As 27-year-old Kimberley discovered, breast cancer comes when you least expect it

August 17, 2021 2 mins read

Life doesn’t always go the way you plan, particularly when a shock breast cancer diagnosis comes in your mid-20s. Kimberley O’Connor was working as a young nurse in the oncology ward when she was diagnosed with breast cancer, flipping her world on its head as she went from carer to patient. Being diagnosed at such a young age came as a huge surprise to Kimberley and with its own set of challenges.

At only 27 years old, Kimberley’s whole life changed when she was diagnosed with breast cancer. She discovered a suspicious lump in her breast by accident, while removing fake tan in the shower. A subsequent ultrasound, biopsy and mammogram revealed that she had a cancerous tumour in her breast. Kimberley was busy working in the oncology ward when she received the call from her GP, which set the whirlwind treatment process into motion.

Immediately after her diagnosis, Kimberley was sent for a CT scan, blood test and a phone appointment with a professor from IVF Australia. Being so young, Kimberley had a lot of things to think about in regard to her treatment, including making important decisions about her fertility. Kimberley and her partner had been planning to try for kids in the next year, so she decided to delay treatment slightly to undergo hormone injections and freeze her eggs. This was a huge focus of Kimberley’s treatment plan, as chemotherapy can negatively impact the fertility of many women.

For Kimberley, the whole process was something of an information overload. There was so much to take in and so many decisions to be made. She credits McGrath Breast Care Nurse, Kim Wright, with helping her navigate diagnosis and treatment. They met on that very first day when Kimberley had her appointment with the oncologist and Kimberley grew to rely on the support and guidance of her McGrath Breast Care Nurse.

“Kim was really helpful when I became a bit overloaded with information, she would remind me what we were doing and she kept track of everything. It’s like having a friend with you, she’s a warm and sunny person who knew just what to say.”

“I feel it would be a bit scarier if she wasn’t there. Kim follows up on the things I speak about with the oncologist and breaks it down a bit more.”

While Kimberley herself work as on oncology nurse, there was so much more to breast cancer treatment and McGrath Breast Care Nurses than she anticipated. The treatment and guidance that Kimberley received from her McGrath Breast Care Nurse, as a woman in her 20s, differed greatly to that of a woman in her 50s or 60s. It required a set of expertise and support that was entirely unique to her situation.

“Even though I’m an oncology nurse, I had no idea how much a specialised McGrath Breast Care Nurse did… Kim’s a fountain of knowledge, you need to know a lot to do that role. Every time I’ve had a question, she knows the answer.”

Kim helped her navigate the whole process, providing resources that Kimberly otherwise wouldn’t have known how to access. From connecting Kimberley with support groups to breaking down specialised treatments like radiation, Kim walked her through the process step by step.

McGrath Breast Care Nurses provide a valuable service to patients like Kimberley, with over 170 nurses across Australia. McGrath Breast Care Nurses help people with breast cancer and their families by providing invaluable physical psychological support, from the time of diagnosis and throughout treatment. This service is free, regardless of whether you are in the public or private health system.

It is because of the support of incredible community fundraisers that the McGrath Foundation can continue funding McGrath Breast Care Nurses and help patients like Kimberley across the country.

This Breast Cancer Awareness Month, help families experiencing breast cancer by fundraising or by making a donation! Whether you host an online event from home or create an online donation pool, it is because of the valuable work of community supporters that McGrath Breast Care Nurses can continue to provide this vital care to families across Australia.

Visit Pink Up October to learn more about how you can get involved.