Amanda Barrass has always been known for her can-do attitude. A proud mum of two boys, she was happily married living in the Hunter Valley while working for a charity helping people with disabilities and complex mental health needs into work when her life changed almost overnight.
Aged 31 in 2016, Amanda was enjoying a playful day with friends when she accidentally flipped a farm quad bike on top of herself while riding downhill. Laughing but slightly battered and bruised, she went to the doctor for a check-up, where they found a lump in her right breast.
“The news was a complete shock. As far as I was aware, I was happy and healthy. I had no symptoms at all.”
Amanda went for scans the following morning, and met with a breast cancer specialist the same afternoon. It was the day after Mother’s Day when she was told that she had six tumours in her right breast, and received a stage three breast cancer diagnosis. Three weeks later, she was having a double mastectomy.
“Everything was a bit vague and foggy during those first few weeks. As a lot of choices were quickly being taken away from me, all I could think about was getting through each day.”
Amanda felt lucky to have her husband, Mark beside her – a calming force to hold her hand during the early trips to the hospital. That’s where the family met McGrath Breast Care Nurse, Rebecca Chenery, who brought Amanda care packages after surgery, answered any questions about her treatment, and helped coordinate doctor’s appointments.
Telling their two young sons was the most challenging part for Amanda and Mark, as well as breaking the news to Amanda’s mum and whole family.
“I’ve always been the baby of the family, so they took it really hard. Rebecca was there to help explain it all in terms that didn’t sound so scary.”
After her double mastectomy, Amanda was feeling positive – reassured by monthly PET scans, six-monthly visits to the breast cancer specialist, and regular check-ins with Rebecca. But two years after her first diagnosis, in 2018, aged only 33, they found the cancer had metastasized, and she was rushed to emergency surgery to treat seven tumours in her spine.
Receiving an incurable metastatic diagnosis was a whole other experience for Amanda. “The hardest part as a mum is not knowing what milestones you’re going to meet – birthdays, graduations, weddings. You really feel like you’re at the end of the line.”
With the support and guidance of her McGrath Breast Care Nurse, Amanda was able to explain her new diagnosis to her family. Together, they coordinated a tour of the radiation facilities so that her boys would have a better idea of the treatment their mum was getting, and help answer any questions or fears they had.
Amanda has since been on a daily oral chemotherapy treatment focused on maximising and prolonging her quality of life. Her breast cancer isn’t curable but is manageable, and Amanda is determined to make the most of the time she has left with a positive spirit. A life-long singer, this included performing the Australian National Anthem at Day 1 of the Pink Test in 2022, fulfilling her dream to sing on the international stage.
To receive specialist metastatic support, Amanda now has Metastatic McGrath Breast Care Nurse, Sam Oliver with her every step of the way. From attending appointments to sorting out prescriptions, Sam is there to help Amanda manage her course of treatment and the psychosocial aspects of a metastatic diagnosis with confidence.
But what Amanda values most is the emotional support Sam brings.
“Sam is always there to pick up the phone, no matter how small the question. When you speak to someone so often, they become part of the family. She makes me feel so safe – I’d be very lost and lonely without her.”
October 2023 will be a special month for Amanda as she will celebrate her 40th birthday. “I think I’m the only person excited to turn 40. We didn’t know if I would make it, so it’s a really emotional one.”
Amanda on THE ICONIC campaign
“I’ve always been very raw and honest on social media about my breast cancer diagnosis, to encourage other people to be conscious about their breast health. Breast Cancer Awareness Month in October is a huge educational moment, so being part of this national campaign to help fund more McGrath Breast Care Nurses means a lot to me.
“Plus, I shop on THE ICONIC all the time, so it’s really a 40th birthday wish come true.”
The McGrath Pink Edit will be available exclusively on THE ICONIC for the duration of Breast Cancer Awareness Month from Sunday 1 October until 31 October. With 10% of all profits from the collection going towards funding McGrath Breast Care Nurses, now is the perfect time to add a splash of pink to your wardrobe and help ensure no one misses out on care.