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04 May 2022
By Michael Scalzo
Wimmera Cancer Centre nurse Karen Sanderson says the best thing people can do for cancer patients they love is to just ‘be there’.
Mrs Sanderson, who was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2018, would know better than most.
She is now back at work three days a week, nursing and caring for those with the disease she endured.
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Mrs Sanderson will lead a minute’s silence at Horsham’s 2022 Mother’s Day Classic walk and run on Sunday, an annual Australia-wide event raising money for National Breast Cancer Foundation and breast cancer research.
She the opportunity was an ‘honour’.
Mrs Sanderson said a breast cancer diagnosis was more accepted and understood by people today than it was before, because of increased awareness.
She said ever-further breast cancer research meant more was known about disease treatment, side-effect management and patient support.
“We know more these days about the long-term side effects once the patient has finished their treatment,” she said.
“And at the moment, I think everyone is realising supportive care remains so important. That supportive care starts from diagnosis through to recovery or until death.
“And even once people finish their treatment, you need to still keep in contact with them, see how they are going emotionally, physically and financially – because it is a financial burden on people too.”
In the 12 months following her diagnosis, Mrs Sanderson had several surgeries, chemotherapy and radiation treatment.
She is now slowly building up her shifts at work while still on necessary medication.
Mrs Sanderson said when she told her patients, ‘I know what you are going through’, she truly felt she did.
“But every cancer patient is different. Some people go through it all and don’t have any side effects and some people deal with every side effect possible,” she said.
“And then we have patients who at the completion of everything are fine, and then we have those left with permanent side effects, like myself.
“But when they say they feel crappy, I know how they feel.”
Mrs Sanderson’s advice for people supporting friends and loved ones with breast or any other type of cancer is to just be there for them.
“You don’t have to do anything else, just be there,” she said.
“Don’t try and solve the problem. Don’t say I know what you are going through when you might not. Just be normal.
“They are no different to who they were before the diagnosis. Just keep living your life, keep treating them the same as you did before. But yes, they might need a little bit more help emotionally. They might need some meals made occasionally, that’s fine – but don’t stop talking to them.”
For her own breast cancer recovery, Mrs Sanderson said she was getting back to work and going about being herself.
“I am just living a normal life and that is what I plan to do,” she said.
RELATED: Mother’s Day events return
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