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Don't try and do it all on your own

Tuesday 8 August, 2023

Rachel was 19 weeks pregnant when she found out she had cancer.

“As soon as they mentioned the word cancer, I thought: That’s the end. What’s going to happen to my baby?” Rachel said.

The 33 year old office clerk was diagnosed with stage 3, ductal carcinoma when she found a lump on her breast in December 2021.

“Emotionally, I was stunned to hear those words, but I realised I had a focus: The treatment is what I’ve got to get through in order to have my baby,” Rachel said.

“I never heard of anyone being diagnosed with cancer and being pregnant.”

“The baby was always first on my mind, and then I thought of myself second. I also thought: ‘I need to survive this so that I can care for my baby,” she added.

Rachel said she underwent copious amounts of tests – ultrasounds, mammograms, X-rays –and her surgeon had meetings with a team of oncologists to work out the best treatment plan for her to make sure her baby was safe. 

“I had a lumpectomy and four rounds of chemo whilst I was pregnant,” Rachel remembered.

“Having chemo was tough. I had to make sure I was drinking enough water, eating right and getting enough energy so that not only I could have enough energy for myself, but also to provide nutrients for my baby,” Rachel said.

The day her son Luke was born in March was one of the happiest days of her life but was quickly thrusted back into the world of living with cancer.

“After I had Luke, I had 12 more rounds of chemo and 20 rounds of radiation."

“Again, I had to focus on getting through that, but then I also had to focus on this beautiful baby boy,” Rachel added.

Rachel said she was fortunate enough to have a lot of good family, including her partner Justin, and friends around that could help her with the physical things that she just couldn’t do.

“I think I was still on a high after giving birth, and I fell into motherly instincts,” she said.

“Once the chemo started taking its toll on my body, I started to feel very drained, struggling to care for myself and then care for Luke, that’s when I began to struggle both physically and mentally. However, I still had that goal of finishing treatment to keep me going,” she added.

Rachel called into Cancer Council Victoria’s 13 11 20 cancer support service when she began to struggle emotionally after her treatment had ended.

“I remember calling after I was really struggling mentally. I couldn’t think clearly or understand why I was so emotional.

“Once I finished treatment, all my emotions came pouring out all at once because I tried to stay strong for so long. I couldn’t handle it.

She said the cancer nurse was very helpful in trying to deal with her challenges.

“A lot of the things that she said really hit home for me and not only was she helpful during those conversations, but I still refer to the information and resources she provided me over the phone and email. It’s been very helpful,” Rachel added.

“After that first phone call, it felt like a huge weight had lifted off my shoulders. I felt better after each conversation; and I thought: ‘Right, I can do this,” Rachel said.

Rachel said she now feels more confident in tackling the day to day challenges of ongoing cancer treatments.

“I’m still on hormone blockers for the prevention of a secondary cancer. The cancer nurse has helped cope with the changes that cancer treatment has made to my body,” Rachel said.

“I’d absolutely recommend 13 11 20 to anyone going through cancer as well as their family members,” she added.

Rachel would love to see every Victorian donate as much as they can to support Cancer Council Victoria’s prevention, support and cancer research programs on Daffodil Day, Thursday, 31 August.

“Supporting Cancer Council Victoria through Daffodil Day is majorly important,” Rachel added.

“I don’t know where I’d be without the help from a 13 11 20 cancer nurse. Luke might not have survived my treatment plan without the research that has gone into treating pregnant women with cancer.”

On providing advice for other people living with cancer, Rachel said:

“Don’t try and do it all on your own, no matter how strong you may think you are. Reach out and reach out earlier.”

For all that cancer takes, give hope this Daffodil Day.

Daffodil Day is a chance for Australians to come together and, for all that cancer takes; give. We all have the ability to create change in the lives of people impacted by cancer. Whether you want to fundraise, donate or buy daffodils, you can use your talents to support Australians impacted by cancer, and pave the way to a brighter future for everyone.

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