Blessed with time, wisdom and perspective: Catherine is finally ready to tell her story.
In a quaint Brisbane café, she presides over a pot of peppermint tea with a vintage, chipped English teacup that, like her, is delicate, beautiful and strong… but also showing the wears of a life well-lived.
Catherine was first diagnosed with breast cancer in 2013. Ever since, she has wrapped herself, husband Jim and 16-year-old daughter Annie in a protective blanket, controlling what she can of a very invasive illness.
But earlier this year, Catherine began to share her story within her own networks. It helped Annie become the highest individual fundraiser at the RACQ International Women’s Day Fun Run, raising $12,151 for Mater Chicks in Pink.
Now, she is ready to broaden the message to the wider community.
“It was a baring of the soul which was not easy,” Catherine says. “But it was important to do it to ensure we could make a difference.
“My breast cancer came out of left field. No one in our family had it. I found a lump, went to my GP, and he very kindly said to me ‘I don’t think it’s anything, but we better get you checked out’.
“I was so grateful to the Mater. They saw me the next day and because it (my cancer) was time sensitive, that immediate appointment made all the difference.”
Catherine was a great supporter of the towering ovarian cancer fundraising efforts of family friend, Mary Lakey, who passed away in 2013.
Her own lifelong connection to Mater has deepened – praising the innovative and collaborative approach taken by Dr Christopher Pyke and Dr Maree Colosimo and their teams.
“The kindness of (breast care nurse) Sally Graham started the lovely story of the wonderfully kind, caring, compassionate medical team who were there for me, looked after me and were prepared to answer all my questions and rethink treatments,” she says.
“I felt they truly listened to me and my concerns and were prepared to think outside the box. It was absolutely extraordinary, exceptional care.”
Protecting Annie, who will next year follow a family tradition in graduating from All Hallows’ School, has been a central thread of Catherine’s journey.
“For Annie to be part of the Fun Run, for Jim and me to stand on that bridge and see that sea of pink, I still get goose bumps thinking of it… it’s spine-tingling.”
In telling her story publicly, Catherine is taking another important, valuable step in the fight against breast cancer.