Edna – “I wasn’t going home until he took the whole thing.”
Bravely leaving their families behind, Edna and her husband began a life in Australia with their two daughters, Jennifer and Pauline, moving from the North East Coast of England in 1960.
Edna says her husband, Irvine, convinced her to move to Australia with a promise that she would “never be cold again.”
“I was always complaining about the cold in England!,” says Edna.
Edna worked as a seamstress at David Jones for 28 years and during this time, as a hobby for charity, she sewed hundred of pockets for breast prosthesis’, never once thinking she may one day need one of her own.
At the age of 82 and with no family history of the disease Edna was diagnosed with breast cancer after detection through routine mammogram screening. She was advised to undertake alternative treatment to Chemotherapy due to her age and the emotional pressure she was under at the time.
“My husband was suffering from Alzheimer’s when I was diagnosed and as it progressively got worse he had to be hospitalised,” she said.
“It was heartbreaking for me to see him like that and with my diagnosis, it seemed like everything was happening all at once.”
“It’s been 6 years since he passed away now. He was 89 when he died so he had a good life. He had done everything, been everywhere,” Edna said thoughtfully.
Edna had numerous operations in addition to her treatment for breast cancer. She made the difficult decision to have a complete mastectomy, even after her doctor said it was safe to just remove the cancerous lump.
“I told my doctor that I wasn’t going home until he took the whole thing. I said I would have only worried that he didn’t get it all,” she said.
Thankfully after 6 years of treatment, Edna was declared in remission. But unfortunately it wouldn’t be the last time breast cancer would burden her family.
In 2010 her daughter was diagnosed with breast cancer and referred to the same doctor as Edna for treatment.
“The doctor said to Pauline ‘look at your mother- she got over it, so there is no reason why you can’t!’,” said Edna.
Seeing the toll that chemotherapy took on Pauline’s body, Edna now understands why she personally was advised against it as her treatment. “My daughter is strong though, she responded well.”
“Life is very strange,” Edna says thoughtfully. “The irony of me sewing prostheses for so many years prior to my own diagnosis with breast cancer is not lost on me. It just goes to show that an intention of helping other people who are unfortunate enough to be suffering, may one day actually end up benefiting yourself.”
Edna recognises the importance of medical research and says, “I just want the researchers to carry on with trying to find effective treatments and cures, because I feel especially sorry for young people that get breast cancer.”
“When I was diagnosed I felt like I was lucky for it to happen to me when I was older- I’ve had a good life and have done everything I wanted to. But for young people it’s so different.”
Edna hopes that by being a Life Guardian and through sharing her story she can help raise awareness of breast cancer in Australia as well as support the work of Australian Breast Cancer Research and collaborating partner The Hospital Research Foundation.
“I think the researchers are absolutely wonderful. I really do. There’s not much I can do now which is why I’m leaving lasting support for breast cancer research.”