Victoria (left) was just 40 years old when she received the diagnosis that changed her life. She vividly recalls standing in the supermarket when her phone rang - it was a call from her doctor that she was not prepared for and one she never thought would come.
"I just stood there and was like 'okay, so I have cancer'. I had to get out of there and kept telling myself to hold back the tears," she says.
Immediately after learning of her diagnosis, Victoria had no choice but to put on a brave face for her girls, aged 12 and 13 at the time, who were waiting for Mum to drop them to school.
"I didn't want my girls knowing anything until I had the knowledge of what I was up against. Power and knowledge to me is success and I wanted to do all my homework first. I pretended like nothing was wrong in front of the girls and then broke down when they weren't around me."
Stunned, her mind started racing with all the questions and uncertainties that come with hearing you have breast cancer. A naturally active person, Victoria had always been proactive with her health prior to diagnosis, which added to the shock of the situation when she was diagnosed after having had a mammogram only two years prior – the doctors had assured her there was nothing to worry about and she need not come back until she was 40.
After arming herself with all the information she could about her situation, Victoria sat down with her doctor and decided on the best way forward.
Victoria's treatment consisted of a mastectomy of her right breast and chemotherapy.
"For my journey, I found that after the chemo finished and my surgeries had been completed, the medication called tamoxifen that I was put on afterwards created my concern. It has had an enormous emotional and physical effect, because it has put me into menopause – and at 42 I don't feel like being a menopausal woman," says Victoria
"As well as the hot flushes and effects on my mood, the medications I am having to take also weaken my bones, and it makes my bones hurt. It just goes on and on. And I am on it for 10 years, so I have to make friends with it."
Having gone through the trauma and fear of a breast cancer diagnosis, Victoria strongly believes medical research is crucial and its evolution is essential to improving treatment options, medication and of course, to completely eliminate breast cancer.
As a breast cancer survivor, Victoria knows it is an extremely personal and uncertain journey, that is why she is such a passionate supporter of cancer research.
"Research is imperative. The more research we can do the more it's going to save other women, men, and families. If my daughters were to be in this same predicament, I would hope the research would be on top of its game," Victoria says.
She was also involved in research here at the Princess Alexandra Hospital (PAH), which involved sending a specimen of breast tissue overseas to examine a possible BRCA-gene mutation connection.
A devoted mother Victoria maintains an open dialogue between herself and her two young daughters, aged 14 and 15, encouraging them to be in tune with their own health and bodies and speak up if something is not right, even though this can be challenging at their age.
"I always let them know that if there is something you're unsure of, or if there's something that's doesn't look right, then put your hand up and ask the question," says Victoria.
Very grateful for her experience at the PAH, she is most thankful for the kindness of two beautiful breast care nurses, Tamara and Melissa who provided (and still do) exceptional care.
"They were always there to answer questions or concerns and they were always available," she says.
As a cancer survivor, Victoria still sees Tamara and Melissa when she visits the PAH for her 6-monthly check-ups, which consist of meetings with her oncologist about medications, a checkup with breast care nurses, mammograms and a consultation with plastic surgeons as she waits to finish her reconstruction.
On final advice to women about how to stay on top of your health, Victoria says "I think reach out to your most five loved ones. Reassure them to do a quick touch up. Give yourself a quick touch up. It certainly won't do any harm"
To support breast cancer research you can donate to our Project Pink campaign here https://www.projectpink.org.au/donate