When I was diagnosed with breast cancer aged 33, I was living on a farm in a small rural community about two hours from Perth. I loved living on the farm – the peace and tranquillity, and feeling part of a caring community. Soon after my diagnosis, my relationship fell apart. I was facing this part of my life as a single mother to my two boys, aged six and 10. In the initial phase after my diagnosis, I tried to remain living at the farm and travelled to Perth for appointments. However, the separation from my children was too much to bear.
After a double mastectomy and emergency surgery soon after, coupled with my ex-partner working in another country, I felt there was no other decision but to move to Perth and live with my parents. I was fortunate to have a place to stay – unable to work, there was absolutely no way I could afford a rental, nor care for myself and my family without help. Being young, I needed to be around people of similar age and experience for support. The young women’s support group I joined was essential to my wellbeing.
It was invaluable to walk into a room and feel understood. Services such as the wig library, Solaris Centre, Look Good Feel Better program, and specialised psychology programs were fantastic. In the year after my diagnosis, I moved out of my parent's house and into a rental in the same street. I felt it was impossible to move back to the country – I suffered extreme anxiety and unpredictable panic attacks and needed to be reassured that health services were nearby. Small communities are incredibly resilient and cohesive, and are well placed to assist in the healing of their people, provided they are given guidance and opportunity. Targeted support for young, rural women experiencing breast cancer could help alleviate some of the feelings of hopelessness and disconnect. A person’s prognosis should not be influenced by their postcode.