Dwelling on the potentially dire outcome of her breast cancer diagnosis was not an option for Warrnambool-based mother Claire.
“I had a four-year-old child so I couldn’t think that way, because I would have come undone,” said Claire.
The 42-year-old Financial Planning Assistant has been determined to keep life as normal as possible whilst completing her treatment; so much so she’s registered for the Run Melbourne half-marathon this July.
It all started in January 2018 when she first noticed a lump on her breast.
“At the time, I was working part-time and running a small business with a couple of business partners.
“Then I found a lump in my breast – it was actually visible, so I saw the lump rather than feel it, like a lot of women do.
“I took myself off to the doctor straight away because I had a feeling that it wasn’t good,” said Claire.
Although it took about a month for the diagnosis to come through, once it happened, Claire’s treatment moved quickly.
“Once I had that, my surgeon said that he wanted to get me in quite urgently, and nine days later, I had a mastectomy,” said Claire.
“Then in April I started six rounds of chemotherapy and 12 months of Herceptin.”
After further inspection, Claire’s surgeon found she had two lumps in her breast, and that her entire breast needed to be removed – more than first expected.
Despite these hurdles, Claire remained positive throughout her treatment.
Claire's daughter Isabelle visited her in hospital a couple of days after her mastectomy.
“I really had this feeling that it was going to be cancer, so by the time they told me it was, I already had my head around that,” she explained.
“It was just a matter of thinking ‘what do we have to do going forward?’”
Throughout the process, Claire had a lot of questions, but they would often come to her after appointments.
“My breast care nurse gave me a whole heap of information, and Cancer Council provide you with so many resources – booklets, information, and the website.”
“Often you would walk away from doctors and surgeons and say, ‘I should have asked that’, so the best thing for me was just that I had all those resources at my fingertips,” she said.
It wasn’t only Claire that needed support with her diagnosis.
“One of the brochures I gave to my husband gave him a little bit of guidance on how to best help and support me. I know my husband definitely read it, and a couple of my friends looked at it as well,” said Claire.
Claire with one of her amazing chemo nurses, Lisa, on the first day of chemotherapy – 10 April 2018.
Despite all that she has been through, Claire decided to sign up for the Run Melbourne half-marathon, and fundraise for Cancer Council.
“I thought that would be a really good way to say a small thank you to the Cancer Council.”
Additionally, Claire thought participating in the run would be a positive challenge for her as well.
“I needed to give myself a focus going forward. I knew that I only had a few more months of treatment left, and I really needed to do something that’s just for me.”
“I started quietly doing a bit of training in January this year. Then in February, I felt more confident that I could do Run Melbourne.
Although Claire enjoys her new routine of waking up early to train, she has had to carefully balance the exercise with rest as she is still undergoing treatment.
Her remarkable efforts to run for Cancer Council have inspired many around her to donate to her fundraising page.
Claire with her husband Greg and daughter Isabelle – April 2019
“I posted that I’m running on Facebook, and mentioned to my friends that I’d love if they could just donate a few dollars because it’s a great cause.
“All of a sudden, from me hoping I could make $1,000, I think I’m now up to $3,300 or around that.”
Claire encourages anyone thinking of fundraising to go for it as she’s been blown away by the support she’s received from so many around her.
“I thought I’d get some $10 and $20 donations, but instead I’m getting $50 and $100 amounts and even more than that, so it’s been amazing.”
Claire hopes the funds she has raised can go towards Cancer Council’s vital support services – including resources and publications like the ones she used.
“If my money was to go to providing those resources to other people who are just starting out on their cancer journey, then I’d be really pleased with that."