“There are many silver linings, actually.”
Meet Katie Smith, 40, medical scientist, wife, mum, breast cancer patient and ray of sunshine.
Katie and her young family uprooted from Darwin last November after she discovered a small lump in her breast following a post-COVID fitness kick.
Katie entrusted her care to Mater and found a sure path forward through a difficult storm.
She has since undergone wide margin dissection surgery, completed 15 rounds of radiation and will continue immunotherapy until the end of October.
After 14 years in Darwin and Katherine—Katie’s family have settled into their new life in Brisbane—and she is full of praise for the care she has received at Mater.
“It's nice to know I'll be finished treatment soon and I have a new sense of gratitude and appreciation for the delights I find in each day,” Katie said.
“We can't fault Mater because it's just been perfect. It's been fast. It's been precise. Communication's great. The cancer care center's been great. There's nothing, really, we could say that's negative.
“We were most impressed with the Mater doctors’ consultation process. My case and results were presented to a peer professional group to ensure nothing was missed.
“This reassured us that we had made the right decision to relocate for treatment at the Mater and gave me confidence in the medical team and the treatment that was chosen for me.
“Ash’s (specialist breast care nurse, Ash Mondolo) just amazing, she'll do anything for you. She's got kids too. She gets it. She understands.”
Given her experience, Katie remains a keen advocate for breast cancer research.
For International Women’s Day Fun Run earlier this year—her young family mapped out a 5km route and raised $2,300 in their ‘Four a Breast’ venture.
“I think anyone that participates (fundraising) feels a sense of achievement and purpose, especially if they know someone that's been through it,” Katie said.
“I actually was not someone that checked my breasts monthly or even knew when the best time to check was. I didn’t think it was cancer, definitely not.
“And being under the age of the typical breast check… in your 20s you're so invincible and you think, it’s never going to be me.
“Then you’re in your 30s having kids and then that just takes over. Being a working mum... there's no time for you to be sick or actually check anything, check in with yourself.
“And also, I guess there's a bit of fear around if I go and check and that happens, there might be something.”
Katie’s perspective has shifted.
“The PET scan was the most terrifying day of my life… it was like “oh my God” because if you've watched too many ‘Grey's Anatomy’ episodes, the PET scan is always the one where they tell you you're dying.
“Ash said ‘I see 500 a year and this is treatable’ so I got that reassurance from her, but obviously I wasn’t going to believe it until I'd seen the results.
“That anxiety and stress really melted away as soon as we knew exactly what the diagnosis was and exactly what the treatment was and that it was treatable.”
Throughout her breast cancer journey, Katie has been able to maintain a healthy lifestyle of active physio, running, yoga and stick to her goal to make her kids’ lunch and read them stories at nighttime.
It’s been a long and life-changing journey. With many silver linings.