“Having a cancer diagnosis makes you realise there are many different kinds of cancer and that the medical profession is constantly trying to discover how best to deal with the disease”.
Last year I had breast conserving
surgery for a stage two cancer, picked up by mammogram. Among all the emotions
you go through with a cancer diagnosis, there was a small sense of relief that
mine had been found at an early stage by having regular mammograms, as it would
have been too small to be detected otherwise.
I was asked at Waikato Hospital if
I’d be interested in participating in the EXPERT trial if I was a suitable
candidate – and this brought another little glimmer of light that in some way I could help the search for
better cancer treatments.
Before my surgery, I’d been told that
the follow-up treatment would be several weeks of radio therapy plus hormone
This initiated late night web
searches about potential side effects and the effectiveness of radio therapy
for breast cancer. I found out more than I really wanted to know about
radiotherapy, but also learned that there is some doubt as to whether it is
necessary for all types of breast cancer and that the only way of finding out
was to carry out clinical trials like EXPERT.
Fifty years ago the only treatment for breast cancer was a radical
mastectomy followed by cobalt radiotherapy and it’s only through clinical
trials that breast conserving surgery has become the norm for low risk cancers
Knowing more about the treatment
options and having information about potential side effects and what type of
cancer I had, helped me feel more comfortable about making a decision for my
As we live on the Coromandel Peninsula, I travel three hours each way to attend appointments, but I feel it’s important to be involved in research which will help the treatment of other women, and also so that I can benefit from the long term follow-up that the study provides.
The Waikato Treasure Chests (WTC) are our local dragon boat team of breast cancer survivors and supporters. A competitive team consists of 22 women in the boat. There is increasing evidence that exercise benefits breast cancer survivors, including reducing risk of breast cancer recurrence. Dragon boat paddling also helps maintain the mobility of the arm most affected by the breast cancer surgery.
The objectives of the WTC are to;
promote wellness, fitness, fun and camaraderie,
send a positive message of hope to other people living with breast cancer and to those who support them,
raise awareness about breast cancer whilst supporting the search for a cure.
Breast Cancer Trials Australia & New Zealand (BCTANZ) is the largest breast cancer research group in NZ and many of the clinical trials that the WBCRT team enable are coordinated through this group.
Waikato researchers, Dr Ian Campbell, Dr Marion Kuper and research nurse Heather Flay attended the BCT conference held this year in Adelaide, South Australia.
There were many eminent international breast cancer experts who updated conference attendees on a cross section of topics relating to breast cancer diagnosis, care and treatment.
Topics covered advances in breast imaging, the management of low to intermediate grade ductal carcinoma insitu (surgery or active monitoring) and the need to develop laboratory tests that distinguish between aggressive and non-progressive forms of DCIS (which is sometimes referred to as a pre-cancerous condition), the introduction of new technologies to assess surgical margins during breast conserving surgery and more.
It is always inspiring to have local and international experts passing on their knowledge and experience of practice and research from international cancer centres. We can bring this knowledge back for the benefit of Waikato wāhine/women.
standard of care for women with early breast cancer is radiation therapy after
breast conserving surgery to reduce risk of recurrence and improve survival.
However, breast cancer is a complex disease and the absolute benefit of
radiation therapy in individual patients varies substantially.
clinical trial is investigating whether a laboratory test called a genomic
assay can help doctors select out women with low risk breast cancer, who may be
able to avoid radiotherapy and its associated side effects.This research aims to improve personalised use of
radiation therapy in early breast cancer patients, according to individual risk
of local recurrence.
is a centre for this international clinical trial coordinated by Breast Cancer
Trials Australian & New Zealand. Other centres in New Zealand are
Palmerston North, Wellington and Christchurch Hospitals.
It all started with a lump in the right breast
that was noticeably growing daily. A biopsy revealed that the tumour was
cancerous and positive to three receptors and it needed to be removed asap. But
first we needed chemo to shrink the tumour as it was now 75 x 50mm.
The first chemo almost didn’t happen as my
wife’s blood count was low. This is when we realised this was serious. We
debated with our oncologist and eventually we continued with the first chemo.
Lucky for us the blood count improved and we were able continue with the full
We had just dodged our first bullet. From now
on we needed a plan. The anxiety we had
just experienced was horrific. We needed to change our mind set if we had any
chance of beating this. We needed to manage what we could control and not worry
about what we had no control over.
Don’t worry about blood test, bone scan or CT
scan results. Once we had a result, good
or bad, the sooner we could plan the next step. Knowing is better than not
knowing. The result wasn’t the issue, anxiety and managing stress were, so how
do you mitigate these feelings.
Understand and be prepared to ask the medical
team any questions, as you need to have confidence in them. If it is not
working or you are unhappy, change your doctor. They are there to help and will
not be offended. We were very open with everyone. This way we never had to
confront someone who didn’t know where we were at.
We set goals. At the time we owned a retail
shop. We sold the shop. My wife had always wanted to be a qualified primary
school teacher. We enrolled at university. This also gave her something to
focus on and stopped the mind wandering. Chemo is hard, but this was the drive
to get out of bed and to keep going. After three years she qualified and was
given her own class.
Well before we started losing the battle with breast cancer my wife wrote future birthday cards for her daughter till she was 21. This was hard, but so rewarding and another box ticked. I never asked how are you feeling? I saw my role was to support and create a positive environment for everyone, as this would be the best way to beat this disease.
National Volunteer Week celebrates the
collective contribution of the 1.2 million volunteers who enrich Aotearoa New
Zealand. National Volunteer Week 2019 runs from June 16-22. This year’s theme
is “Whiria te tangata – weaving the people together”.
Here at the Waikato Breast Cancer Research
Trust we are very fortunate to have several people who volunteer their time to
support us with our events and fundraising efforts. Volunteering, Mahi Aroha
and social action weave people and communities together and one volunteer in
particular is our angel and over the past two and a half years Margaret Jenkins
has been a part of our team every week for a few hours.
network of contacts has enabled her to secure incredible auction items for our
‘Best Of’ functions, spot prizes and raffles prizes for our annual Pink Walk
and Button Run, and goody bag items for our bi-annual Breast Cancer Conference.
She also connects the Trust with the media for advertising. Her wealth of
knowledge of marketing and communications has been invaluable to us, as well as
her experience of building relationships with people.
passionate about supporting the Waikato Breast Cancer Research Trust. The team
and what they do for women’s survival, and the difference they make to families
is incredible. I understand the importance of having parents in your life until
you’re an adult yourself, and clinical trials research is fighting for the very
best outcomes for women so they can be there in the future with their family.”
celebrated Marg with a morning tea this week and gifted her with flowers, a
voucher and card. Her energy, passion and commitment holds us together, quite
fitting given we believe that mothers are like buttons; holding everything
together and enables us to really make our events the ‘best of’.
active member in her community, Marg is also a Rotarian and volunteers at
Kaivolution and is part of the Native Plant Restoration Trust. There is no
doubt she is “Whiria te tangata – weaving the people together”.
Every year the Harington girls at St Paul’s
Collegiate hold a fashion show to showcase their talents. It also forms part of
their house competition. They then choose a charity that they want the proceeds
of the ticket sales to go to. This year they chose the WBCRT to receive their
funds raised, as the guest speaker for the event, Sacha Coburn, is a breast
cancer survivor. Well gone girls, $650 was raised!
Speaker Sacha Coburn talked about being a breast cancer survivor and how her partner and she became owners of Coffee Culture cafes. She spoke of life as a young couple with a baby and absolutely no money. If they had visitors, she would check the couch after they had left to see whether any coins had dropped out of their pockets. She also spoke of everyone having something they were good at and learning to recognise what that was.
A heartfelt thank you to True. for hosting a wonderful evening last night to raise funds for Waikato Breast Cancer Research Trust.
The ‘Sip & Shop’ event packed out the store and we feel very humbled by the generosity of True, their event sponsors that provided food, drink, decorations and auction items as well as all those that attended.
One of the most common reasons women give when consenting to participate in a clinical research trial of an experimental treatment, is that they want to contribute to knowledge for future generations of women diagnosed with breast cancer. With the fundraising efforts of True, they have assisted with supporting these Waikato women with helping gain knowledge and save lives for the generations to come.
A huge thank you to one of our fabulous trustees, Caro, for organising and hosting a BEST BrEakfaST yesterday and raising over $2000 for Waikato Breast Cancer Research Trust.
And she couldn’t have done it without her wonderful guests and the generosity of auction donations from Stretton Clothing, Black and White Beauty Therapy, Vayle Hammond, Christine Braun, Yvonne Scown and Karen May – thank you to everyone!