Nurse Sharon Shelford and Renee Nielson
Nurse Sharon Shelford and Renee Nielson Troy Jegers

Gympie nurse helping 80 new breast cancer patients each year

GYMPIE Hospital has this week celebrated 10 years of McGrath Foundation Breast Care Nurse Sharon Shelford's work there.

In her role as a McGrath Breast Care Nurse, Ms Shelford is a central point of contact for people with breast cancer throughout their breast cancer diagnosis, treatment and into recovery. Her services are free to patients, thanks to funding provided by the McGrath Foundation.

Ms Shelford ensures clients are well supported by relevant health practitioners, facilitates appointments, results and co-ordinates treatment schedules. In addition to this physical care, she provides emotional support to people with breast cancer and their families.

Breast cancer patient Renee Nielson said having Ms Shelford to support her was invaluable.

"Shortly after being diagnosed I was introduced to Sharon. Within a week of meeting her she had referred me to cancer support agencies, organised information to be sent out to my family and myself and answered any questions I had regarding my diagnosis.

"During my treatment, Sharon organised referrals for the oncologist, psychologist, exercise physiologist and radiation team. I had to take leave without pay from work which meant we had to reassess our finances. Sharon organised letters from the oncologist for the bank and my work confirming my treatment,” Renee said.

"A year after my diagnosis we are still in regular contact. This week I had my first nurse-led clinic and it was reassuring to have someone I know so well complete my examination. We discussed my general health and went through some results of recent tests I had. Sharon explained the results to me which put my mind at ease.

"I have felt so well supported. To know I could reach out to Sharon has helped enormously.”

Ms Shelford said she averages about 80 newly diagnosed clients a year.

"A typical patient is under my 'care' for five years - although they are always welcome to call me at any time after this with any concerns. Most of my referrals are via BreastScreen Queensland, with patients also being able to self-refer,” she said.

"Our nurse-led follow up clinics, which Renee recently participated in, help ease the burden on the over stretched surgical and medical oncology clinics. Whilst the clinics have a medical focus, they also have a holistic focus, realising that a cancer diagnosis can have long term side effects both physically and psychologically once 'active' treatment is finished.

"As well as my individual patients and clinics, my role also entails providing breast awareness education to various community groups, and attending fundraising events on behalf of the McGrath Foundation.

"I can honestly hand on heart say that I love my position, and my role is both rewarding and fulfilling and hopefully it makes a difference to the people of our community who have been diagnosed with breast cancer.”