People have said I’m pretty upbeat considering what I’m going through. But the alternative, being down and depressed, doesn’t sit well with me.

A nurse, with a new baby and no family history of cancer, has found herself facing the same battle as her patients while she undergoes treatment at Epworth Eastern.

In September 2023, Jessa was breastfeeding her third child, who was seven months old, when she found a lump. She was diagnosed with lobular breast cancer, a cancer that begins in the milk-producing glands (lobules) of the breast.

“I was 39 and have no family history of breast cancer or any type of cancer at all,” Jessa said

“I have been an oncology nurse for my whole nursing career – the last 15 years – so I know quite a bit about cancer, which can help you but also make you a lot more anxious.”

Jessa, who works at a hospital in the outer Eastern suburbs, says her colleagues (fellow nurses) have rallied around, ferrying her to appointments and keeping her company while she undergoes weekly chemotherapy sessions at Epworth Eastern’s day oncology unit.

“I’ve had tremendous support from my colleagues and friends. And my whole family overseas have been showering me with love, concern and prayers. My dad, who is miles away in India, knows which doctors I’m seeing when and where.

“People have said I’m pretty upbeat considering what I’m going through. But the alternative, being down and depressed, doesn’t sit well with me.”

Epworth Breast Care Nurse and oncology clinical nurse specialist Stephanie Jeffery says having support makes a big difference.

“I encourage patients where possible to lean on family and friends for practical and emotional support. Those that feel well supported often cope with treatment better,” Stephanie said.

A mother of three children, aged 10, six and one, Jessa, has much to juggle.

“The road is long. You just have to compartmentalise; one thing at a time. Having young kids in the mix exposes you to a lot more infections and germs, but you do what helps your mental health. I wouldn’t cope well with being in a bubble.

“I have great support – my husband works mostly from home, so that flexibility has helped and my mum flew over from India the day after I was diagnosed. The circumstances are hard, but the nurses have been fantastic. The medical team, my oncologist and surgeon have been very efficient and kind. I can’t speak highly enough of them.

“I still work when I can, which I find helpful. With my patients, I’m not just talking the talk now but walking the walk. I think I did quite a good job with my patients before, but now I can add another layer of personal experience,” Jessa added.

“My surgeon asked if I wanted a break from oncology nursing but I want to nurse cancer patients for as long as I can. I feel my cancer experience has given me even more reasons to go back to it and add that extra dimension.”

Jessa’s chemotherapy treatments will be followed by radiotherapy and then at least 10 years of hormone therapy.

“I’m trying to be as positive as I can and that positivity stems from the support that I have. I’ve been treating these chemotherapy appointments as social outings!”


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