Breast Cancer

Breast Cancer - Surviving Survival?

Trusted Breast Cancer Navigation – You don’t have to go it alone!

Every ship needs an independent cancer navigator to guide them through treacherous waters. Your Survivor-Ship is no different. Your cancer diagnosis requires you to sail in uncharted waters. You can trust a cancer navigator with 45 years’ experience who has chartered the way forward for thousands of patients before you.

The Grace Gawler Institute offers various levels of breast cancer navigation services. Whether early in your diagnosis, late stage or dealing with a recurrence, we suggest beginning with a video call to ascertain your needs and explore how we can best help you.

It is likely that you have arrived at this page because you currently have breast cancer or have had breast cancer, or you are dealing with a recurrence. Experience tells me that reading about survival and survivorship is a good place to begin your journey! This may sound like a paradox, but learning about the end goal of the breast cancer journey, to survive and thrive, can help you to understand breast cancer and therefore help you to design your health restoration plan now.

Grace Gawler says: “Whether or not you are early in your diagnosis or have just learned of a recurrence; the more you explore my methods in supportive care medicine matched with hi tech cancer diagnostics and treatments; the more informed and successful your journey can be.”

Grace continues, “My approach is unique and will help you to understand the journey of breast cancer. Currently based on 45 years’ experience, I pioneered Australia’s first breast cancer support groups and residential programs for women with breast cancer in the late 80’s”.

Grace Gawler received the inaugural Rotary International Jean Harris award for this pioneering work for women. Grace recognised that a “safe space” was needed for women with breast cancer where they could communicate their experiences with other fellow patients. With gentle guidance women felt safe, and in that space were able to share an abundance of authentic stories. These “teaching stories” formed the basis for the first and still the only book written about emotional healing and breast cancer: “Women of Silence”. Because of Grace’s unique support group model, she was an invited by then Victorian Health Minister Marie Tehan, to join the first Ministerial Advisory committee for Women’s Health, actively serving until 1999.

Women of Silence, a best-seller for its genre; is as relevant today as it was when the 1st edition appeared in 1994, re-edited 2003. Perhaps in today’s world, where it is so easy to get lost in the cancer maze; my book can bring some sanity to the complexity of options. I wrote Women of Silence to empower women, to show women how they could value add to the outcome of their cancer situation. Purchase Women of Silence Here

Surviving Survival: Most women with breast cancer think about survival…

But have you thought about surviving survival?

Surviving Survival: Life plays itself out like the acts of an opera. There are various stages. As we live, we experience rollercoasters of emotions, highs and lows, agonies and ecstasies, crises, joys, and sorrows to name but a few. A diagnosis of breast cancer usually appears from left field!

A breast cancer diagnosis tends to amplify these experiences and emotions; you may have weathered many storms in life and have somehow gotten through it all- you have been surviving life!

Then there is a realisation; breast cancer presents the threat of losing your life prematurely. However, with knowledge and understanding, this crisis can be the very instigator to help you to find your life!     

Supportive care medicine is a type of complementary medicine. Supportive care is a healing tool not just a prop. Most people who experience breast cancer, at some stage of the illness, are likely to have used some form of complementary healthcare, counselling, or therapy group.

You may have learned about self-care, living a passion, been to a group, told your story to someone who really listened, and, you have survived thus far. Or, perhaps you are you new to the breast cancer journey. Whatever place you are on the breast cancer timeline, I believe you will gain precious insights from this article and or from reading my book on emotional healing and breast cancer; Women of Silence.

Stages in a woman’s breast cancer experience: *The early stages of diagnosis can be remarkably busy and very traumatising. Diagnosis, surgery, treatment plan, treatment phase, end of treatment, the waiting post-treatment stage, the “will I be okay” time as weeks and months pass by? At this latter stage, fear, depression, and anxiety can be amplified. The good news is I have met some incredibly resilient ladies who have had five or six recurrences and are still living well.  To view Surviving Survival videos scroll to end of page…

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You can learn a great deal from these long-term survivors and their stories. We can also learn how to harness our inner power & understand our emotional healing making a personal contribution to recovery. 

Illness can be a lonely affair even amid a sea of support. This may seem an obvious statement, however when identified in a workshop, the nodding heads in the room say it all. The journey of breast cancer is a very personal experience, and unless others have been there, including supporting partners and friends; it is difficult for them to understand your journey.  Each woman’s journey is unique, as is each patient, which is why personalised medicine can be crucial for some women with more unusual types of breast cancer.

Support Groups:  Listening to the stories of other participants in a support group is the closest you might get to understanding and having empathy for your own situation and fellow patients. Sometime it is challenging to listen, but it is often in the safe environment of a well-structured support group that authentic stories can be shared; stories that help to give meaning to your own unique life and your own unique cancer experience. When selecting a support group, it needs to be said a skilful and experienced facilitator is required.

Take care in choosing a support group. Groups that accept women at all stages of breast cancer; can be challenging for newly diagnosed patients because you are all at different stages on the breast cancer timeline.  Without careful management by the group leader fear can be generated for early stage patients. For most women support groups can enhance survival; especially when a group is well structured and led by an experienced leader whose job it is to keep the group on track. Dr David Spiegel’s studies with women with breast cancer many decades ago, concluded that by attending a support group, you could double your life expectancy.

As a founder of breast cancer support groups in Australia and New Zealand in the late 1980’s, it has been disappointing to see the changes in group structures.

As well, since Dr David Spiegel’s studies; one of the issues that can impact survival is one size fits all alternative medicine found on Dr Google and many support forums and social media platforms. Unfortunately, these alt med “cure” conversations have found their way into Breast Cancer Support Groups, eroding the supportive care and emotional healing that can be generated by a group experience. This type of group tends to cause more stress, confusion & self-doubt; but more seriously; patients sampling here-say alternative treatments, can interfere with conventional treatments.

Body Image: Breast cancer’s biggest challenge to many women is the change of body image, appearance, self-image, self-esteem, and sexuality. Breast cancer confront us with issues that we may not have ever dreamt that we would have to face. Breast cancer is uninvited change. Although helping to maintain shape and some breast tissue, lumpectomies sometimes generate fear of cancer returning. Mastectomy without or with a breast reconstruction brings many challenges that call on patients to adapt a different life. Relationship issues are a minefield for women who have had or have breast cancer. It takes a lot of maturity to survive and thrive. 

 For several years I belonged to the colostomy clan and on some occasions; the ileostomy clan; an incredibly challenging life altering experience also, especially as I was post-divorce and in the early days of a new relationship! It was a great learning curve for me and helped me to know about surviving survival!

For my sisters in the breast cancer clan; the removal of a breast can for most, be incredibly challenging, but like a colostomy or ileostomy, if it means your survival, you do it! But in this world, there are no changes without consequences. The rest of our lives therefore becomes dependent upon how we handle those consequences i.e. how we survive survival?

Robert Louis Stevenson wrote “Life is like a card game; it is not about being dealt a good hand; but playing a bad hand well”         

Surviving survival is playing a bad hand well!

As women re-find themselves and their lives, in a social normalcy, they know that they know have been transformed by the experience of breast cancer. After a life-threatening illness you can never go back to as you were before. Something has shifted and this is not only about life but tends also to be about a comfortableness with life, a new joy in living and acceptance of death, whenever it comes.

But what is it, this intangible, deep experience that we undergo through the process of illness? This is a question that I have asked myself and my clients for many years. However, it was not until I had my own experience with a life challenging illness that I found the answer at a deep level within myself.

When we are going through a major life crisis or have survived a major life altering/life-threatening experience; we can get in touch with and come to know something within that I will call our changeless core. Reconnecting with your changeless core brings the gift that lies beneath; grief, loss, fear etc-all that breast cancer can bring to our doorstep. You can connect to your authenticity to self and others. Living who you are instead of what other people want you to be. It is a gift worth knowing about!

Before breast cancer you may have worn many masks or veneers that caused you to disconnect from your true self – from your changeless core. This happens for women so easily since we wear so many hats and assume so many different roles in our lives. But this does not have to be an either-or situation – you can still be all those things but act from one changeless authentic core. It is always there and available; a place where wisdom can be drawn from your experience. That is the journey – the end goal.  The reward is being comfortable in the skin you are in.

When you discover or should I say rediscover and reconnect with this place within, you will experience life in a different way. Many women notice that as they heal, their story becomes shorter, centralised; they no longer concern themselves with the small stuff in life, priorities change they become more resilient, make better judgements and are more focussed and aware of their self-care.  With self-mastery (not selfishness) you can take charge of your life, even if the situation around you, has not changed. You have changed!

As Penny Brohn – founder of the Bristol cancer help centre said – “It does not have to be cancer, any life crisis will do. It is all an opportunity to grow ourselves through adversity”!

Being in touch and living from your changeless core is a vital component of surviving survival; basking in your transformation and thriving in your new life. (For more – Be sure to view the videos on this web page) © Grace Gawler Cornall – 2020 – updated. Original article –© published 2005

      

Women of Silence GRace Gawler

Getting Started:

I suggest you explore this page (and site) thoroughly to learn of the safe and innovative cancer therapies that I help my patients to access via the exceptional cancer experts in my national & international networks.

The Grace Gawler Institute offers a unique service bridging the gaps between supportive care medicine and hi-tech minimally invasive treatments.

We offer assistance to patients with all types of breast cancer including those that are difficult to treat such as triple negative breast cancer

Now it is time to tell you how we help you to make the seemingly impossible - possible

The Grace Gawler Institute Cancer Navigation Services

Interpreting your initial results?

General Pathology/histopathology: If you have had a biopsy or surgery to remove tissue (lumpectomy) or mastectomy you will have received a report called a histopathology report. This report is the first technical understanding of the type of tumour you have and if its growth has been flared by hormones or if it is HER2 positive or negative. This is important information, please request that your surgeon or oncologist explains the results; and that you understand their explanation.

A test called immuno-histochemistry (IHC) uses the principle of antibodies binding specifically to antigens in biological tissues to detect the antigens (e.g. proteins) in cells of a tissue specimen.

Genomic Diagnostics can then be performed on the same tissue (or if required, on a new tissue biopsy or where appropriate; a blood sample can be taken (called a liquid biopsy) to measure and qualify DNA mutations in your blood.  

How genomic diagnostic testing can help you? 

The Grace Gawler Institute refers patients for genomic testing via a leading Australian pathology laboratory. Internationally recognised, these high-calibre tests are not available in Australian and New Zealand hospitals as yet.

Below is a sample of Tests we can arrange for you:

*DNA tests that determine your targeted treatments.
*Gene tests that indicate your body’s ability to metabolise your targeted treatments. 
*Gene tests that determine your suitability for radiation treatment.
*There are a variety of other genomic tests that help ensure good outcomes with the intention of minimising side effects.

Drug Based Immune Therapies:
Patients should be aware there is a test called Tumour Mutational Load (TML). Results of this test can provide patients and their oncologists with an indication as to whether or not a drug based immunotherapy can work for you. (anti-PD1 immune therapy). At some stage experimental immunotherapy may be offered to you, however; it is unlikely that TML testing will be offered to you. You will need to request it. 

Genomic diagnostics - Your First Step

Genomic diagnostics is the important first step when pursuing personalised cancer medicine. The aim is to discover more information about the nature and behaviour of your cancer.


Once this information is made available – a world of possibilities for various targeted and personalised treatments can be made accessible to you with guidance along the way.

Treatments often include high tech medical treatments; sometimes used to debulk tumours,  designer anti-cancer pharmaceuticals to target specific DNA mutations,  complementary medicines targeted and prescribed for your “brand” of tumour type.

Add to this specific nutritional advice based upon gene testing results and a gene test that can determine “how” you metabolise

Our cancer treatment experts are located around Australia as well as internationally. Due to Covid 19 – all overseas referrals are currently suspended until further notice.

Trusted Breast Cancer Navigation

You don’t have to go it alone!

Every ship needs an independent cancer navigator to guide them through treacherous waters. Your Survivor-Ship is no different. Your cancer diagnosis requires you to sail in uncharted waters. You can trust a cancer navigator with 45 years’ experience who has chartered the way forward for thousands of patients before you.

The Grace Gawler Institute offers various levels of breast cancer navigation services.
We suggest beginning with a video call to ascertain your needs and explore how we can best help you.