What would we do without nurses? They do more than check vitals and administer medication; they soothe and support, offer tough love and sound advice, and keep us sane when we’re terrified and unsure. There’s no doubt that nurses are special, and they’re often the unsung heroes of any medical battle.
Bec Hay is that same kind of experienced and thoughtful nurse, based in Warrnambool, Victoria — but she has a unique and focused responsibility: caring for breast cancer patients physically, psychologically, and emotionally, for free.
Hay is part of a network of nurses sponsored by the McGrath Foundation. Jane McGrath, the founder of the foundation, was 31 when she was first diagnosed with breast cancer. Her relationship with her breast cancer nurse inspired her and her husband to create the McGrath Foundation to help thousands of men and women fighting breast cancer by providing specialized breast cancer nurses. On top of that, they raise money to make this care free, to ensure that patients don’t have to have a certain income to be able to benefit from much-needed support.
As of 2020, there are 135 McGrath Breast Care Nurses available all over Australia, and they have supported over 75,000 patients and their families, from diagnosis through treatments.
Hay has been a breast cancer nurse for over 15 years, and finds a deep satisfaction in her job. One of the most important skills she’s learned is being able to see each cancer patient’s experience as unique to them, and through their eyes.
“If somebody’s told they’ve had cancer, that’s all they hear,” Hay says. “They then shut off. Part of my role then is sit them down in a very relaxed environment to come to terms with the shock.”
One of her patients featured in the video below was terrified when she got her cancer diagnosis. She, like many people who hear the word “cancer,” immediately associated it with “death.” Having someone there to explain what was going on in a comfortable, open environment — and to be there throughout her treatments — was invaluable.
“The specialists are brilliant and wonderful, but that’s not their field, to take you through that. That’s her field,” the patient says about Hay, “and she takes you through that and makes it okay. It gave you a sense of confidence and reassurance that she was always there.”
Another patient of Hay’s says that Hay was available and on-call at any time, ready to answer any questions she had, big or small. She now considers Hay more than just a nurse, but a friend.
As for Hay, she considers herself lucky to be a part of their lives and a privilege to be able to work with them. “I build up relationships with very special people,” she says.
Watch the video to learn more about the great care nurses give to their patients.
C. Dixon likes to read, sing, eat, drink, write, and other verbs. She enjoys cavorting around the country to visit loved ones and experience new places, but especially likes to be at home with her husband, son, and dog.