Vigilance saves life

Gladsone's Michelle Peters appreciates the support of her McGrath Breast Care Nurse Sally Haley.

Michelle Peters has performed breast self-checks religiously every month since 2009 and credits this vigilance with saving her life.

It it was during one of these self-checks that she noticed an abnormal lump in her breast that turned out to be breast cancer.

Michelle, 42, has lived in Gladstone for more than 20 years, enjoying the laidback lifestyle and spending time with her beautiful family.

During Breast Cancer Awareness Month in 2020, Michelle noticed a lump in her left breast that seemed to be growing in size, as she kept an eye on it for a few days. After visiting her GP, Michelle was immediately sent for an ultrasound and biopsy.

Despite Michelle acting quickly as soon as she felt the lump, it took nearly four months for her to receive the official diagnosis of breast cancer. Michelle advocated for herself during this period, reflecting on just how important it is to perform regular self-breast checks and stay on top of your breast health. While the wait for her diagnosis was agonising, Michelle says she knew in her heart what the result was going to be, and it gave her time to prepare herself for the news.

From diagnosis, Michelle immediately started neoadjuvant chemotherapy then underwent a double mastectomy in November last year. She has recently finished radiation and, despite the struggles that come with breast cancer, is feeling good about the experience.

Michelle credits her positive outlook in large part to her McGrath Breast Care Nurse Sally Haley.

“I just couldn’t have done it without her,” she said.

“On our very first meeting, I walked into her office in tears and walked out smiling. The way she changed my thought process that hour and a half session is something I’ll never forget and is what got me through it. I have her contact as ‘Sally Sanity Saver’ in my phone.”

Michelle met Sally the day after her diagnosis, when the news she had been preparing for sadly became the reality. While she had been expecting it, it was nonetheless a shock to hear herself officially diagnosed with breast cancer.

Michelle said she was incredibly grateful for the support she had had throughout the experience, with her husband giving her the strength and determination to get through her treatment. Sally was also instrumental in supporting Michelle through the process, removing the medical jargon and helping to find the best treatment path.

“I can’t fault the support I’ve had; I have never felt alone.”

Sally has been a McGrath Breast Care Nurse since 2017, supporting families experiencing breast cancer in Gladstone and surrounding areas. Since working with Michelle through her breast cancer diagnosis and treatment, the two have formed a close relationship and still catch up regularly today.

“I’m extremely grateful to have been able to support Michelle. Michelle has a great sense of humour and ability to find the bright side in her situation,” she said.

“She has been supported every step of the way by her beautiful family and I feel lucky to have met her. No experience with breast cancer is easy and I’m proud to help in any way I can.”

The McGrath Foundation has committed to fund 250 Breast Care Nurses by 2025.