UNDERSTANDABLY, nurse Jo Lovelock was “shocked, distressed and overwhelmed” by her breast cancer diagnosis in 2003. But she was certainly not defeated.
The Mt Martha resident battled through with the help of family and friends who “ran around after the children, fed us through my chemotherapy, assisted us with driving to and from chemotherapy and radiotherapy – and even cleaned my house”.
During the early days, Ms Lovelock said she received excellent medical treatment but found that there was no psycho-social support on the Mornington Peninsula. “Our surgeon got a small group of us under-45s together and we met in each other’s homes to compare notes,” she said.
“We sat around sharing stories and love with each other and, although it was beneficial, that was it.”
This led her to approach The Bays Hospital which offered space for a support group affiliated with the Cancer Council and Breast Cancer Network Australia.
The volunteers received training and by 2014, the afternoon group had 12-25 members and the evening group from four to 10.
“Breast cancer has changed my life and my career path as I now work as a breast care nurse,” she said.
“It has given me the opportunity to meet some amazing people; to be supported and support others, including volunteering opportunities locally, nationally and overseas.”
With another breast care nurse, Sue Fletcher, she formed Breast Intentions at the Bays Hospital where they had worked together as midwives.
“I’m still co-facilitating support groups with Sue and Felicity Carson, another Breast Cancer Network Australia nurse. BCNA was also in its early days then – and remember there was no online support.”
Ms Lovelock was speaking in the lead up to BCNA’s fifth Field of Women event at the MCG on Sunday 12 August.
The “empowering” event aims to unite thousands as they stand on the hallowed turf in the shape of a pink lady representing the 18,235 people who have been, or will be, diagnosed with breast cancer this year. Their support will show those who are going through a diagnosis “that they are not alone”.
“I would like the women coming after me to have a better experience than I did,” Ms Lovelock said, advising them to connect, talk, network face-to-face or online. “Enjoy the good and the bad of your breast cancer experience.
“Put your hand up for help as most people want to assist but do not know how.
“Don’t feel you have to support others; do some self-care. Remember you are a woman with a breast cancer diagnosis – it is only part of your life – although a rather large part.
“Remember to stop and breathe, take time out to enjoy simple pleasures.”
Ms Lovelock said the Field of Women event gave those attending the opportunity to “regroup, celebrate and commemorate those women and men who are living with and have died from breast cancer”.
“We will have 47 angels being remembered on 12 August at the MCG,” she said.
“We will stand with thousands of amazing men, women and children to celebrate life.”
Field of Women starts at 11am before the Melbourne vs Sydney Swans AFL match. The cost is $59 for adults with children 15 years and under free.
The ticket includes the event, the match, commemorative backpack, including a pink poncho and keyring, and certificate of participation.