When Erin Osborne was 32, life looked rosy. She had a bubbly two-year-old and was 13 weeks pregnant with her second child.
Then came the news. Erin had breast cancer. She had no idea it was coming.
“The initial reaction was fear for my unborn child and I was overwhelmed with so many questions,” says Erin. “Would I have to terminate the pregnancy? Would any treatment affect my unborn child? What if my two-year-old had to grow up without a mum?”
That was in 2015. Today, life is looking rosy once more. Erin is in remission and awaiting reconstructive surgery. Her children are healthy. “I’m happy and we’re all moving on with life,” says Erin.
It goes unsaid that support mechanisms are essential for cancer patients and through her journey Erin learned about Bosom Buddies and its relatively new “Young Women’s Group” events. The twist for Erin was finding a support group of women around her age—a tribe with common concerns and shared insights that the medical profession doesn’t always have time to deal with.
“I was young compared to many women who have breast cancer and was facing different issues,” says Erin. “Older women don’t have two-year-olds to cart around and the running of their households is different because chances are their kids have left home. I knew I’d benefit from support from my own age group.”
The Young Women’s Group support network began after Bosom Buddies noticed a gap for women between the ages of 20 and 40 who had recently been diagnosed with, or were being treated for, breast cancer.
The youngest person in the ACT to be diagnosed with breast cancer was 18 years of age.
“While highly unusual,” says Liesl Centenera, President of Bosom Buddies, “it’s a reality that breast cancer affects many younger women under 50.”
“These women can be single or have young and demanding families,” says Liesl. “Their challenges are unique, including on the financial side as they’re less likely to have stocks of super or insurance, or access to concessions. They’re also dealing with different issues relating to their sexuality, self-esteem, and work. Our research told us a new monthly group would help.”
The first Young Women’s Group event—weeknight drinks at The Duxton in April—gave young women a change to get out of the house and socialise, as well as learn from each other. The timing and type of events will be refined through feedback.
Erin says the gatherings are invaluable. “We talk about so much, like how to talk to your young kids about mum having cancer, how to juggle being sick with family needs and running a household, how to manage side effects and even things like where to find quality wigs that are suitable for younger women,” says Erin. “It helps you feel less alone.”
Young Women’s Group events are supported by the Independent Foundation, which has just passed it’s $1 million mark in donating to not-for-profits in Canberra. Gary Butcher, on behalf of Independent, says the Foundation reviews proposals put forward by charities for specific initiatives and funds those approved.
“Independent has been operating in Canberra since 1958 in different shapes and forms,” says Gary. “We wouldn’t be where we are today if it wasn’t for local community support, so it made sense for us to give back, and thus the Foundation was established. We’ve helped around 50 charities over the past seven years.”
“Breast cancer has touched each and every one of us in some way,” says Gary. “It’s a cause that’s near and dear to our staff who have helped Bosom Buddies in many ways, including once with a $50,000 donation from the Foundation. We’re blessed to have staff within the group who are motivated to raise money for charities.”
Bosom Buddies has been a saviour for Erin.
“I only knew one other person going through the same things as I was when I learned I had breast cancer,” says Erin. “It was fantastic finding my own tribe.”
More information on Bosom Buddies’ Young Women’s Group events is online. The next event will be held 8 May from 7 pm at The Pavilion, Northbourne Avenue.