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Canberra Today 3°/6° | Monday, May 20, 2024 | Digital Edition | Crossword & Sudoku

Kim didn’t hesitate making the chemotherapy call

Kim Tito… “It’s important for people to understand that you need someone you can rant to every now and then.” Photo: Andrew Campbell

By Bina Brown

When Kim Tito was given a choice to have chemotherapy following surgery to remove a lump in her breast, she didn’t take too long to think it through.

“With cancer cells in my lymph nodes, it had already declared its intention to travel. I read this as a sign to have further treatment,” says Kim.

Her trusted GP gave her a useful analogy about her breast cancer diagnosis and options for treatment.

He suggested she think of it like a glass breaking on the floor. You can pick up the large pieces you see. That’s the surgery.

You can’t walk on the floor yet, there may be pieces you missed, so you get out the broom and dustpan. That’s the chemo.

You could walk on the floor, because you may have got all of the broken glass, but to be safe you vacuum the floor in the area.That’s the radiation.

“He said: ‘You need to do everything you possibly can to stop it, so you are not back in this situation,’ so I did,” says Kim.

Her experience began in August 2021, in the middle of covid lockdown. Her mostly Sydney-based family couldn’t visit, appointments were attended alone, and her regular exercise program of walking just stopped.

If there was an upside, her chosen surgeon had some cancellations and was able to operate within days of finding the lump.

Furthermore, the hospital car park was practically empty.

Kim chose to go through the private hospital system, where she could choose her surgeon and be in and out of hospital as quickly as possible on treatment days.

The downside was the shortage of people to talk to about her chemotherapy and how she was feeling, which meant that husband Ron copped any emotional outbursts.

“It’s important for people to understand that you need someone you can rant to every now and then. Also, we need to be reminded that they may not be as stoic as they always appear,” says Kim.

It wasn’t the first time Kim had faced surgery. At 18, the now 61-year-old, had open-heart surgery to repair a hole in her heart.

“I was probably overly conscious of how my heart was behaving. I was also aware that there was a process that I, like many others, just needed to follow – with the surgery, chemotherapy and radiation – and I just needed to work through it,” recalls Kim.

Having stopped full time work just before her diagnosis, Kim recognises what a fortunate position she was in. To be able to both draw on her private health cover and not stress about getting back to work was a definite plus.

She also had time to reflect on those going through cancer treatment without the same resources, and involved herself in fund raising for a local cancer support group, Rise Above – Capital Region Cancer Relief.

“Research into breast cancer is so important. It’s got us where we are today,” says Kim.

“But there are also practical things that people need when they have a cancer diagnosis, such as money to cover pharmacy bills or the cost of freezing eggs if they have ovarian cancer.” 

She has also had valuable time to regain her fitness and build camaraderie through Dragon Boating with Dragon’s Abreast ACT – a sport well known for its connection to breast cancer recovery. 

She will be part of a crew paddling on Lake Burley Griffin at this year’s Women in Super Mother’s Day Classic – a walk/run event to raise money for the National Breast Cancer Foundation and the Ovarian Cancer Research Foundation.

Since the Mother’s Day Classic began 26 years ago, the relative five-year survival rate for those diagnosed with breast cancer has risen from 84 per cent to 92 per cent. 

The five-year survival rate for a woman diagnosed with ovarian cancer is currently 49 per cent and there is no early detection test.

In 2024, the MDC will bring people together to walk or run to raise funds to accelerate progress towards a day where every woman diagnosed with either breast or ovarian cancer will be given the assurance that they can survive.

Register to walk or run, fundraise or volunteer for this year’s event on Sunday May 12 at mothersdayclassic.com.au

Bina Brown is a journalist and volunteer for the Canberra Mother’s Day Classic organising committee

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