Free service is invaluable

Care: McGrath Breast Care Nurse Tamara Fernandez provides Janelle Hodges and her family with knowledge and support throughout the whole breast cancer experience. Photo: Victoria Essence Photography
Care: McGrath Breast Care Nurse Tamara Fernandez provides Janelle Hodges and her family with knowledge and support throughout the whole breast cancer experience. Photo: Victoria Essence Photography

Janelle Hodges used to worry about going to appointments by herself following her surgery for breast cancer, but the support of McGrath Breast Care Nurse Tamara Fernandez has made a huge difference to her and her family.

In fact the 120 McGrath Breast Care Nurses across Australia have made a big difference to more than 64,000 families over the past decade.

Pink Up Your Town this October is an opportunity to raise funds for more nurses like Tamara during Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

The McGrath Foundation provides nurses for free to act as a patient advocate for individuals and their families experiencing breast cancer.

Tamara was working as a specialist oncology nurse when the opportunity to join the McGrath Foundation arose.

“I liked the idea of working with women with cancer, and I snapped up this role seven months ago because I am passionate about providing the care these women need.

“I’m reminded of why I do this every time I meet a woman face-to-face after surgery. They are so happy to see us – it feels like you’re a movie star,” she said.

The McGrath Breast Care Nurses provide physical, psychological and emotional support, from time of diagnosis throughout treatment. They are referred through surgeons or there is online self-referral.

Janelle said she first met Tamara a few hours after her first operation, just before Christmas last year. 

“At the time I didn’t realise the extent of the support she would offer – even helping me get the right bra – and the help is not just for me. She gave me information so I could let my sons know what was happening as well.”

In mid January Janelle needed a second surgery and she said seeing Tamara afterwards was a relief, just like having a family member there.

“It also means my husband doesn’t have to take time off work, which helps us financially, and also relieves the pressure on my family,” she said.

The pressure is there for the nurses though. Tamara and another nurse share the job over a nine-day fortnight and receive 10 new referrals a week, over a large geographic area.

She said getting around to everyone and giving them all the time they need is challenging.

Despite these constraints, evidence still shows that access to a McGrath Breast Care Nurse results in an improved experience for both the patients and clinicians.

“They have always been there for me and are absolutely wonderful,” Janelle said.

There is demand for another 80 nurses throughout Australia. Visit www.pinkupyourtown.com.au.