The power of care

This International Nurses Day the McGrath Foundation is celebrating the power of care, sharing some incredible stories of people McGrath Breast Care Nurses have supported. From receiving treatment close to home with family around you, to making informed treatment choices, and even in ensuring meaningful farewells, the power of care can take many forms.

With more than 20,000 people expected to be diagnosed with breast cancer this year and continued improvement in survival rates and an increasingly complex treatment trajectory, the ongoing need for specialist breast care nurses continues to grow.  

The power of care is…being able to live your life.

When Venessa Pearce was diagnosed with breast cancer at 37, the mum-of-three wasn’t too surprised. Her mum had also had it and Venessa had steeled herself, knowing it could also happen to her. But what made their experiences vastly different was how treatment has evolved over the last three decades. Venessa’s McGrath Breast Care Nurse Charlotte advocated for Venessa to have treatment locally, helping Venessa spend more time with her family.

Venessa says “if my mum would have had the resources and support of a free McGrath Breast Care Nurse, she would’ve had someone who could tell her about volunteers who could drive her. Or she would’ve had someone like Charlotte who could say, ‘We’ll organise your treatment closer to home.’

The power of care is…time for goodbyes.

Cancer was not something new to Louisa Butler when she was first diagnosed with breast cancer in 2019 but it still came as a shock. Unfortunately, she had already been through uterine cancer followed by thyroid cancer. And when Louisa started experiencing pain in her arm in January 2023, on the same day she learned her first grandchild was on the way, her doctor confirmed the breast cancer was back – and had spread.

Louisa’s husband Stefan says “Sally, our district nurse and the incredible team at the local hospital ensured we were home until just over a week before my wife passed away, in the garden she loved with the fishpond and fountain burbling beside her. The help was more than physical, it was psychological, it allowed us time for visits and farewells, for sessions of laughter and of tears. It allowed for us to do so much more than could ever be put clearly in words.”

The power of care is…the strength to carry on.

Cassie didn’t need anyone to tell her that chemo wasn’t working and her cancer had progressed. A year after being diagnosed with primary breast cancer, Cassie was told it had spread. Throughout it all she has been supported by McGrath Breast Care Nurse Sally Haley. Cassie says Sally’s care has gone above and beyond; it has given her the strength to pay it forward and help other cancer patients who are struggling, and it kept her out of palliative care. Cassie believes Sally is her personal superhero.

“Sally gave me the tools to keep fighting. She told them that I’m not going into palliative care, I’ll fight and come out the other end. She got behind me and my family to keep going. Having somebody in your corner, believing in you does make you want to fight harder.”

The power of care is…never feeling alone.

Ali wasn’t in the habit of checking her breasts, but when her mum’s cousin was diagnosed with breast cancer in her 40s, Ali saw her awareness post. She checked her breasts, they felt strange so she looked into it. As a young person, her experience of breast cancer was vastly different from the mainstream and her McGrath Breast Care Nurse, Alex Lawless, tailored her care to ensure Ali felt supported all the way. 

Ali says, “Alex has been amazing. She was there from the first appointment. It was overwhelming, but she booked all my appointments for me and she always arrived at appointments when I was anxious, it’s like she knew. She filled in the gaps of my knowledge and made things very manageable.”

Will you give the power of care today?