Despite suffering from breast cancer, followed by lymphoedema, 83-year-old Beryl Hayes feels lucky and calls herself a cancer survivor.
“Everyone’s cancer story is unique, and I know that there are still far too many people who are not so lucky,” says Beryl.
With strength and soul, Beryl is now putting her efforts and two major donations into supporting cancer-related research at Flinders University so that others who are on the “medical conveyor belt” as she calls it, can also come out the other side feeling ‘lucky’.
Based on her own experience and unanswered questions, Beryl donated an initial $20,000 to establish a research study exploring the impact of stress on cancer. The collaboration between Flinders University and researchers in Germany will measure the stress hormone cortisol in hair samples of cancer patients.
Beryl has now donated another $20,000 for a research study at the University that will enable the early screening of lymphoedema in women who have surgery for breast cancer.
Just three months after receiving radiotherapy, following the removal of a cyst and sentinel node, Beryl developed lymphoedema under her armpit and down to her waist.
In South Australia, approximately 1 in 5 breast cancer patients who have axillary lymph node dissection and 5% of breast cancer patients who have sentinel node biopsy, will develop lymphoedema. The chronic, long-term condition causes swelling in the body due to the lymphatic system not working correctly.
“I soon realised that lymphoedema is one of those diseases that you must learn to live with. So I always wear a tight sports top, which serves for compression,” says Beryl. “I’ve been remembering to massage every day and trying to keep active.”
While screening tests are currently carried out on women with a high-risk of developing post-operative lymphoedema, the new study funded by Beryl will expand the screening to all women prior to breast cancer surgery, and across the following five years.
Thanks to Beryl’s donation, each week, around five breast cancer patients requiring surgery will increase their understanding of lymphoedema and the risks associated with breast cancer treatment. And importantly, the early screening has the potential to reverse the difficult condition when it is detected.
“Early detection in conjunction with immediate interventions, such as compression and exercises, can reduce the long term physical and functional impact that occurs with the development and progression of lymphoedema,” says Professor Neil Piller, Director of the Lymphoedema Clinic Research Unit, Flinders Centre for Innovation in Cancer.
Director of Flinders University’s Caring Futures Institute, Professor Raymond Chan is leading the new research study and has formed a multi-disciplinary team that includes, Professor Neil Piller; Amanda Jones, Advanced Practice Nurse Consultant Breast/Endocrine at Flinders Medical Centre; Brian Simpson, Manager of the Physiotherapy Department at Flinders Medical Centre; and Marielle Esplin, Research Officer of the Lymphoedema Clinical Research Unit at Flinders University.
“Through this new study, the opportunity for increasing patient awareness, along with effective and timely supports, plus reducing the costs to the health system are enormous,” says Professor Piller.
If you would like to support medical research at Flinders University please contact Bonnie Allmond +61 8 7421 9995 or firstname.lastname@example.org. All donations $2 and above are tax deductible.
100% of your donation will support the research you specify.
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