Jacqui’s story

Aug 7, 2023

In June 2021, Jacqui received the news that no one can truly prepare themselves for – she was diagnosed with stage 4 breast cancer. Following a manual breast check – which was thought to be scar tissue – further tests revealed that not only was it breast cancer, but there was a larger mass in the back of her stomach close to the spine making it inoperable. The diagnosis was surprising given she had no symptoms at all.

Jacqui had been diagnosed with breast cancer 15 years prior, however the disease was discovered at an earlier stage.

“That time it was a bigger lump and although I didn’t like traditional treatment, I went down that road because I also knew it wasn’t going to take me. I just knew this intuitively and as I was only thirty something, I had fitness, health and everything else on my side at that stage.”

Jacqui combined traditional and alternate treatments to help her heal physically, emotionally and mentally. This included chemotherapy, kinesiology, dietary adjustments, as well as a 7 day trip to Mexico to attend a treatment centre where she experienced a full medical team assessment, ultraviolet light therapy, sound therapy and IV supplementation (to name a few).

“The centre in Mexico had a whole clinical team but included a lot of natural therapies. I couldn’t do the massage therapy at that stage as it was only a few weeks after surgery. I hadn’t started chemo but I went there for the whole natural experience. There were treatments every day and they had educational sessions at night.”

This time around Jacqui is using prescribed pain relief but mainly focusing on alternative treatments including vibrational treatment, scalar wave treatment, infrared saunas, body talk, and other emotional treatments and therapies.

In the past year, the cancer (or “rogue cells” as Jacqui likes to refer to them as), spread to most organs within her body. During this period Jacqui was introduced to Karuna Hospice Services through the Palliative Care team at the hospital she was attending. After consulting with both services, she opted for Karuna to be her main service provider. This allowed Jacqui to remain at home whilst receiving care from the charity which supports patient choice.

“When Karuna is offering a phone call or a home visit, you feel a bit more empowered. Up until recently I would be feeling the same for weeks or months. I like knowing that I can say to them that nothing has changed, that there’s no new information, and not to worry about coming out to see me.

“At this stage I know there’s other people they can see that would benefit rather than me. If things progress really badly, I will say that what Karuna currently provide will probably change for me and will probably be more hands on.”

For Jacqui, the most impactful part of Karuna is the clinical staff who provide weekly check-ins.

“The biggest thing I want to acknowledge is the staff at Karuna. There is this energy and way of being that all the Karuna staff exude and have. The care and level of heart that actually emanates from each of the people that I have met is palpable.”

“Karuna provides that sense of self-empowerment, autonomy and that whole ‘we’re here for you whatever it is you want, we’ll be here to support you’. They want to make me as comfortable as possible (pain wise) for as long as it takes.”

Knowing that Karuna was able to care for Jacqui, had a huge impact for her family, with most of them living in New Zealand.

“My mum was here for three months (actually sleeping on the couch for three months) so she got to experience meeting some of the Karuna staff. I think it was huge for her. I think another thing was hearing that counselling was available for my family as well.”

Jacqui’s younger sister and family live close by in Brisbane and she often spends time together watching her niece play soccer on the weekends.

“Recently my sister and I went up to Cairns and explored Kuranda, Port Douglas and Paronella Park. We didn’t plan too much, or book anything in advance as we just wanted to see how it played out due to my energy levels.

“I’m still functioning, I’m still driving and I’m still cognitive. I’m still really mobile but I’m generally at about 30% capacity compared to what I used to be. Even walking these days is difficult.”

Due to her condition, Jacqui had to cease her administration role which she held for 5 years at an accounting firm.

“Going from having no idea whatsoever to not being able to work, has been pretty quick. I was offered the opportunity to work elsewhere, but I had to think about the energy that it takes to get up, get dressed and catch a train which would wipe me out; let alone working for 8 hours and then coming home again.”

As much as Jacqui would have loved to have been part of the team, she had to decline the role as she wasn’t sure what was going to happen with her health over the following weeks.

These days, one of the activities that occupies Jacqui includes volunteering at a local animal shelter, which she has been doing for the last couple of months.

“I help out with administration, and I clean the dog yards. My physical abilities are changing so sometimes it’s a real stretch just to empty half a bucket of water, but I’ll clean the yards so I feel that one day a week I’m semi-normal – even though it will wipe me out for the rest of the day.”

For Jacqui, volunteering is an important part of her routine as it assists with her mental wellbeing.

“When you’re no longer working, you question what your purpose is, your input or feel that sense of achievement. It’s hard, day, after day, after day, to figure out how to stimulate your mental wellbeing and tick the box of doing something or contributing in some way; because while the body might be deteriorating the mental capacity is still there.”

Although Jacqui was used to completing two hour long bushwalks with her niece, nowadays she is limited to shorter walks which still allow her to connect with her ‘happy place’.

“I love bushwalking – that’s my happy place. There’s Simpson Falls in Bardon on the other side of Mount Coot-Tha which is 650 metres. It’s all up hill so I have to stop a couple of times now. There’s a bit of a creek, so I just take my shoes off and I try to do that once a week if I can.

Jacqui said that Karuna staff have made it easier for her to still participate in activities that are important to her by monitoring and assisting with her physical capabilities.

“Karuna and the staff have empowered me to really think about my physical capacities, what that would look like, and how I would manage that. When people hand it back to you, you have the freedom to really delve into that by thinking about what that would mean for me, as well as what does my day look like when I’m pain free. That self-empowerment goes beyond the visits.”

Jacqui’s admiration and fondness for Karuna has even resulted in a potential patient referral for an old school friend who had received a terminal diagnosis but was reluctant to receive palliative care. After confirming that her friend was in the catchment area for Karuna, Jacqui encouraged him to make an appointment.

“When you’re in pain Karuna can be there. The whole way you are treated as a human being and that essence from the staff is so different.”

Jacqui said she was so glad to be able to pass that on to somebody and to know that through Karuna’s services, patients don’t have to suffer in pain.

Like all patients and families receiving Karuna care, Jacqui is able to access personalised palliative care at no cost to her or her loved ones. This is with thanks to generous donors who continue to help patients like Jacqui receive vital care during the most important time in their life. Because of this, Jacqui is grateful for the support she has already received.

“My advice is, if you’re going to give money to anything I would say, give it to Karuna. Put your donation to good use.

Jacqui said that donations should go to organisations who provide direct support to individuals.

“Karuna is supporting a lot of individuals in such an amazing way. It’s a wonderful service. I whole-heartedly support Karuna.”

Please help Karuna continue to help more patients like Jacqui live their best life possible by donating today. To donate, visit www.karuna.org.au/donate-karuna