Guest: Jane Wiggers de Vries
Presenter: Henry Acosta
Guest Bio: Jane Wiggers de Vries is a 25-year-old nurse at St Vincent’s Private Hospital. She was diagnosed with fast growing triple negative breast cancer at age 24, an extremely rare diagnosis for someone so young. Jane has the BRCA1 gene, which dramatically increase her chances of both breast and ovarian cancer. Since her diagnosis, Jane has undergone chemotherapy, radiation and a double mastectomy.
Segment overview: In today’s Health Supplier Segment, we welcome breast cancer survivor Jane Wiggers de Vries here to share her story and offer a message of hope, encourage people to get a check up and to spread awareness about the ways anyone can give back to the cause.
Health Professional Radio – Breast Cancer Awareness Month
Henry Acosta: Hi I’m Henry Acosta and welcome to Health Professional Radio. Today our guest is Jane Wiggers de Vries, she’s a nurse at St. Vincent’s Private Hospital. She got diagnosed with fast growing triple-negative breast cancer, a very rare case for someone really young. She has the BRCA-1 gene which increases your chances of both breast and ovarian cancer. Since her diagnosis she’s gone through treatments such as chemotherapy, radiation therapy and a double mastectomy. Thankfully now she has lived through that, she has beaten cancer and now wants to help raise awareness of the dangers of breast cancer and help spread the word and support the cause. As we all know October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month and we’re here to help spread awareness about it and make a difference to everyone who’s listening and want to get involved in spreading the message. Welcome to the program Jane, it’s great having you here in the show.
Jane Wiggers de Vries: Thank you for having me.
H: And for our very first question, when were you diagnosed and at what age?
J: So I was diagnosed with breast cancer last year and I was 24 years old.
H: And what stage were you diagnosed with?
J: Well I… actual particular stage but I’m pretty sure it was stage 2B or something like that. I mean it’s already 4 ½ cm so it may be quite a large cancer already but yeah, I think it was stage 2 or something.
H: And how was the cancer initially detected?
J: Well initially detected by myself. So I suppose I’m just 24 I was not gonna be going to the doctor and getting or getting mammograms or anything like that. I was extremely healthy and extremely fit at the time and I suppose I just lying in bed and I think the position I was in, the way it stretches you out, I just felt a lump about the size of golf ball or like a marble and then yeah I just thought I’d put a muscle but I hadn’t so I went and spoke to a few nurses at work and then I went and got an ultrasound. And then after that ultrasound I got some biopsies done which confirmed that it was a fast growing … breast cancer.
H: And how did you feel when you first received the news?
J: Receiving the news was like a bad dream, like having feel that it was actually real initially. I just thought ‘Okay like a skin cancer like I can get it cut out. It wouldn’t be the end of the world’ but then the news kind of settled in like over the weekend and then it was like the most devastating thing because one day your oncologist just tells you you’re gonna have to get your breast removed, you’re gonna have to go through chemotherapy. Your chemotherapy might make you infertile so maybe it’s best to think about doing IVF with your partner and then yes and you’re gonna lose all your hair obviously then you’re gonna go through radiation therapy. I mean it was a big process to take in and you don’t really feel 24 anymore.
H: And during that time did you have a support network?
J: Most important at work is really good, I have a lot of friends and family that would just support me and get me through the hardest times like going through the diagnosis. I had my partner with me so we were able to do most of it together and he was just fantastic and he was able to just leave work to get to every appointment, fly me for every chemotherapy session and then also chemotherapy he would drive me up to my parents’ place in the Blue Mountains and we just get away from everything and just relax out there. I also had a really amazing young women with breast cancer support group as well so I did that and that’s really Cancer Council and I meet up with these girls once a month and we talk about things that even they have like you great support with your family you… other people just would not get, that was really good.
H: And can you give us a little insight on your treatment process?
J: My treatment process so everything that or much I have started the… cancer center which is related to the Garvan so I did 6 months of chemotherapy, neoadjuvant chemotherapy and well actually before that I did my IVF to save some embryos in the future and then I did… for 6 months of chemotherapy and then after the chemotherapy I’ve got a bilateral mastectomy at St. Vincent’s Hospital the private where I work and then after that I did the radiotherapy every day for 5 weeks… So yeah it was a long process, it started last July and it went until about May, June this year.
H: And were there any programs or services offered to you that would help with the treatment process?
J: The… Cancer Center have so many programs for going through or like had services available, they were the first one I went to was ‘To Look Good, Feel Better Program’ and it’s like it helps you to literally look good and feel better when you’re absolutely feeling your worst and they help out with wigs and scarves and basically just mentally made you feel so much better. Then there’s also therapy and yeah it could just get therapy whenever I needed it and these psychology appointments it was perfect and that was all through the…
H: And did you face any obstacles during your treatment process and can you share with us how you overcame these obstacles?
J: Obstacles, I mean there were hundreds of obstacles just like I feel to me the main obstacle was just feeling sick and becoming that cancer patient like…you lost your hair you felt so terrible so like you just felt like the cancer patients so for me it was going to work even though I felt like terrible I would work throughout my chemotherapy so I would get back out on the, I work in operating…and I’ll get back and it was fun because I’m worthy to had every day so a lot of people forgot that I was actually sick and it was having that normality that yeah that process of getting up and having a routine. The other ways of overcoming it I would go on short little holidays with my boyfriend Cameron, he would take me… down to Victoria skiing or up to the Great Barrier Reef for a couple of days and yeah just getting away with a great way for me to overcome things.
H: And what message would you like to provide women and the breast cancer community?
J: My messages would be for the breast cancer community firstly this week is breast cancer awareness month is that breast cancer doesn’t discriminate and it’s really hard because a lot of people are so shocked about my age and it’s really, really hard because the only way of detecting breast cancer at our age at the moment is by checking yourself so it’s really important to check yourself. And I just think that for me it is so important for research in this area and if you feel like you can’t donate your money… or anything like there’s so many simple ways that you can help out so I’m part of the Garvan Institute. You can download the DreamLab app, this is what I’ve done and you can use your phone and you can select just a tiny amount of data and it can use that data to help with their huge amounts of sequencing and all the processing they need for the huge amounts of research that needs to be done so and it’s just simply by posting your phone in while you sleep and it works so I’ve been doing that so that’s great and…do it and just any money that goes towards the Garvan goes straight to the scientists, straight to the labs. I have people like Dr. Samantha Oakes helping solve breast cancer, so yeah.
H: And with the DreamLab app can you tell us how it has helped with the process of being a survivor of breast cancer? While you are getting treated can you tell us how it benefited you?
J: The DreamLab app at first just knowing that it’s helping the scientists like I don’t have to be there…with the scientist in the lab that you can know that even if you’re home not doing anything at least you’re helping them solve it and getting breast cancer and getting the research done while you sleep it’s just great knowing that it’s fast tracking that process so that people won’t be having to go through what I’m going through. But Samantha Oakes will be able to tell you way more of that and how it works and yeah.
H: And to the listeners out there who want to help support the research and raise awareness to breast cancer what’s your advice on how they can help spread the message?
J: Spread the message, well check yourself for any breast lumps. Also a great thing to do is download the DreamLab app and you can select what cancer you’d like to support and then basically you can select how much data you want to give to the DreamLab or to the Garvan and that can go towards researching so you don’t have to go through this anymore. So yeah, that would be the… support right now in breast cancer awareness month.
H: Awesome. Again that was Jane Wiggers de Vries and it’s a pleasure having you on the show.
J: Thank you very much.
H: Again that was Jane Wiggers de Vries at a very young age she has survived the rare case of breast cancer. She’s looking to help spread the positive message and share her experiences to help raise awareness on breast cancer. She is now a nurse at St. Vincent’s Private Hospital. As we all know October is Breast Cancer Awareness month and we’re glad to help support the cause. You may go on www.nationalbreastcancer.org or you can download the DreamLab app to help with the cancer research. Transcripts and audio are available at www.healthprofessionalradio.com.au or on www.hpr.fm and you can subscribe to us on SoundCloud and iTunes.