Glynis Vickery is a proud Gunditjmara and Yorta Yorta woman who lives in Kinglake with her partner and two children.
Diagnosed with cancer twice, Glynis is currently on active treatment at Peter Mac and had just finished her radiation therapy when she sat down to talk with us.
She’s looking forward to a trip back to Gunditjmara country to go fishing for crays.
This is Glynis’ story in her own words.
I’ve been diagnosed twice.
The first time was in 2012 - I was having a shower and I felt a lump.
It was so weird because I was dropping my two-year-old off at day care and my 10-year-old at school and had been thinking to myself, ‘what it something happens to me’ - and then I find a lump the same day.
I don’t know if it was an omen that I needed to find it. But it made me realise you need to think about your health and have it in the back of your mind all the time.
I went to the doctor and she sent me off for a scan and then a biopsy, and the result came back for cancer. I then had surgery on the left breast, radiation therapy and then I was put on Tamoxifen for five years, which is a hormone therapy used to treat breast cancer.
The first time I was diagnosed, it wasn’t difficult. I just kind of walked through it really numb and not really understanding. It was just something that was happening to my body.
But for my family - I have two children and a partner - they all found it really difficult to watch me go through the treatment and were worried about what the outcome would be.
My kids were two and 10 at the time. My partner was really worried what it would mean for their future not having a mum – so he was quite angry about what was happening to me.
But I got through all the treatment and got back to normal life with my kids.
Fast forward 10 years and I was at the gym with my son exercising and I got a sore arm.
I asked the doctor to look at it and she found a lump – and again I was sent for an ultrasound and a biopsy. The cancer had returned. I’ve just had chemotherapy and a lump removed from my lymph node and I’m currently doing radiation therapy again.
This second time, I now know what needs to happen and I just need to get through it – but it’s been pretty tough.
Peter Mac has been really good. After about the fourth session of chemo I was asking them to “please take me off” because I didn’t want to go through it anymore.
I was in and out of hospital to start with, with really high fevers. Whenever I’d ring up and say ‘I don’t feel like it today’, they would change my times and give me rest periods. They listened to my needs and changed plans to suit me, so that made things easier.
Peter Mac’s Aboriginal Liaison Workers, Jay and Andrea, have come and visited me regularly too, which has been great – they have been a great support.
And the breast cancer nurses have been there every step of the way. If I needed something, they would go and source that information for me.
But I just couldn’t have done the cancer treatment if I didn’t have my husband and kids around me. They have been my rock through all this, keeping me going. When I’ve had some down days, my partner says, ‘look at your children, that’s what you’re doing it for’.
But my community has also been a really great support for me, like an extended family. I have a lot of friends who have all reached out. I had a community member who lived across the road who has been cooking my meals and bringing them over and making sure my family are all supported.
I was just talking today that I’m looking forward to going back to country, to Gunditjmara land, where we can go crayfishing and visit our heritage site.
I want to say to all Aboriginal women out there, get tested and pay attention to your body. As soon as I see that pink breast cancer clinic bus is going to an Aboriginal Community Controlled Organisation, I’m all over Facebook and saying get yourself down there and get tested. Catching it early will make the treatment so much easier.