A CALM, welcoming oasis.
That’s how breast cancer survivor Valda Queenin describes Bloomhill Cancer Care, where she found help after her diagnosis. In 2015, the Buderim resident received “the call-back you never want to get” following a breast screen test. At the time she didn’t realise it was bad news. She’d been at work, and she told her husband David, not to worry coming with her to the appointment for support.
“I thought it was going to be fine – just routine,” she said.
“Then, I’m at the clinic, and I’m told flat out, out of the blue, ‘you have breast cancer’.
“My reaction was just absolute shock – like, oh my God, why didn’t somebody tell that this could be the outcome of this appointment! Why did I not have a support person with me?”
Emotions were running wild, she said.
“You’re just trying work it all out yourself. Needless to say it was a harrowing trip home.”
“I came home and luckily, my husband was just so supportive,” she said.
David didn’t miss an appointment – he was always by her side, Valda said.
Valda had a lumpectomy – 13 lymph nodes were removed. Chemotherapy and radiation followed.
After her first chemo session, Valda had gone straight to the hairdresser.
“I had her shave my hair off – I wasn’t going to wait for it to fall out,” she said.
“I took control, so that felt really good.
“The hardest thing was the radiation – because they basically put you in a concrete bunker. You lie down on a slab and get radiated with nobody else in the room. It was a really fast procedure, but it was something that was really hard to get my head around.”
She was 50 years old when diagnosed, but didn’t identify as a “survivor” until she joined motorcycle group Girl Torque some time later and met others who had been through cancer.
“It was just another part of my life,” she said.
“I’d never really thought of myself as a breast cancer survivor – but I was. I realised that as I started helping organise the Bras ‘N Bikes charity ride, where we raise funds for Bloomhill.”
Valda said she had been in touch with Bloomhill Cancer Care before her treatments had started.
“It’s a beautiful oasis that you can go, and there’s this sense of calm. Everybody is just so welcoming. There’s this sense of, ‘we’re here to support you 100 per cent. Not only you, but your family’.”
She took advantage of dieticians and counsellors available on site.
“You can do yoga, and meditation,” she said. “If you need help getting to appointments, they can help. It’s just 100 per cent, support. They’re there to help people who have been diagnosed and are going through cancer treatment.”
Without Bloomhill, she would have been lost, Valda said.
“Where would I go to get my questions answered? Family is a great support, but it’s great to have input from elsewhere as well. And to have people that have gone through treatment, nobody can say, I know that feeling if they have not gone through it.”
Valda said having breast cancer had changed her life and philosophy.
“I never thought I would be riding a motorcycle at 52, and I found the most wonderful girls group, Girl Torque, to ride with,” she said.
Valda said she would proudly take part in the final Bras ‘N Bikes fundraising charity ride for Bloomhill on October 18, 2020.
She encouraged others who her story resonated with to get involved.
“You never know who will need Bloomhill, or whether you might. Having their support is just amazing.”
By Lorna Willis and Nicky Moffat