This Breast Cancer Awareness Month, we’re celebrating two of our valued volunteers and breast cancer survivors, who are dedicated to using their experiences to support women in their community who have undergone the same diagnosis.
Friends Wendy Head and Jeanette Baxter have known each other for over fifteen years. The pair met when Wendy was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2003. As a Cancer Council Queensland volunteer, Jeanette would visit the hospital and talk with Wendy throughout her treatment, offering support, hope and advice as a breast cancer survivor.
‘The treatments are different but the feelings when you get diagnosed remain the same over time,’ says Jeanette, explaining the value of being able to chat to someone who has had a similar cancer experience.
Jeanette inspired Wendy to become a volunteer too, and now both ladies volunteer in Toowoomba together.
Wendy and Jeanette are part of the ESA Wig and Turban Service (WATS), which provides wigs and turbans to women experiencing hair loss due to cancer treatment.
‘Losing your hair during cancer treatment can be very daunting,’ says Wendy. She and Jeanette aim to assist women with cancer to regain their confidence and dignity through the fitting of wigs and turbans.
Both ladies spend valuable time with the women who seek out WATS, sharing advice on scalp care, moisturisers and fitting tips. Wendy describes it as ‘a bit of a girly time.’
‘When they walk out of their appointment, the look on their face is heartwarming. They are so happy and confident.’
Sharing their firsthand experience of breast cancer and empathising with other ladies in their community undergoing treatment, is very important to Wendy and Jeanette.
‘People are always very glad to see us. We can talk to them at the level they’re at and be very understanding,’ says Jeanette.
Wendy agrees, noting that often the patients will ask them questions they don’t want to bother the doctor with, such as those concerning everyday life and cancer.
‘They can trust that it would never be a silly question,’ says Wendy.
Jeanette and Wendy both express how thankful they are for the chance to make a positive impact on the lives of people in their community with cancer.
‘Although people with cancer may be scared or uncertain about the future, they’re always very receptive of help and grateful to receive it.’
WATS is currently operating via mail due to COVID-19, but Wendy and Jeanette are very much looking forward to getting back to face to face appointments when it’s safe to do so. Both ladies are still offering support to women with breast cancer via phone through Cancer Council Queensland’s Cancer Connect program.