When Macarthur residents are in their greatest time of need, Vicki Bell is there to answer the call.
Ms Bell has been a McGrath Foundation breast care nurse since 2011 and this week she reached an incredible milestone – treating her 1000th patient.
The St Helens Park resident said she was glad to have played a role in the lives of so many during their toughest times.
“That’s 1000 people and their families that I’ve helped,” she said.
“Being able to help that amount of people is a great thing.”
There are 117 McGrath breast care nurses Australia-wide, with two of those – Ms Bell and Linda Nolasco – covering Campbelltown, Camden and Bowral alone.
Ms Bell said her role was to be with the patient from the beginning to the end.
“My role is a supportive and educational role,” she said.
“I provide them with education before their surgery and afterwards I go with them to see specialists like a radio oncologist – I support them through anything they are worried about.
“I also support their partners and children.
“But I’m just one person in the whole cancer experience.
“There are also people like occupational therapists, social workers and doctors.”
Despite her workload Ms Bell said there were still certain patients who stood out.
“It’s often the younger ones – those under 35 – because they will be living with the fact that they’ve had treatment,” she said.
“Pregnant women who are diagnosed also stay in my mind. They have to have chemotherapy while they’re pregnant.”
When it comes to breast cancer the statistics are confronting.
The McGrath Foundation said one in eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer before the age of 85 with a 90 per cent chance of survival from five years after the original diagnosis.
Men are also not immune to the disease with 150 diagnosed every year.
Ms Bell urges women and men to look out for the signs which include new lumps, thickening of the breast under the arm, nipple sores and/or red swollen bits.
“If you have any doubt seek out information. Pick up the phone (to your doctor) and make the call,” she said.