During 2011, I faced the challenge and uncertainty of breast cancer, from my diagnosis of high-grade DCIS through to several surgeries (plus a few unforeseen complications). Right from the start, I felt disconnected from my close local community where I am a swim teacher and a surf lifesaver. I didn’t want to share this big change in my life. It was just too personal.
I felt like I would have more control – and less stress – if I kept all of my breast cancer treatment (including mastectomy and implant reconstruction) very private – at least until I’d fully recovered. So, for about 18 months, only my family and a few close friends knew.
Living in a regional area, I travelled interstate for my surgeries. It felt safer and more helpful for me to ask questions and get help via phone, email or online with organisations such as BCNA, Cancer Connect and the Cancer Council helpline. I learnt to create a practical support network that I trusted and respected – that has now expanded to much more!
I have discovered new, and broader, communities of people – through my local breast cancer support group, the BCNA online network and my BCNA Community Liaison work – that have thankfully become important parts of my life. I feel like the energy, empathy and openness I’m now sharing with others, as a person living with breast cancer, has reconnected me to my local community.
Being part of a community is now more enriching, and more empowering, than I’d ever expected.