McGrath Breast Cancer nurse Helen Moore shared her insight into the vital medical and emotional support she provides for patients. She also provides helpful information and resources for breast cancer checks and care.
Tell us about your role as a McGrath Breast Care nurse in the Newcastle area
I help people diagnosed with breast cancer with a diverse range of physical, emotional and psychological needs by offering care and support from diagnosis and right throughout treatment.
As a McGrath Breast Care Nurse, I help support people with breast cancer and their families who are affected by the disease. From helping them understand their diagnosis and treatment pathways to emotionally supporting them throughout, I am there each step of the way. I take pride in knowing I am that central point of contact for them, ensuring they feel well informed, reassured and supported.
What does it involve on a daily basis?
We have a large number of patients in the Hunter and Newcastle areas so we are fortunate to have three McGrath Breast Care Nurses at the Calvary Mater and more in surrounding areas.
There’s myself and Rebecca Chenery; we help people who have been diagnosed with early stage breast cancer and are having treatment to potentially cure. We also have Samantha Oliver who is the Metastatic McGrath Breast Care Nurse, who provides support to patients whose breast cancer has spread beyond the breast and is incurable. In those cases, treatment aims to control the disease for as long as possible. People can live well for many years with this diagnosis, but their ongoing needs can be complex so her role is vital.
Rebecca and I work with the surgeons so we are there at the time of diagnosis, providing education, support and psychological assistance for patients and families. Most of what we do is done in surgical settings, in both the private and public systems.
It’s an incredibly rewarding role. To be ‘let in’ at such a difficult time when people are so vulnerable, I feel very privileged to be able to help them and point them in the right direction and explain things.
What feedback do you receive from your role?
The treatment pathway is often difficult to understand and some things just don’t make sense. So, it’s really nice when you explain the pathway to patients in everyday language that they can understand and you can see the light bulb go on. Helping them from confusion to understanding and then feeling more aware and in control is just one really valuable difference that we make. Once you understand something better and you know the steps, it doesn’t feel quite as daunting, especially when you have an expert by your side along the way.
It’s a privilege to be a trusted, consistent advocate for those with breast cancer and their families.
What is the atmosphere like at the NRMA Insurance Pink Test?
It was beyond words, really. It was quite magical, we all really united in pink. From your fun cricket fans dressing in pink to families attending who were affected by cancer and Glenn McGrath himself, who co-founded the McGrath Foundation with his first wife Jane after her breast cancer diagnosis.
I got to carry out the Jane McGrath banner that went out on the field and that was a really moving, emotional time but also incredibly uplifting. I felt so proud to be a McGrath Breast Care Nurse.
What advice would you give to people who want to get checked for breast cancer?
I encourage men and women to check their own breasts at home monthly so that they can notice any changes that might raise an alarm. A change isn’t always a lump or lumpiness, it can also show as redness, soreness or discharge, so it is best to check what is normal for you so you notice any differences.
Breast cancer is not as common in men, but it does exist, so it’s important that people are aware of that. Also, it can affect people of varying ages so if you have any changes in your breast tissue, visit your GP. There is a wealth of information online about checking your breasts, particularly on the McGrath Foundation website here.
Most importantly, if you notice something, don’t be afraid to ask for help and know that there is a lot of support and treatment available for you.
Are there any resources you’d recommend to families who are affected by breast cancer?
I’m really thankful to NRMA Insurance for funding my role for the next three years. It doesn’t just offer that sense of security for me personally, but more importantly for the patients we see in the Hunter New England Local Health District (HNELHD).
There are a lot of resources and help available to families affected by breast cancer. If you don’t already have one, look up your nearest breast care nurse here, they are available for free and without referral.