A single mother who found out she had cancer via a letter in the mail has joined the push to bring radiotherapy services to Shepparton.
Shepparton’s Tracey Visser, 52, was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2015 and had a lumpectomy operation last year to have it removed.
‘‘It was found during my first mammogram... but I found out in the mail accidentally... before I’d even had my doctor’s appointment,’’ Ms Visser said.
‘‘It was like being hit by a brick wall, it was quite confronting... I sat the kids down and they took it pretty well.’’
While the operation was successful, doctors determined Ms Visser would require further treatment in the form of radiotherapy — to ensure the best chance of survival.
This brought new challenges for Ms Visser, who is the primary carer of her son and daughter, who at the time of her illness were aged 13 and 16.
‘‘We had to deal with it the best we could,’’ she said.
‘‘I basically had to take all my annual, sick leave and relied on extra Centrelink benefits to get through... cancer is not cheap,’’ Ms Visser said.
In July last year Ms Visser started six weeks of radiotherapy treatment in Bendigo while her boyfriend Matt looked after her children.
She had one 10-minute treatment per day, every Monday to Friday, before travelling home each weekend to be with her children.
‘‘If we had these radiotherapy services in Shepparton, I could’ve still worked,’’ Ms Visser said.
But the financial toll paled into comparison with the emotional cost of being away from her children.
‘‘You need your support mechanisms there... a sense of normality,’’ Ms Visser said.
‘‘It’s just crazy that we don’t have these radiation services in Shepparton... there is a massive need.’’
Speaking during an adjournment debate in State Parliament recently, State Member for Northern Victoria Wendy Lovell shared Ms Visser’s story and said it was yet more evidence of the dire need for radiotherapy services in the region.
‘‘If radiotherapy services were available at Goulburn Valley Health, Tracey would have received the daily treatment, continued her work and spent each night in the loving arms of her children,’’ Ms Lovell said.
‘‘(Her) story is sadly typical of any cancer patient living in the Goulburn Valley that needs radiotherapy as part of their treatment plan.’’