How Danica found support through the phone after being wrongly diagnosed just before Christmas
By Cancer Council NSW
Mother of two, Danica Bunch, was told that she may only have two years to live only a couple of days before Christmas in 2022, “When the nurse came to see me and broke down in tears, I asked her why she was crying, and she said she was overwhelmed with feeling for me as the diagnosis was so bad,” she says. Danica was wrongly diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer.
It wasn’t until early the following year that Danica was told that the nurse had mixed up her results with another patient’s and, while she still had breast cancer, her diagnosis was treatable.
Danica said that the timing of being (unknowingly) misdiagnosed was particularly challenging, “Any news at Christmas time is so hard, but over Christmas you also have services shutting down for the break.”
“That’s when I first called 13 11 20 and they were amazing!”
Over this time, Danica was waiting for a call from her hospital’s social worker while at her son’s tennis camp. The call never came as the team had forgotten to book her in. In her search for support in this tough time, Danica turned to Cancer Council’s 13 11 20 Information and Support line.
“That’s when I first called 13 11 20 and they were amazing! They really helped me with the practicalities and helped me reframe what was happening to get through Christmas. They just got it.”
Danica says she really appreciated that this phone number was the gateway to other services that Cancer Council offers for people affected by cancer and saysit was real support on every level, practically, emotionally and accessible.
Someone to talk to without judgement
Over Christmas and New Years, Danica called 13 11 20 three times. Her family were also hurting, and she didn’t want to burden them, so Danica found it helpful to be able to share her thoughts with someone without judgement.
The health professionals on the other side of the line also helped Danica work out the best way to talk about her cancer with her family. “I felt very heard and listened to,” she says
”The more we can support people to live in the now and with hope and not just the weight of cancer the better. Treatments are going so well and advancing, and people can live with cancer.”
How Danica learnt to understand her body
Danica says that she felt the weight of cliches and stigma around it, having breast cancer as a relatively young woman aged 42.
When she received a breast care pack from her hospital, Danica found that it didn’t suit her needs. By comparison, she says that “I found that Cancer Council was so modern in their approach and views, I found it really inclusive of everyone and all ages,” she says.
Danica says that every person’s cancer is different, once she knew her cancer was treatable, she realised you need an understanding of how your body is going to take on everything. They were some of the messages she received; trust your body, learn your body and how it’s feeling, and be kind to yourself.
Living well with cancer
A year later, Danica is now “living really really well – apart from having cancer, my life is unchanged. I have two children who are thriving, an international and award-winning PR agency, I still go to my spin classes, travel regularly and do ballet.”
Danica has no side effects from her treatment and her oncologist and hospital support her with supporting therapies to her treatment. Her hospital tries to help Danica live a normal life by limiting appointments where they can so she doesn’t need to travel to Sydney from her home in Orange., “I couldn’t be happier. I would rather not have cancer, but I am living well with it,” she says.
Danica holds high importance on her mental health. Her advice is to be proactive and take care of it even when you think you don’t need it. Regarding her diagnosis she says, “cancer doesn’t have to be the end of the world, it is hard and scary but there are so many silver linings if you are open to seeing them.”
This year, Danica was crowned Central West Mums 2023 Mother of the Year, published a book ‘She Has Breast Cancer’, won bronze for her PR business as the national award for best regional business all whilst living with cancer.
If you need to talk about cancer, call Cancer Council on 13 11 20