In 2000, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. It took me by complete surprise (an experience I think I share with a lot of people who get diagnosed). Because the cancer was aggressive, it was all very touch and go, and I had to go through 10 months of chemotherapy, radiation therapy and surgery.
When my treatment finished, I realised that survivorship comes with its own set of challenges. Suddenly, you don’t have the help of your team of specialists, and you look and feel very different.
I definitely think that the experience gave me a different outlook on life. I feel stronger, and while that may sound strange, I feel like I’ve emerged at the other end as a different person. I have a new-found appreciation for life – every day matters.
After the experience of cancer, I also realised I wanted to give back. I got involved with Cancer Council NSW, first by doing their wonderful advocacy training in conjunction with Cancer Voices NSW, which really ignited my passion for consumer advocacy. I then completed the consumer review panel training and was invited to become a consumer reviewer of the research that the organisation funds.
Cancer Council NSW has an extremely robust review process in place – it ensures that projects get reviewed both based on their scientific merit and according to their relevance to the community.
Our panel of consumer reviewers is very diverse – we come from all sorts of backgrounds. We are really passionate about having a voice in the selection of the best projects. We debate all applications, because we really want to ensure that we choose projects with real-world impact and benefits. We all have enormous respect for the researchers behind the projects.