Cathy, Australia

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I was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2012. By that point, I had worked at Bupa for five years.

I was at work when I felt the lump in my breast. I called the GP straight away and that afternoon I was in with the surgeon. After that, it all happened really fast. I had a lumpectomy two weeks later, and I began chemo six weeks after that, and then two chemo sessions a month for three months. After that I had radiation 5 mornings per week for six weeks.

I felt very negative when I first had the diagnosis – it’s hard not to when you hear the ‘c’ word. But from the point of diagnosis I decided to be positive.

I still felt incredibly tired though. Some days I didn’t want to get out of bed.

But my manager was brilliant. There was a kind of silent agreement that I wouldn’t take too much on and he was completely committed to me getting better.

Most of my colleagues were really supportive, interested and asked me questions about the treatment.

However, one or two people uncomfortable with it. That’s what makes it hard for someone going through breast cancer – it makes it scary. Whereas the people I could have a laugh and a joke with made me almost forget about it.

I suffered a bit from ‘chemo brain’ which can happen to people undergoing chemotherapy – it meant that my memory wasn’t what it used to be, and I was forgetful. As a Personal Assistant, a good memory and attention to detail is crucial – but my boss and I were able to laugh about it.

It probably took me about a year to go back to feeling totally fit. I would say that in that situation working was enormously helpful – it really normalised things it so that my whole life didn’t become about cancer.

I think if I’d had a different kind of manager the outcome would have been different – he was empathetic, supportive, and with me every step of the way.