I was 21 when my
mother was first diagnosed with breast cancer, my two younger sisters were
eight and eleven at the time. I was devastated by this news and I worried for
the future of my sisters as they were still so young. My mother enjoyed another
10 years following her initial treatment but unfortunately died of her advanced
breast cancer. Our family nursed her at home until the end, which is one of the
hardest things I have ever done.
In the early years
of my nursing career I worked in an inpatient Oncology ward. I thought I
understood how women diagnosed with breast cancer must feel but when it is your
own mother, it is a very different experience.
My mother died in
the same year that I completed a post-graduate qualification in research.
Throughout my studies I had been inspired to work in research as a means of
making positive change.
I have now been working as a research nurse at the Breast Care Centre, Waikato Hospital since 1997. Since then, I have worked with local specialists and consider myself very fortunate in my professional life to be able to make a difference with extending women’s lives after a breast cancer diagnosis.
Here in the Waikato region we are one of NZ’s leading breast cancer research centres. As well as our own studies, we collaborate on clinical trials with the Breast Cancer Trials and other major groups around the world.
In 2000, I was one
of a group of committed people who set up the Waikato Breast Cancer Research
Trust, a charitable trust which enables our extensive Waikato research and
In the Waikato, more than one woman is diagnosed each day. For every woman diagnosed there are family members and loved ones who are also affected. My commitment to breast cancer research remains stronger than ever. With the knowledge, we have gained from research, I am determined, along with my colleagues, that our women receive the best care possible!
Jenni Scarlet – Research Nurse& Secretary, Waikato Breast Cancer Research Trust
We are absolutly delighted to share the news that founder and chair of the Waikato Breast Cancer Research Trust, Ian Campbell has recently been promoted to Honorary Professor with the University of Auckland, School of Medicine.
Professor Ian Campbell, Breast and General Surgeon, has been a tireless contributor to teaching within the medical trainee programme at Waikato Hospital as well as supervision of surgical trainees completing post graduate research, with many research publications arising from his work with the Trust, associated clinical trials and the Waikato Breast Cancer Register.
Ian was recognised for his services to breast cancer treatment and research with Officer of the NZ Order of Merit in 2013 and this promotion is richly deserved.
We are extremely proud of Dr Mel Edwards, Doctoral Research
Fellow & Surgical Trainee, who has won a scholarship to attend this years
San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium and present her PhD thesis, ‘The Impact of
Breast Cancer Treatment Concordance on Survival in Relation to Comorbidity
This international scientific symposium is for interaction
and exchange among basic scientists and clinicians specialising in breast
cancer. It is held each December in San Antonio, Texas and is the largest
international breast cancer conference. Trustees, Drs Ian Campbell and Marion
Kuper-Hommel are also attending the symposium this year.
Dr Edwards is only one of five global award recipients of the ‘Clinical Scholar Award’, which recognises clinical scientists in-training who are actively pursuing clinical or clinical / translational research in breast cancer.
a public relations and communications professional and is co-director with her
husband Chris of their consultancy business, Dynamic Media.
background is in media, having been an award-winning journalist and editor for
almost 20 years. It was working in community news that she developed a strong
sense of community spirit and now enjoys giving back to charitable
organisations that are close to her heart.
close family and friends diagnosed with breast cancer and having lost her first
husband, Clinton, to brain cancer, Dani is passionate about supporting both the
Waikato Breast Cancer Research Trust as a trustee and the Brain Tumour Support
Trust in a pro bono capacity.
a member of the Institute of Directors and the Waikato Chamber of Commerce.
Her personal interests include cooking, F45, reading, and enjoying family time at Waihi Beach.
Donna has joined our team as Personal Assistant to Dr Ian Campbell. Donna has a health and science background and many years’ experience as a Research Coordinator working in Interventional Cardiology initially, then as a Senior Research Coordinator for the Vascular Interventional Research Unit at Auckland Hospital. Donna also has a background in Pharmacy and Teaching Support Work specialising in Dementia care.
Donna values the positive impact research has on people’s lives,
and values working with like-minded people who are innately motivated to
achieve better health outcomes for all people.
Breast cancer is a new area to Donna’s working knowledge and experience, however, Donna appreciates and understands the importance of mothers, daughters, sisters and best friends and is moved to support the WBCRT in any way she can.
Jen takes up the role in marketing and fundraising to raise awareness in the Waikato of the work we do, the funds needed and how research is undertaken by Waikato Breast Cancer Research Trust as well as sharing the story of our yellow button.
The Waikato Breast Cancer Research Trust uses a yellow button to symbolise holding lives together through evidence-based breast cancer clinical trials.
Just as a shirt would fall apart without buttons, without the hope that our research gives, so to would the lives of thousands of women diagnosed with breast cancer. The yellow-on-black signifies light streaming through darkness.
Heather has a particular passion for oncology because her mother, grandmother, an aunt and uncle, two cousins and herself have been directly touched with cancer. Heather is a registered nurse and has experience in mental health, inpatient haematology, oncology and palliative care. Her role with the WBCRT is coordinating international clinical trials for the prevention and treatment of breast cancer. She has journeyed alongside many cancer patients, and it is from this experience that she tasks herself to make a difference with women who have a diagnosis of breast cancer.
“Having a mother go through cancer and my own cancer diagnosis several years ago, has given me an understanding of what people go through when diagnosed. Knowing the impact of cancer on people’s lives, I now like to live life to the full. In my spare time, I enjoy walking or jogging around different areas of New Zealand, kayaking, hanging out with grandchildren and developing a pleasurable garden with my partner Lee”, said Heather.
Annie Shewan has joined our team as PA for Dr Ian Campbell (WBCRT Chair, Breast & General Surgeon and Associate Professor), and assist with admin duties for our team. Annie comes from a strong background in administration working with the then known Telecom and more recently Te Wānganga O Te Aotearoa.
When research nurses Jenni Scarlet and Heather Flay sit down with a woman who has been diagnosed with breast cancer, most often she has already talked with a breast cancer surgeon and an oncologist to her results and treatment options. For some this news will be very positive, and the trials we offer are based around de-escalating treatment or reducing side effects. For others, the prospect of a good long term outcome is not likely, and we are striving to find new options to improve this. Understanding breast cancer comes from research trials, projects, sharing of knowledge from other national and global research organisations, and from the woman herself.
When a research trial is offered to a breast cancer patient, Jenni and Heather, who are highly qualified research nurses, will ensure the patient’s diagnosis meets specific trial criteria. Some of these trials will be around surgical techniques, drug therapy, radiotherapy, reducing side effects, improving quality of life and communication.
Opting to be part of a research trial or project can be quite a daunting process, but for most women, the opportunity to improve their outcome, and those of other future women diagnosed, is the driving force behind the decision.