Wendy Barnes was diagnosed with breast cancer 14 years ago in 2008, and has been a client at Bloomhill Cancer Care from early in her cancer experience.
The first breast cancer diagnosis came just six months after Wendy had arrived on the Sunshine Coast from South Australia. She knew nobody, she said, but her husband and children. A nurse who cared for her during hospital treatment recommended she visit Bloomhill.
“My husband and I came here and it was amazing. It not only helped myself but my husband and my children,” Wendy said.
“We’d only been here for six months, and we had hardly any friends and no family nearby. So Bloomhill became my family.
“I had relaxation massages, lymphoedema massages, art therapy, connection with other people going through it, cups of tea and also time to be alone in this beautiful rainforest place.”
Wendy experienced side effects of cancer treatments including loss of taste and smell.
“My fingernails and toe nails sometimes dropped off,” she said. “I got pins and needles in my toes and fingers; headaches. I was lethargic.
“Coming up here to Bloomhill helped put all that aside. And I also found going to the beach – walking on the sand and swimming in the ocean really therapeutic.”
As far as she knew, she said, the treatments had been successful. While she recovered, she had a positive mindset and utilised many therapies available.
While she recovered, she had a positive mindset and utilised many therapies available.
Four years later in 2012 she triumphed her fitness goals by riding the 260-kilometre Rio Tinto Bike Ride from Brisbane to Wivenhoe over two days, and raised more than $10,500 for breast cancer research.
“In 2013 it was time for my five-year check-up,” she said. “I’d organised for my girlfriends to come up and have a party. But I was diagnosed again. I was absolutely gutted.
“The girls still came up, and we had a party still, and I made a mould of my breasts.”
At the party Wendy’s husband made a big bucket of plaster of Paris. Her girlfriends “all put it on my boobs”, and when it set she had a mould of her breasts.
“I was going to have a double mastectomy, and I didn’t want a reconstruction. Had to have chemo again too.
“I kept the mould of my breasts under my bed for the next five years when I got the all-clear. Then I turned it into glass sculpture.
“It’s been quite a journey. But it’s about, what the mind believes, the body achieves. Living your life and believing in yourself, you have to put it out there.”
In 2021 Wendy finally did the Mooloolaba Triathlon with her son, achieving a goal she’d had since moving to the Sunshine Coast 13 years earlier.
“It was a great feeling crossing that finish line with my son holding onto my hand,” Wendy said.
“It’s been a crazy journey but I so believe cancer has changed me. It’s made me a better person. We’re a close family but we’re a closer family now. You just need to live life!”
Author: Nicky Moffat October 2022 Images: Nicky Moffat