his wife but no one could help him because it was all medically based,” Ms Kyatt said.

“We want people to bring their mother, friend, partner and leave going ‘that was awesome’.”

McGrath breast care nurse Sue Bartlett said a lot of people thought cancer patients could return to normal life straight after treatment.

“But they are nowhere near it. I always tell them it takes the time it took from your life and add on an extra few months,” Ms Bartlett said.

“The thing is no one comes out the other side exactly the same.”

The forum will be held at the North Ballarat Sports Club from 9.30am until 3pm.

Topics covered will include healthy lifestyle, nutrition and exercise, lymphoedema, emotional issues, sexual wellbeing and intimacy, image and self confidence, and complementary therapies. There will also be trade displays and question times.

Tickets cost $20 and can be bought from Breastscreen Ballarat at 102 Ascot Street and Support 4 Cancer at 13 Errard Street North.