The five words that no one ever expects to hear, and that will change your life forever.
Cherie is a happy, vibrant, mother of three living in Sydney. In October 2018 at just 50 years old, with her father and sister by her side, she heard those words spoken to her from the end of her hospital bed.
After her shock breast cancer diagnosis Cherie chose to have a double mastectomy and reconstruction, and expected to feel relief. But as soon as she woke from the surgery she felt that something was wrong.
Days after her surgery, Cherie’s doctor stood at the end of her bed.
“Unfortunately the cancer was much larger than we had anticipated. We have to get you back into surgery. You’re going to need chemo and you’re going to need radiation. It’s now about your life.”
That marked the start of Cherie’s treatment journey. More surgery, followed by six months of chemotherapy, and then radiation, plus the long list of side effects that came with it including lymphedema (swelling in the arms or legs).
But once the hospital treatments were finally over, Cherie still struggled with the emotional effects of cancer and felt alone with no one to turn to.
Currently, many cancer survivors feel that once their treatments are finished they’re left with no support. You have the ability to support medical research that can change the lives of cancer survivors like Cherie.
Most cancer survivors feel fear of cancer recurrence – the fear that their cancer will come back or get worse. It’s normal to feel this, but for 1 in 2 cancer survivors this fear can be debilitating and can change the way they live the rest of their lives.
Cherie felt this fear too.
“What happens is you have surgery, chemo, radiation, then your hair grows back, and people then expect that you’re just going to go back to work, get on with life, be able to do everything that you could do before. They don’t know about the side effects, it’s really just the beginning. And that’s just where this big gap is.”
Recognising this gap, Dr Ben Smith and his team at the Ingham Institute created a program to give cancer survivors the support that they need. iConquerFear is a free online treatment program made to help cancer survivors manage their fears about cancer coming back and enable them to live the rest of their lives with confidence.
One in every two Australians will be diagnosed with cancer by the age of 85. That means someone in your family will need this program. Help us reach them.
One morning, Cherie opened an email looking for cancer survivors to try a new program. That program was iConquerFear.
Trying iConquerFear was life-changing for Cherie. It gave her the opportunity to recognise the most important values in her life and helped her to start to work through her emotions and fears. The feeling of being alone became smaller.
“No one else can really understand what’s going on in your head and your heart after having cancer. There are down days, and that’s when all those thoughts and feelings start to come back. iConquerFear really keys into that.”
iConquerFear gives cancer survivors strategies to help them manage their worries about cancer recurrence and focus more of their time and energy on the things they value in life, while also helping them to change their behaviours to minimise the risk of their cancer coming back.
Doing this gave Cherie the tools and support she needed to succeed. Tools that can be used again and again to build her back up after every bad day and every setback.
“You only have to get one helpful tool out of everything you do, and from iConquerFear I certainly got more than one.”
The iConquerFear values exercise helped Cherie to recognise the most important parts of her life and inspired her to take a much-needed road trip with her mother (who is also a cancer survivor) and daughter to visit their home town. This experience gave their family the opportunity to have fun, relax and bond together after going through such a difficult time.
“In order for me to live my best life for a long, long, time I need this iConquerFear material. Constantly. To remind myself about moving forward and being able to make life plans. Where I’m at now is very different to where I was when I was first diagnosed.”