Kathleen's Story

Since watching her sister go through breast cancer eight years ago, Kathleen has been scrupulous about her regular breast checks, never missing a mammogram or ultrasound.

However, two years ago her right breast blew up in size and Kathleen went straight back to her GP, having had her mammogram only a few months before, where nothing had been detected. Sadly, upon that next visit, triple negative breast cancer in her right breast was diagnosed.

Unfortunately for Kathleen, cancer is a common thread in her family, with her sister, cousins and aunt all being diagnosed with breast cancer before her. At the time, they all tested negative during genetic testing, which left the family baffled. However, new testing has revealed that Kathleen has the PAL-B2, or BRCA-3 gene, and it is highly likely that it runs in her family. This means there is a 30% chance Kathleen could develop ovarian cancer and is planning to have her ovaries removed once her active breast cancer treatment concludes.

Despite all of this, Kathleen has remained extremely positive about her experience. She is now back at work, where she helps manage an aged care facility and is looking to reinvigorate her active and healthy lifestyle. Since undergoing her treatment, Kathleen has completely given up alcohol. Having never been a big drinker, breast cancer was the final push for Kathleen to cut out alcohol from her life - though she may have a glass of wine to celebrate her 50th birthday this year!

Kathleen has been supported throughout her experience by McGrath Breast Care Nurse Deirdre Duyvestyn, who she first met at a specialist appointment early in her treatment. Deirdre was always there to guide Kathleen through her breast cancer experience whenever she was needed, from accompanying Kathleen to medical appointments to decoding complex terminology and providing emotional support.

McGrath Breast Care Nurse Deirdre Duyvestyn on Kathleen

Based in Cairns, Deirdre has been a McGrath Breast Care Nurse since 2018, operating out of BreastScreen Queensland. She met Kathleen at her first appointment with the surgeon and knew about the immense history of cancer in Kathleen’s family.

While it was a terrifying experience for Kathleen being the next member of her family diagnosed with breast cancer, Deirdre has been impressed by her outlook and pragmatic approach.

“Coming from a background with that huge history of cancer in the family, you could see that it was incredibly frightening for Kathleen and her husband. However, she was just lovely throughout the whole process, easy to talk to and open to receiving support."

“When she finally got that PAL-B2 result back, indicating a genetic predisposition towards cancer, you could see that it answered a lot of questions, but also opened up a whole new world of concerns. Nonetheless they have always been pragmatic about everything, asking what the next step was and how best to move forward. She has been brilliant."

Help provide the support of a McGrath Breast Care Nurse like Deirdre to families experiencing breast cancer when you go Dry for the McGrath Foundation this July. Sign up to support the McGrath Foundation.