IGA has supported McGrath Breast Care Nurses for 10 years and to date has raised over $1,400,000 from the IGA Community Chest initiative to help fund two full-time McGrath Breast Care Nurses in WA, VIC and NSW.
Monica Jessop, is a nurse who is funded by IGA, providing invaluable emotional support for local families experiencing breast cancer, from the time of diagnosis and throughout treatment.
Monica says: "The most important thing I do for my patients is be a resource, advocate, educator and most importantly, a friend. Be a shoulder to cry on and a person to laugh with. I support patients and their families in the Riverina region of NSW including Wagga Wagga, West Wyalong, Temora, Lockhart, Narrandera, Tumbarumba, Tumut, Gundagai, Junee, Batlow and Coolamon."
The funds raised from IGA Community Chest go some way towards supporting nurses serving rural areas where there is not always medical assistance readily available.
Question: What originally inspired your passion for nursing?
Monica Jessop: My inspiration to become a nurse was sparked by my mother and grandmother who were strong, independent nurses.
I remember my mum would talk about her residents in the aged care home with warmth and delight. Every day would be different and as a young child I would 'help out' on open days and special occasions.
As I grew older I felt that I could make a difference. A difference when someone is sad, distressed or even happy.
Throughout my career I have been honoured to be able to support many people and their families
Question: How did you become an IGA McGrath Breast Care Nurse?
Monica Jessop: I was very fortunate to have the opportunity in my nursing career to have a change in direction.
I had admired the McGrath Foundation breast care nurse's holistic approach to caring for a person and their family with breast cancer.
I've been a McGrath Breast Care Nurse since 2015, a registered nurse since 1997 and I also have a Graduate Certificate in Diabetes Education and a Graduate Certificate in Breast Cancer Nursing.
Question: What's a typical day like in your role as an IGA McGrath Breast Care Nurse?
Monica Jessop: Every day is different, my role is varied and exciting.
As our service extends to West Wyalong, Gundagai over to Henty and Narrandera, my clients can live over two hours away. With this in mind I do many telephone call consults to ensure they have adequate resources and linkages to community and professional health professionals as required.
My role includes ensuring that peoplewho are having breast surgeries are prepared, educated and supported through this difficult time. Ensuring follow-up appointments, questions are answered and care coordination is paramount.
I often follow up my clients at the Riverina Cancer Care Centre if having Chemotherapy and provide support to those who have radiotherapy.
Some days I will do education with nursing staff, breast awareness promotion and weekly meetings.
Question: How do you usually support a patient?
Monica Jessop: I am very mindful that everyone is different.
Firstly, I believe it is important to have a discussion with the person and their family to understand their knowledge and fill in the 'gaps" and provide current and evidence based recommendations.
Every person with breast cancer will have a different experience and respond differently in situations.
At diagnosis women/men can be shocked, upset and distressed. Being able to talk with a McGrath Breast Care Nurse can assist with alleviating the fear of the unknown through knowledge and resources, but more importantly having a safe place to talk about how they feel and what concerns them. Linking people to other supportive services like dietitians, social workers, Canteen and support groups can provide other avenues to reduce anxiety and distress.
When people are having chemotherapy they want to feel comfortable with how they feel and look. My role includes discussing when and how they may lose their hair. Exploring strategies to assist in reducing the distress of losing their hair, referring to wig provider and the Look Good Feel better program and ensuring they have support at home.
Ensuring that the communicating with family, friends and carers who are the closest and dearest to clients with a breast cancer experience is essential as they are often the ones who are having to 'step up", attend to new aspects of daily life as well as support their loved one.
Often it's also important that I'm not just communicating with the person who has been diagnosed with breast cancer, but also their family, friends and carers. These are the people who have to -step up' to attend to new aspects of daily life to support their loved one. Providing support to these people and educating them about breast cancer can make a huge difference.
By providing education, physical care and an emotional outlet for a women or man going through a breast cancer experience I am hopeful it empowers them to have the ability to face the future with a zest for life and resilience.
Question: How can Australians help support McGrath Breast Care Nurses?
Monica Jessop: The McGrath Foundation raises money to fund McGrath Breast Care Nurses in communities across Australia and increases breast health understanding.
Our vision is a McGrath Breast Care Nurse for every person experiencing breast cancer no matter where they live or their financial situation. But the reality is that we are still a long way from meeting this need. By making a donation to the Foundation or hosting a fundraising event anyone can help the McGrath Foundation fund McGrath Breast Care Nurses to help make life for families experiencing breast cancer that little bit easier. Visit www.mcgrathfoundation.com.au
Being kind to all.
Interview by Brooke Hunter