Monthly Archives: October 2016

Researching our way to 100%

People often quote the statistic that the 5 year survival rate for breast cancer is 90%.  That might seem high to you, but if you break it down, all that statistic is telling you is that 90% of men and women who are diagnosed with breast cancer survive for 5 years.  What happens after 5 years?  From my perspective, 5 years is hardly enough years to live out the rest of my life.  I want the statistic to be that 100% of women survive breast cancer.  Full stop.

You might think that is wishful thinking, but Australia leads the world with breast cancer research and the progress that is being made each day here is significant.  There are so many amazing oncologists, breast surgeons and scientists constantly trying to better the ‘statistic’ and that is encouraging.  What is needed to keep funding vital research is funding.  Cold hard cash.  And while big corporates and the mega wealthy shoulder a responsibility to dig into their deep pockets to fund medical research, we can all help in small ways. Whether you give $5, $50 or $500, it can all make a difference.  Sometimes though, in the fog of pink that can be breast cancer awareness, it gets difficult to identify where to direct your pennies so that they are being put to good use.  If you’re interested in research, here are just two organisation who deserve your dollars.

Harry Perkins Institute of Medical Research – Western Australia’s premier adult medical research institute, its priority is to recruit and build internationally renowned highly skilled research teams, comprising doctors, scientists, biostatisticians and pathologists, working together with cutting edge technologies to make new discoveries and translate this new knowledge into more effective treatments and cures.  Harry Perkins does excellent, cutting edge research into all womens’ cancers.

National Breast Cancer Foundationthe NBCF has set an aspirational goal of achieving zero deaths from breast cancer by 2030. NBCF-funded research is helping to better understand how breast cancer originates, grows and spreads, in order to develop tests, treatments and interventions to improve outcomes for people with the disease. Also, NBCF is 100% community funded. Enough said.

If you would like to donate during breast cancer awareness month, you can easily donate online.  Or, you can donate to a fundraising project that is very close to my heart.  One of my fabulous friends Fiona Kemp is shaving her head to raise money for the Harry Perkins Institute.

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Fiona’s ‘golden locks’ in all their glory. 

Fiona and I have been friends since we were 6 – we are two relatively opinionated individuals, but we have remained firm friends over the years and Fiona has been such a supportive friend not only to me, but also to my family over the course of the last year.  Fiona floated the idea of a head shave many months ago and the idea has grown from there.  The choice to give the funds raised to research was a no brainer really.  Initially we thought we’d just donate the funds for breast cancer research, but after my sister was diagnosed with lymphoma in July, we thought it more apt to direct the funds to research into womens cancer generally.  Fiona is an exceptionally brave woman and a very loyal friend and I encourage you all to jump on to the Facebook page ‘Goodbye Golden Locks‘ to read the stories that Fiona is sharing and to donate (here) to a wonderful cause.

Oh and if you’re in Perth, there’s going to be a big breakfast at which Fiona will shave her head!  Stay tuned for details of the breakfast – we’ll release dates etc. in coming weeks.

Until next time, have a spectacular weekend.  I hope the sun is shining wherever you are!

Krissy xx

October: more than the month of pink

I can hardly believe it’s October.  Firstly because it is supposed to be spring in Perth, but winter is persisting with a fierce determination.  Secondly because I feel like the months this year have passed in a whirlwind of doctors appointments, hospital visits and countdowns.  Now the countdowns are over.  No more appointments, no more regular check ups with the oncologist, it’s just me on my own navigating life, waiting for my energy to return, oh, and waiting for surgery so that I can stop calling myself a one breasted unicorn.

I also feel like I’m ready to stop talking about (breast) cancer.  It’s a conversation that has dominated at our dinner table for quite some time and I am so looking forward to the conversation being about other things.  It would, however, be entirely inappropriate to stop the conversation today as the whole point of this blog was to raise awareness about breast cancer and it happens to be breast cancer awareness month.

You might think that it’s just a month pink products appearing to attract your consumer dollars.  And in part, you might be correct.  I myself for years acknowledged the pink but really did no more than that.  In fact a few years ago, my sisters and I held a high tea to raise money for the McGrath foundation.  It was a wonderful afternoon, but I didn’t have a great grasp of why the work of the McGrath foundation was that important…

Fast forward three years and now I totally get it.  So each week for the month of October, I’m going to shine a little light on the organisations that are helping women everyday and why the various organisations deserve your support and hard earned dollars.

This week, lets talk about the organisations that provide practical support to women:

  • Breast Cancer Care WA is a fabulous organisation which provides so much support to Western Australian women diagnosed with breast cancer.  There are breast care nurses, counsellors and supports groups that women can access at Breast Cancer Care WA, all of which are super helpful touch points.  They also provide financial support to women who require it and run workshops and fun activity days for those that need them most.  I have seen a counsellor at Breast Cancer Care WA and I also attend the ‘young womens support group’ every second Monday each month.  It’s a unique organisation that doesn’t exist in the other states and they do wonderful work.
  • The Cancer Council, while not breast cancer specific, also provides so many practical services to both cancer patients and their families.  Things you might never give a second thought to, like the wig service, counselling, yoga classes, accommodation for people required to travel for treatment or mindfulness classes, but all of which can brighten someones day and give them tools to help them through difficult times.  There are many people who say that giving to the Cancer Council is a waste of time because they have huge admin costs, but don’t be deterred, because so many people get so much benefit out of the Cancer Council resources.
  • The McGrath Foundation funds breast care nurses around the country.  Put to one side any issues that the government should be funding these jobs, the breast care nurses are so important to women diagnosed as they can really help to navigate the unknown and be a sounding board when issues arise.  I had access to two wonderful breast care nurses at St John of God hospital – they helped me get access to other resources, hooked me up with some fake boobs and bras and checked in on me very regularly in the early days.  Invaluable.

Finally, here’s why this month is important to me.  Breast cancer currently affects 1 in 8 women in Australia.  That’s 44 women each day in Australia and that number is increasing each year.  More women are diagnosed with breast cancer than any other cancer.  And while the five year survival rate for breast cancer is 90%, for those of us unlucky enough to have a brush with breast cancer in our 20s or 30s, five years really isn’t enough.  We want a lifetime.  Which is precisely why research is so important.  We are world leaders in cancer research in Australia and that is something to be proud of, but we need to keep pushing and keep agitating, particularly we need to know much more about how to treat metastatic breast cancer (which is currently incurable) and how we might stop breast cancer metastasising.

So next week, we’ll talk research.  Oh and I’ll tell you about a very special fundraiser which we’re planning to raise funds for the Harry Perkins Institute.

Krissy xx