Chris Rivett is one of Cancer Council SA’s 13 11 20 Cancer Nurses who supports more than 5,000 South Australian callers every year—including those impacted by breast cancer. Last year alone, Cancer Council 13 11 20 had over 1,300 calls from South Australians living with breast cancer, their family and friends.
I’ve been a Cancer Council 13 11 20 Nurse for the past 13 years, as well as working at a hospital as a clinical oncology nurse working in the day chemotherapy unit. In that time, I’ve seen the many ways in which a breast cancer diagnosis can impact families.
Our job as Cancer Council 13 11 20 Nurses is to help guide people through this challenging time at any stage of a cancer experience—we are here to provide a listening ear, answer your questions, provide emotional support and help you make sense of everything that’s going on.
A person impacted by breast cancer may call Cancer Council 13 11 20 for any number of reasons.
Some people have questions about their breast cancer treatment plan or upcoming surgery, and I can help to explain the rationale behind the plan and help them come up with some questions to ask their doctor. They may also want to talk about the side effects from treatment, or how they can get a breast prosthesis or wig.
Sometimes when treatments have finished, survivors can find it difficult to move forward. I can acknowledge these feelings and direct them to supports that may help like counselling, resources and healthy living after cancer programs.
Caring for someone with cancer can also be very challenging, so as a 13 11 20 Nurse, I can help the carer make sense of their feelings and help them support their loved one while also looking after themselves.
Women also call concerned about a breast change or lump, or when they have a family history of breast cancer and want to know how they can reduce their risk of breast cancer in the future.
The Cancer Council 13 11 20 service is here so that no one has to feel alone.
I love connecting with the caller, listening to their story, imparting knowledge, providing support and offering referrals that may help them feel more empowered to cope.
I’d love to share a recent call I had with a woman named Jessie*.
Jessie had ordered a breast prosthesis from Cancer Council SA, following a mastectomy. I was doing a routine follow-up call to check that she had received her breast prosthesis, and while talking to her, she shared some concerns she was having about further treatment.
I was able to help her understand her recent pathology results and help her understand why her surgeon had recommended additional treatments.
She said she was frightened of having chemo and wasn’t going to see the oncologist. I acknowledged her fears and explained the benefits of additional treatments and how the side effects of chemotherapy can be managed.
In the end, I had eased some of her worries and she decided to see the oncologist to talk about further treatment.
Cancer treatment can be physically and emotionally difficult to go through, so it can really help to talk to someone about your concerns and worries.
As you can see through Jessie’s experience, when cancer impacts your life, simply talking to someone about it can make a world of difference. Her story shows the benefits of picking up the phone in your time of need and reaching out to an experienced Cancer Nurse.
If you or someone you know has been impacted by breast cancer, we are here for you.
Cancer Council 13 11 20 is open Monday to Friday, 9.00 am to 5.00 pm. You can contact Cancer Council 13 11 20 or visit our website here.
*Name has been changed to protect privacy and confidentiality.