The diagnosis of cancer was shocking and emotional to mother Fiona O’Rourke, but the care and compassion of her Epworth medical team stood out.
“The diagnosis came out of the blue, I have no family history of breast cancer,” said Fiona.
“In April last year I thought I’d better have a lump checked out just to rule out any worries. I already had a few cysts. “
After a mammogram, ultrasound, and biopsy, Fiona knew something was wrong.
“That was pretty traumatic. I still get emotional when I think about it, ”she recalls.
Fiona is grateful that she was referred to the specialist breast surgeon Su-Wen Loh.
“He was lovely, so compassionate and empathetic. I was so happy to have someone like him looking after me, ”said Fiona.
“He said repeat these words, ‘I’ll be fine’. Throughout my appointment, he reiterated that I would be fine. That was crucial for me on my journey, and I still say this mantra today. “
To Fiona’s need came the handling of restrictions during the pandemic lockdown.
“Back then, children weren’t allowed to go to the hospital or doctor’s office, so my husband Shane stayed in the car with our son Conor. Su-Wen went out with me after this first appointment, stood 1.5 meters away from my husband and told him that everything would be fine. He went far beyond that. “
After an MRI and CT scan, a plan was drawn up that took Fiona’s medical needs into account, as well as her emotional and family needs.
“The lump was quite large and normally that would mean a mastectomy and days of hospitalization with no visitors due to COVID-19,” explained Fiona.
“Su-Wen thought it wasn’t mentally good for me or my family. I was never away from my son.
“So they removed a quarter of my breast instead, and if the margins were good I could then switch to chemotherapy and radiotherapy. If the margins weren’t good, I would have a mastectomy after the lockdown.
“It turned out that this was the only surgery I needed – the margins were good and I went to chemotherapy.
“I cannot thank Su-Wen enough for his compassion; he is such a beautiful man. “
For the next six months, Fiona had her chemotherapy in Epworth Richmond, a difficult time with her whole family in Ireland, in-laws in Albury who faced borderline problems and felt very sick and isolated. She enjoyed Christmas after quitting radiation therapy at Epworth Freemasons and enrolling in Enhance, our oncology rehabilitation program at Epworth Hawthorn.
“I thought I would recover faster than I did. The rehab program was exactly what I needed.
“Cancer has taken my confidence. But my physiotherapist has encouraged me and you surprise yourself. I set small milestones and return to where I was. “
Fiona returned to teaching this semester and appreciates many positive things.
“Getting cancer was a terrible thing, but I have many blessings.
“The women I met in the Enhance rehab group will be in my life forever; They are inspiring women.
“I am so much more grateful. I pause now and think how wonderful this moment is and to be alive. I only value happiness all the more. “
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