October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Breast cancer remains one of the most common cancers among Australian women. One in eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetime and seven women die from breast cancer every day in Australia*.
Carolyn is a Breast Care Nurse at the RMH whose passion is to help deliver excellent care to those affected by breast cancer. This is her story...
My name is Carolyn and I have been working at The Royal Melbourne Hospital (RMH) since 2003. I initially worked as a causal nurse until mid-2013 when I became part of the 7 South East plastic surgery specialty unit.
My average day at work on Ward 7 South East is never dull. I work alongside an amazing team of dedicated nurses. We really do have some tough times but we strive to support our patients and our community as health professionals.
Last June I was honoured to have been given the opportunity to study at the Australian College of Nursing to become a Specialist Breast Cancer Nurse. As an ATSI woman I was able to receive a study grant through the wonderful McGrath Foundation. I was helped by so many great people at the RMH with the initial paperwork in applying for the postgraduate grant and they were integral in giving me support throughout my studies.
Being a Breast Care Nurse means that I can offer my skills to men and women affected by breast cancer within the RMH and the greater Melbourne and Victorian community. It means I get to give back after receiving my scholarship which was brought about via community donations and support.
During my training as a Breast Care Nurse I was overwhelmed and continue to be overwhelmed by the amazing support within the Breast Care Nurse community. We often forget about self-care as carers, so I think that was an important revelation for me.
October is Breast Cancer Awareness month, and I encourage men and women to jump on board the McGrath Foundation website and access the Curve Lurve App. It is free and it only takes a few minutes to conduct your own breast self-exam. You set a reminder to do the assessment and you can even upload it with your favourite song.
My message to men and women who are burdened with the diagnosis of breast cancer is to take a deep breath, know there is support both within the RMH as well as in the community via McGrath Foundation Breast Care Nurses. Ask as many questions as you need to, access the amazing support within the Breast Cancer Network Australia (BCNA) and access the My Journey Kit, which is free. Not to forget partners and children who need support, there are information kits for them as well.
I enjoy nursing our breast cancer patients who come to 7SE for a range of surgical procedures because I am able to guide them through each step of their recovery process in order for them to go home and be able to heal in more ways than just physically. I am excited to continue learning and to share my passion to deliver the best health care and education to the members of our community from all walks of life who are touched by cancer. My aim is to assist people and their loved ones by supporting them in providing current information and relevant strategies to live in optimal health. This is something that as a staff member of the RMH I know is possible to achieve.
I would like to add that the support that my Nurse Unit Manager as well as the team of nurses I work with at the RMH was most appreciated. They all understand that I not only work on the unit but I also run a 1,100 acre farm at Little River and I have four children, so studying was not easy. My husband and four children were also very supportive and inspire me every single day. My Grandmother who has passed away also inspired me to be the best person I can possibly be, and to also be gracious with everything that we receive.
And would I do it all again? Yes, of course I would!
* source: National Breast Cancer Foundation