Don’t lose hope!

31 Jan 2021

Sue Hayes – Community Ambassador, Bendigo, Victoria

Close to 22,000 Australians will be diagnosed with breast, ovarian or brain cancer this year[1]. With breast cancer now the most commonly diagnosed cancer in Australia, this includes 19,535 people who will face a breast cancer diagnosis in 2018[2]. Every year, 3058 women and 32 men will lose their lives to breast cancer, the equivalent of eight deaths per day[3].

Three months to live. That is what Sue Hayes was told in April 2011 after many weeks of medical visits after her first experiencing pain and discomfort in the lower abdominal area. What were first thought to be a number of ovarian cysts in initial testing, turned out to be a diagnosis of Stage 3c, an aggressive type of ovarian cancer.

“It was just so, unexpected. And such a terrible shock.” Sue said.

Soon to follow was a full hysterectomy and chemotherapy. Unknown to Sue, it was only the very beginning of a long journey.

After treatment and resuming back to normal life, Sue’s son Tyler was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma the following year, she was caring for and supporting him throughout his treatment and recovery. Due to her son’s diagnoses, and the recent deaths of her aunt and cousin due to the disease, Sue’s medical team encouraged her to undertake testing for the BRCA1 gene through the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre.

The results confirmed that Sue did, in fact, possess the BRCA 1 gene which meant that she was not only facing ovarian cancer but was also at a 95% risk of developing breast cancer. The funding of research into inherited gene mutations like BRCA1 and BRCA2 ultimately provided Sue the ability to make a preventative decision.

“At that point, I chose to opt for the double mastectomy to clear all the potential risks. This vital information enabled me to make a decision to eliminate the almost certain chance of my developing breast cancer, off the table.” Said Sue.

Sue believes having this knowledge about the BRCA1 gene has been the key to her preventative treatment.

“There’s always hope because research will give everyone hope to find a cure,”

After the elective operation was successfully completed in 2016, Sue’s ovarian cancer returned in the following month. “I was so unlucky again but told myself, don’t lose hope! Research and funding gives people with cancer hope,” Sue says.

Following recovery from the double mastectomy, the doctors had to remove a tumour from her stomach region later that year and Sue again required three months of chemotherapy. Sue was then offered a trial treatment, to treat the ovarian cancer orally. The trial treatment would endeavour to try and block the BRCA 1 gene mutation from producing cancer cells. 16 tablets daily. These tablets contain a type of chemotherapy. The side effects including fatigue, memory loss, nausea, aches and pains.

“This medication has provided me time, time with my family, time to continue to fight the cancer. Time that I would have not once had. It has been provided through funding and research.”

In March 2019, Sue’s body was not tolerating the high dose of treatment from the trial medication despite being on it for two and a half years. Doctors informed her she needs a break, risking the potential for the ovarian cancer to return. All Sue can do now is wait for the cancer to return, then await further research and the next available trial treatment to prolong her life with cancer.

In October last year, the National Breast Cancer Foundation (NBCF) launched two new collaborative grants with the Ovarian Cancer Research Foundation (OCRF) and Cure Brain Cancer (CBCF). These grants target breast, ovarian and brain cancer.

NBCF CEO Professor Sarah Hosking said that the NBCF was leading the way in terms of offering linkage grants to Australian researchers, enabling more funding to be spread across multiple cancer types to speed up the next big breakthrough.

“Our linkage grants are designed to get Australian cancer researchers to collaborate and leverage off each other’s knowledge and findings. This will enable them to accelerate new and ground-breaking research that will directly impact Australians with breast, ovarian and brain cancer, ultimately save lives,” said Professor Hosking.

Sue feels strongly that funding of this research is crucial in the prolonging of not just the life, but the quality of life of people diagnosed with cancer like her. Hopefully this will benefit courageous women like Sue Hayes and she will continue sharing time with her family.

Through her participation in the Mother’s Day Classic, Sue hopes for recognition of all the past, present and future women that have or will be diagnosed with breast cancer.

“I am fundraising for research. I am fundraising for knowledge. I am fundraising for awareness. I am fundraising to prolong the time with family that women diagnosed with cancer have. I am fundraising for women that have fought and are still fighting,” says Sue.

Join Sue in making Mother’s Day mean more this year. By walking, running, donating or fundraising, you really can help us make a difference to the lives of those with breast cancer and for future generations.


[1] Cancer Australia:

[2] Cancer Australia:

[3] As above