Survivors giving each other a lift

Cancer survivors unite for Purple Bra Day. Picture by Jon Hewson.
Cancer survivors unite for Purple Bra Day. Picture by Jon Hewson.

The Mandurah Breast Cancer Support Group was set up in 2011 and is the largest support group of its kind in Australia.

It was founded by Jane Nikora and Heidi McLeod after they were diagnosed with breast cancer.

‘We started the group because there was nothing here,’ Jane said.

‘The group is unique and deals with both primary and secondary breast cancer.

‘Everything is in Perth, so we needed to stand up and set up something down here.’

The group had grown to 53 members but four have since passed away ” Ms McLeod, Lovey Grace, Denise Giuffre and Debbie Marshall.

Jane, joined by members Sorja Reese and Jenny Willis, shared part of the journeys that led them to the Mandurah Breast Cancer Support Group.

‘Once you start losing your hair it becomes public and that is hard for a lot of people,’ Jane said.

Sorja said the group showed people they were not alone on their journey.

‘We share resources with each other. It’s good to know when you tell your side there’s someone with an answer; someone else has had that happen to them,’ Sorja said.

Jenny said it was hard being diagnosed as her family are overseas.

‘It was just myself and my two daughters, who were 19 and 21 at the time and going through uni so they had their own issues, but having them there really helped,’ she said.

‘It wasn’t until my oldest daughter Tracie had her daughter Lyla that I was given something to live for, something to keep going.

‘I probably would have just stayed in bed and vegetated otherwise.’

Sorja said having a new home built gave her purpose after her diagnosis.

‘My husband kept taking me out to the house every time something new was done,’ she said.

‘Look, they have laid the pad, look, they have started the walls; it kept me focusing on the future.’

Both Jenny and Sorja are forever grateful to Medicare for paying for treatments worth more than $60,000 a year.

‘It is simple: we would not be alive today if not for Medicare,’ they said.

‘We are so lucky in Australia.’

Jane said the group started under the umbrella of Breast Cancer Care WA and is grateful to support services co-ordinator/ counsellor Cathie Smith for the help she has given the group.

Jane said Cathie had been instrumental with financial and emotional support that gave a foundation to her group in Mandurah.