August 01, 2014 0 comments

Jacky – “The lump was cancerous, quite large and aggressive.”

Jacqueline (“Jacky”) Sharp will never forget Melbourne Cup Day 2006. That was the day she was diagnosed with breast cancer at The Queen Elizabeth Hospital’s (TQEH’s) Breast Clinic.

Ironically, at the time, her only daughter, Gemma, was in Japan working as a breast cancer researcher.

Jacky Sharp Personal Story Australian Breast cancer Research
When she was diagnosed, Jacky found comfort in daughter Gemma who was working as a breast cancer researcher.

“Earlier, our daughter had chosen a breast cancer topic for her Honours Year. In subsequent years, the subject became a part of our family life as I acted as proof reader for her research proposals and other projects,” said Jacky.

“Terms such as “mammosphere” and “estrogen receptor” became familiar to me in an academic and impersonal sense. Never, did I imagine though, that they would ever take on a real and personal relevance for me,” she said.

“Gemma was in Japan when I was diagnosed, but we did not tell her the news until she returned home a few weeks later. The irony of the situation was not lost on any of us. Our daughter, unwittingly, had been studying the very disease that her mother had now developed.”

This ‘irony’ however, became a blessing, as Jacky had her own personal source for the latest research and findings close at hand. Jacky admitted, “No matter how illogical or weird my cancer questions were, Gemma came up with answers that were reassuring and comforting.”

Jacky’s G.P. did not hesitate in referring her to TQEH’s Breast Clinic in Adelaide for very prompt attention the next day and an immediate and accurate diagnosis.

“95% of lumps found in the breast are benign, so I felt the odds were definitely in my favour,” said Jacky.

Despite this comforting thought, the attending doctor told her the lump was cancerous, quite large and aggressive in grade.

Even though the diagnosis at TQEH’s Breast Clinic was devastating, Jacky clung to the encouraging and positive comments and advice given by the clinic staff over the next few, uncertain weeks.

“When you are diagnosed, you are initiated into a well oiled system of care that takes you under its wing. TQEH’s Breast Clinic became the first link in what proved to be a long chain of treatment; surgery, then six months of chemotherapy and six weeks of radiotherapy revealed to me the resilience and unfailing good humour of fellow cancer patients, their families and the treating medical staff.”

“Staff became friends. On my birthday, while under-going a ray treatment session, the staff piped in the tune “Happy Birthday to You”. I was very touched by that gesture,” she remembered.

Eight years on from her diagnosis, Jacky describes her cancer experience in her life’s journey as merely a comma mark in a sentence, a blip.

“Sadly, for those less fortunate, with terminal/metastatic cancer, it often acts as a full stop. I was so lucky.”

“That is what I feel more than anything else the rare times I think of my brush with cancer.”

“I am an absolute advocate for breast self-examination, that how I found mine. It is dangerous to rely solely on a twice-yearly mammogram.”

Jacky is aware that the incidence of breast cancer is on the increase as life expectancy rises, among other factors.

“It’s incredibly important that medical research into breast cancer and other illnesses be well supported by as many of us as possible, for it is certain that every one of us will be touched by them in some way.”

“By donating money, no matter how small the amount, we can make a significant difference. As with me, you may end up helping yourself!”

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