Clarkson barbecue fundraiser offers hope for breast cancer survivors


Front: Emma Pickerill, Allan and Jean McKay and Breast Cancer Research Centre WA CEO Carmelo Arto with (back) Jon Edwards and Kirilee Green.        |Picture: Bruce Hunt        www.communitypix.com.au d461392
Front: Emma Pickerill, Allan and Jean McKay and Breast Cancer Research Centre WA CEO Carmelo Arto with (back) Jon Edwards and Kirilee Green.        |Picture: Bruce Hunt        www.communitypix.com.au d461392

A KINROSS man whose wife has survived two cancer battles hopes to raise funds for breast cancer research at a barbecue in Clarkson this Saturday.

Allan McKay aims to raise money for Breast Cancer Research Centre – WA (BCRC WA), a self-funded organisation that holds trials of drugs and treatments.

Mr McKay said one of the centre’s founding members, Professor Arlene Chan, had been his wife Jean’s oncologist since she was first diagnosed with breast cancer in 2008.

“She has helped us a lot – I just wanted to try give something back,” he said.

“All of these trials go towards improving lives and potentially saving lives.”

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Mr McKay said their son Adrian (now 9) was only nine months old when his wife received her diagnosis and she then underwent a mastectomy and chemotherapy.

Mrs McKay’s regular test results were clear for more than five years before the cancer returned.

“In 2013 she went for a scan because she was getting back pains,” the Kinross resident said.

“It turned out she had a tumour in her spine.

“It was exactly the same cancer that had been in her breast and had metastasized to her spine. It hadn’t mutated in any way – it would have been worse if it had mutated or been a different kind of cancer.”

Mr McKay said during an eight-hour operation, surgeons removed his wife’s T7 vertebra and replaced it with a section of her rib and milled bone from a donor, placed in a cage structure to allow the bone to regrow.

Her spine is stabilised by titanium rods with 12 screws inserted above and below the cage site.

While she is better now, Mrs McKay still suffers chronic, debilitating back pain and is limited in what she can do physically.

She has to have regular scans, is on medication daily and has treatment every three weeks to receive a drug called Herceptin, which she will have to do for life.

BCRC WA chief executive Carmelo Arto said the centre was the largest and busiest breast cancer clinical trials unit in Australia with 14 research staff.

Mr Arto said it had recruited more than 1000 patients to more than 76 ethics-approved clinical trials over the past 15 years.

“We continue to conduct global drug trials to offer women and men with breast cancer the best treatment options available,” he said.

“There are many areas of need that breast cancer patient experiences and thus Prof Chan designs and conduct trials which may address some of these aspects which are not readily undertaken by pharmaceutical or collaborative groups.”

Mr McKay, who is a salesman at Reece Plumbing in Clarkson, asked his employers to use the company’s November 12 barbecue, a promotional drive for ‘The Happiness Project’, to raise money for the research centre.