She was a healthy 30-something, part-time IT program manager and full-time mum to Chloe and Ellen.
So, when the news came through that she had metastatic (advanced) breast cancer, it was devastating.
Keely was told that her time was limited
Keely was told that her cancer had already spread to her liver, bones and brain.
Trying to sensitively communicate the seriousness of her situation, Keely’s oncologist suggested she make videos of herself to provide a keepsake so her young daughters, who were 3 and 1 at the time, might remember her.
She found community and support
To help her come to terms with her situation, Keely wanted to learn as much as she could about cancer through books and online resources.
As a young mum, Keely also wanted to connect with other women in her situation, so she attended Cancer Council’s Soiree for Women under 45. They shared stories about the challenges they faced and learnt from each other’s experiences.
“I was able to talk to others just like me, share my challenges and learn from others’ experiences.”
“It was especially inspiring when women whose cancers have stabilised attended the sessions to give you hope and prepare you for what to expect as you move through the different stages of treatment and recovery.”
Keely was also put in contact with Cancer Council NSW’s Legal and Financial Planning Referral Services. From here she was able to manage her affairs and create her Will prior to going in for surgery on her brain.
She’s still here today and thriving
Thanks to significant advances in research, Keely is still here more than 10 years later.
And she’s not just living with cancer… she’s thriving!
Since her diagnosis, she’s completed a Masters degree and started a new career as a high school teacher. Her condition is stable but incurable and her ongoing treatment is a constant reminder.
“Although regular chemo and other treatments continue and will do so for the foreseeable future, cancer has not prevented me from embracing life,” Keely says.
“I feel incredibly fortunate to be able to see my daughters grow into tweens and I relish the time I have with family and friends and a lifestyle I would not have believed possible in the early days of my diagnosis.”
And she’s giving back to help others
In the past decade, Keely has become a Cancer Council NSW Ambassador, speaking at events and sharing her experience and stories.
“Knowing what I know now, I’m keen to increase awareness about breast cancer in women my age and in similar circumstances and want to warn against “explaining away” symptoms or “soldiering on” with busy lives.”