Vicki

My Pink Ribbon Morning Tea

Hi Everyone

October is breast and ovarian cancer awareness month. 

Every day in Australia, around 65 women are told they have breast or a gynecological cancer. Although one in eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer by age 85, a woman diagnosed today has a 90% chance of surviving for at least five years. It is estimated that over 19,000 women in Australia will be diagnosed with breast cancer in 2020. Sadly, it is estimated that almost 3000 of those women diagnosed with breast cancer in 2020 will die of the disease.

This is an important cause and one close to my heart, given it has affected my mother and myself—I am keen to support Australian women as much as we can.  I feel its timely for me to try and make sure research and support is there for others who experience the confronting challenge of breast and other cancers.  

I am sharing part 1, 2 and 3 of my story (read from bottom of page).

For those in Canberra we are doing a virtual hamper morning tea. $10 for a hamper where we arrange pick up or drop to you once you email your order. Order by donating and let me know order in comments.

I would appreciate your help.

Thanks

Vick

Ps All donations over $2 are tax deductible and you will be issued with a tax-deductible receipt via email as soon as you make your donation.

My Achievements

Personalised page

Shared my page

50% of Target reached

100% of Target reached

Self-donated

Raised $500

Raised $1000

My Updates

My story - Part 3 Taking Action

Saturday 3rd Oct
So much for monitoring until well into my 80s. I was now faced with having to make some pretty tough decisions. A bilateral mastectomy – in other words an amputation - is a pretty confronting scenario. Bluntly the options were removal or removal with immediate reconstruction and if choosing a reconstruction there seemed a lot of options. I chose a reconstruction using my own body and for this my great Canberra specialist suggested going to Sydney and got me into one of Australia’s leading surgeons. 

 A few weeks later my husband and I drove to Sydney to see the surgeon. We had a good run with traffic so arrived in New Town well ahead of time. We had lunch and filled in time. I was not myself - scatterbrained, forgetful and nauseous. We arrived into the surgeons office and the receptionist said we were at the wrong clinic and on Thursday’s he was at Strathfield. This means we were 30min away from if Sydney traffic was flowing and our scheduled appointment was in 10 min. The receptionist said I couldn’t get there in time and would have to make a new time. Rowan calmly told them we had driven from Canberra and she stepped up and told us to make our way there and she would do her best to juggle some patients. I burst into tears in the car feeling like a failure and wondered how I had gotten the location so wrong. 

Rowan drives too fast for my liking usually but on this occasion he did a good job getting us there quickly whilst trying to calm his crazy emotional wife. 

The Doctor was a strange man. Obviously proud of his work and explained all the gory details. Not sure I absorbed much of what he said. He agreed to do the surgery and gave me the date Friday the 13th October which was about 6 weeks away. It was about a month from first diagnosis to this day where we locked in the surgery. Hard to focus on much during this time. I can’t really explain the relief I felt when I finally got a plan and a date. 

The 6 weeks leading up to the surgery were pretty normal. It was a good distraction. 

My husband and I travelled to Sydney on the 12th. I had to get scans that they needed during the surgery. They map your lymph nodes which was an interesting process. I got my first and only ever tattoo- a wee dot where the sentinel lymph node was so they could find it during surgery. 

What does one do the day before you get your boobs lobbed off??? Good bloody question - we had a nice dinner and went to see a movie. The movie wasn’t memorable as I can’t even remember what the movie was. I thought I had booked a luxury hotel but it was pretty tired. It was a good location though. I had to be at the hospital at 530am so we didn’t stay out late. 

Amazingly I slept ok. We stayed around the corner from the hospital so walked to the hospital first thing in the morning. I remember tears streaming down my cheeks on the 1 km walk. I didn’t say much. The hospital was very efficient with the 30 odd people there checking in for all sorts of weird and hopefully life saving procedures. I was one of the first called as my surgery was very long. I got into hospital gown, compression socks and did all the checks and balances ahead of surgery. Rowan was with me when the anesthetist popped in. 

Time for surgery.taking me into the surgery.. I said goodbye to Rowan whilst they wheeled me away. The surgery was scheduled for 16 hours. The doctors said they would call Rowan at key milestones ie when boobs were removed and when I was in recovery. I didn’t think much about Rowan’s long day till a few weeks later. I think it was very long day for him. 

I was wheeled into a holding bay just before the operating theatre. This is when the plastic surgeon started scribbling over my body with permanent marker. I sat there whilst he planned his surgery with the scans from previous day. Gotta say I loved that he was so precise and focused. Even if he wasn’t in surgery when I was asleep, this sense of confidence was reassuring. 

The anaesthetist efficiently put me to sleep As a tears trickled down my checks.

My Story - Part 2 the size of a grain of sand

Tuesday 29th Sep

Advances in cancer treatment changed significantly over the last 15 years. I like to think that people like you and me chipping in a gold coin here and there has helped with these advances.


One of the new treatment pathways offered to Mum was genetic testing which examines your genes, chromosomes and proteins to see if they were working as they should. Turns out Mum’s genes weren’t working right and was the source of her cancer. My brothers and I had a 50:50 chance that our genes would have the same fault.

 

Of course my tests mirrored my Mum’s results.  I have a BRCA gene mutation. Some know this mutation as the one Angelina Jolie made famous many years ago - it means you have a very very high chance of getting breast, ovarian cancer and/ or pancreatic cancers. As recommended by doctors, I had planned to get my ovaries removed in a few years and opted for an annual MRI monitoring program. Perhaps in denial but at this stage having a faulty gene didn’t make any difference. Onwards and upwards as normal...

 

July 2017 - Four Corners Pumped aired creating significant havoc in the Murray-Darling family and in particular my branch had to do some of the heavy issues handling. We were briefing different stakeholders, handling media enquiries and trying to keep staff morale up. On the day we were briefing the Basin Community Committee I had my first annual breast monitoring MRI. I rang to find out how long it would take and they said I would be in and out in about an hour. I prob would have postponed if they had said it would take more than an hour. In hindsight this is a lucky lesson in putting yourself first no matter how mad work is.

 

I arrived and went into to the spaceship looking MRI machine and picked some music and lay face down. The machine made an awful clanging noise and I spent most of the 30 min pondering inventions to muffle the sound. I figured I had 40 more years of these scans so surely muffling the noise was in my best interest.

 

I was getting changed back into my work clothes and a nurse came in and said the doctor has asked that given this was my first scan that it would be worthwhile fully mapping my breasts. This would essentially mean that maths could determine similarities and differences and this would be immensely helpful over the years. There was something a bit weird about the nurses manner but I went to the mammogram machine and interestingly they only wanted to do a mammogram on the right side. Weird but definitely enough to make me feel totally unsettled.

 

By now I had been there for well over two hours. I had an agenda item on Basin Community Committee so I text some of the team to do on my behalf. I was then escorted to an ultrasound room and the radiographer said they just wanted a closer look at a few areas. Again they only looked at right side. The room was freezing and I was shaking but in hindsight maybe it was dread and fear weaving through my body as clearly something was wrong.

 

The head radiographer turned out to be the international guru for MRI breast monitoring and had written the best practice book. Lovely man with good eye contact. He explained what they were looking at and told me what he spotted was about 1mm by 1mm and he wanted to do a biopsy right now to check on it.

 

One millimetre squared or about the size of a grain of sand – tiny, I thought - and then wondered how on earth he could do a biopsy on something so small. I was numb - fear and of course the localised anaesthetic. He approached with a needle about the length of his forearm. He was a tall man so trust me it was huge. First attempted he missed it but got it on his second.

 

He said biopsy would take 3 days so I should see doc on Friday to get results. I text my husband, Rowan just before the biopsy telling him something might be wrong. I couldn’t call him as knew I wouldn’t be able to keep my composure and at that stage I needed to have my wits about me to understand what was happening and what I needed to do next.

 

I didn’t go back to work that afternoon. I felt ill most of the night and after some chats with my Rowan I decided I would cope better with a ‘be busy strategy.’ As work was ridiculously busy it was best place for me whilst I waited for the results.

 

Three days later I called the doctor and was told results weren’t in yet and I would have to wait till Monday. Interestingly on Saturday the radiographer called me assuming I had received the results. He had them but wasn’t allowed to tell me the results. All he said was there is something wrong and I should get the results as soon as possible.

 

Monday arrived. My usual GP was away so a random doctor delivered the news that I had DCIS which is stage 0 breast cancer - localised and yet to spread. This is needle in haystack stage and turns out the guru radiographer spotted something that very very few in the world would have caught. Again, I am grateful to science, technology (even if the clanging sound was barely bearable!) and a driven expert trying to make a difference.

 

The GP got me into a specialist a few weeks later and if I didn’t have the BRCA gene mutation they would suggest a lumpectomy which is just removing the site and surrounding tissue. But the breast surgeon delivered the news that with the BRCA gene mutation the recommendation is a full mastectomy as it was likely to grow rapidly and worse the recommendation was to do both breasts. All this for a grain of sand. 

My Story - Part 1

Monday 28th Sep

Proactive, driven and determined people saved my life. ‘It will never happen to me’ is great way to live until it does actually happen to you. Bloody cancer.

 

For me, it started about 12 years ago when my mum was feeling a little flat but not feeling sick. She popped off to the GP and ended up having a few straight forward tests. The doc seemed to think it was just menopause causing her to feel tired but suggested a visit to a specialist who did a supposed short straightforward surgery. The surgery went for a very, very, very long time and we knew something was up but had no idea the terrible voyage we were about to embark on.

 

A rare type of advanced ovarian cancer was the diagnosis, we were told less than 80 people a year got this type cancer and prognosis was not flash. Five-year survival rate was in the minority if stats for such a rare case could be believed.

 

Mum embraced juicing, going organic, and meditating and reluctantly undertook pretty brutal chemo. I went to every session with her. The day long treatment was actually quite fun—we would chat about all sorts of crazy things... she would do all the doctors, nurses (partners, kids, cousins, second cousins, receptionists, cleaners, canteen staff, patients and anyone visiting patients) numerology and astrology. I think this kept her calm.

 

Over the years of hard slog treatment, I shaved her head, helped pick wigs, cared for her, took her to appointments, helped make confronting decisions, cursed with her and tried to keep her (and my) morale up. Being a carer was tough, but nowhere near as tough as it was for my poor mum. She passed away last year and I miss her every day. Losing your mum is definitely a life game changer.

 

Over more than a decade we saw significant advances in treatment approaches. This was due to committed scientists applying their talent to improving the quality of life for many people and why I know it is an important cause to support. 

Thank you to my Sponsors

$260

Anonymous

Hi Vicki Wishing you all the best for your project raising funds for a very good cause. I do not need anything in return. Happy to contribute. Amala

$260

Megan Winter

Good on you Vick!

$115.44

Dad Vicki’s

Shared much of your angst but could not have done this. Well done!

$104

Julia & Sue O’boyle-read

Vicki thanks for sharing your story. Lots of tears being shed right now. Wishing you love and good health, Julia & Sue xx

$104

Owen Bourke

$104

Jo Kneebone

On ya Vick

$104

Amy Walsh

$104

Angie Shier

Vickos, you are the most amazing human I know. I miss you and love you to the moon and back!

$104

Alex Anthony

So courageous Vick - thanks for sharing your story

$104

Linda Manson

$104

Haidee

So inspiring Vick! xxx

$104

Rob Vertessy

Thanks for your brave work raising awareness and contributing to improved diagnosis, care and treatment. You’re a champion.

$100

Will L

You're a star Vick! Will + Christina

$75

Wodonga Office

$52

Jo And Pete Kittler

We love you Vick! X

$52

Mandi Luxford

Thank you Vicki, love your work xxx

$52

Danica Ralston

Thinking of you Vick 💞 Hope you're doing ok now. Sending love and hugs. 💗

$52

David Cook

$52

Anne Lucas

Your story made me cry, Vick. Our Mums are so incredibly precious. I'm sure she felt blessed to have you by her side throughout the many years of treatment. Well done for raising awareness and much needed funds.

$52

Gill Whiting

$52

Judy Chalker

You are amazing Vick, all the best with your fund raising x

$52

Lyn De Klerk

$52

Tracy Coutts

Your story is just inspiring Vick

$52

Kea Clarke

$52

Tim Goodes

Go Vicki and Team - Really important work to be done here.

$52

Andrew Mcfadzean

$52

Easiyo Matching

$52

Amanda Fracaro

Well done Vick! You are kicking it 💕

$52

Janet Pritchard

Fabulous idea and thanks for sharing your story, very brave. Great cause

$52

Jo Power

Amazing Vick, your determination and resilience is amazing! 😘

$52

Kate Braid

Your strength and resilience is amazing and inspiring! Great idea Vick for such a worthwhile cause Xx

$52

Emma Gould

Lots of love Vick xx

$52

Maxine Kerr

Such a great initiative for a great cause. Love your work Vick!

$52

Shaz Forwood (maxwell)

Xxx

$52

Ash Franke

Vick you are amazing! Your inner strength shines so bright. Love you loads xx

$50

Kim Williams

Hey Vick, Wishing you all the very best. Hope you are ok now. Thinking of your beautiful Mum and remembering what a legend she was. Sending hugs and love. X

$50

Ben Dyer

Hi Vicki, bought 3 hampers - rest is a donation. You are not alone. My Mum, my step Mum, a great aunt. thankyou for organising this Cheers Ben

$50

Jen Robertson

$50

Beau Byers

$50

Shreya Jafri

Good on you for organising this Vicki, Your mum would be proud! I have a very close family history of breast cancer and I think this is a great cause.

$48.88

Anna Horsman

Hi Vicki, the Murray Bridge MDBA team had a fun morning tea eating pink cupcakes and yummy brownies!

$36.40

Mel P

$31.20

Martin Job

$31.20

Ben Dyer

$26

Matt O'brien

$26

Tyson Milne

$26

Jackie Luethi

Go Vick! Thanks for organising and sharing your story with us.

$26

Victoria Taylor

$26

Vanhie

$26

Paul

great cause & thanks for sharing your story, hopefully it encourages others to make time for themselves

$26

Bec Read

Thank you so much for sharing your story Vicki. l wish you all the best in your life's journey. (Also, I'd like to take this opportunity to say that its been an absolute pleasure working with you and your team.)

$26

Kirsten Henderson

Thank you Vicki for sharing your story. You are one courageous, caring woman!

$26

Ingrid Takken

$26

Easiyo Matching

$26

K Pumpa

$26

Operations Improvement Team

Brilliant work Vicki - for a good cause AND a great reason for us to get together. Thanks

$26

Leah Ross

thanks for organising Vick, Will and Trace

$26

Leon Tang

$26

Jacki Thomson

Such an important cause Vicki ... thank you for being a 'champion' and sharing your story. Jacki

$25

Julianne Tanner

$20.80

Anonymous

Great morning tea held with the Wodonga Office

$20.80

Fiona Guy

$20.80

Victor Smiles

$15

Rebecca Nixon

$10.40

Susan Levett

$10.40

Anonymous

Thank you for coordinating this!

$10.40

Louise Ray

Hi Vicki - looking forward to my afternoon tea on the 7th! Is this where I'm supposed to pay up? Hope so! Louise

$10

Alana Harrison

$10

Rebecca Durant