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Thursday, July 25, 2024

Redlands granny who battled rare cancer to ‘run’ in virtual fundraiser

Redlands grandmother, Debbie Andersen, was working as a volunteer in the Mater Cancer Care Centre at South Brisbane when doctors diagnosed her with a rare form of breast cancer. 

Mrs Andersen (pictured), from Capalaba, had a malignant Phyllodes tumour, a cancer that makes up less than 1% of all breast tumours.

Unlike most forms of breast cancer, which usually starts in the ducts or glands, phyllodes tumours are rare tumours that start in the connective tissue (called the stroma) of the breast.

The 60-year-old was diagnosed in 2020 after finding a lump in her left breast – just bigger than the size of a pea.

In a bid to create more awareness about breast cancer, Mrs Andersen is taking part in the International Women’s Day Fun Run, presented by Queensland X-Ray on 10 March.

The CBD event is now sold out, but Mrs Andersen is calling on residents in the Redland City region to create or join ‘virtual’ funs runs in their communities.

“I know firsthand what it’s like to have breast cancer – so knowing money raised from this event will go towards research to help other generations with the disease is comforting,” Mrs Andersen said.

Mrs Andersen says she was ‘shocked’ when doctors told her she had a rare breast cancer but remained positive through her treatment.

“My surgeon Dr Emma Clarkson was wonderful, she kept me informed with everything from the time I was diagnosed – I had a fabulous journey at Mater,” she said.

“I just couldn’t believe I was volunteering in the Mater Cancer Care Centre at the time I was diagnosed.

“I was used to providing comfort to cancer patients and found myself needing that comfort.”

Mrs Andersen said her treatment involved removing the lump in her breast and having a tennis-size ball “scoop of tissue” removed, as well as radiation for eight weeks.

“I have a scar from my left side of my back all the way to the front of my breast – but I am cancer free and only require yearly checkups,” she said.

She says her journey with breast cancer has helped reassure other cancer patients that they will be OK.

“I always tell them that in a few years they won’t remember this time, it’ll be a memory” she said.

The passionate volunteer has clocked up more than 3,700 hours of service since 2011 at Mater, where she also volunteers as a cuddle carer at Mater Private Hospital Redland.

Her duties include creating baby footprint cards for Mater families, with funds raised going back into services for Mater Mothers’ hospitals through a grant program.

Mater Foundation Chief Executive, Andrew Thomas said thousands of Queenslanders have already thrown their support behind the virtual challenge after the Brisbane CBD event sold out in record time.

“This year’s event will be the biggest ever – and there’s still time for Queenslanders everywhere to sign up online to a fun run in their community,” Mr Thomas said.

“People are gathering their family, friends, work colleagues and even their fur babies to be part of their team,” Mr Thomas said.

“From local parks, along the coastline or even on a treadmill – the possibilities are endless.”

Funds from the event will go towards life-saving breast cancer research, as well as services and support for breast cancer patients at Mater hospitals in Brisbane, Springfield, Redlands, Townsville, Mackay, Rockhampton and Bundaberg.

The virtual challenge allows people to walk, jog or run 5km, or choose their own distance, in their neighbourhood any time between Sunday 3 March and Sunday 10 March.

Register for the virtual event at www.womensdayfunrun.com.au.  

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