Huia is currently taking part in the ABCpro Study.
Huia ensured she attended her annual breast screening appointments. Huia’s regular mammogram in 2020, which was delayed by a month and a half due to the Covid-19 lockdown, showed an abnormality in her breast. A scan and biopsy confirmed she had breast cancer.
In June and July 2020, Huia underwent two surgeries to remove the cancer and her lymph nodes. This was to be followed up with chemotherapy in August 2020 and in Huia's mind she was mentally preparing for this next stage.
However, a precautionary MRI scan revealed Huia’s breast cancer had metastasised to multiple places in her spine, and a rib. In August 2020, at the age of 53, Huia was diagnosed with advanced breast cancer and advised it was very treatable but not curable.
“It was a bit of a shock, because I thought I was going to be starting chemotherapy in August. I was definitely mentally preparing for that. It was a surprise because the pathway I initially envisioned had changed quite suddenly.”
After discovering she had advanced breast cancer, Huia was approached by medical oncologist and Breast Cancer Research Trust board member, Dr Marion Kuper, about participating in the ABCpro study.
The ABCpro study is introducing electronic reporting of symptoms and treatment side effects for women living with advanced breast cancer (ABC). Participating women complete a weekly survey on their symptoms and side effects. If there is a deterioration in either, an email alert is sent to an ABC nurse, who then contacts the woman to discuss how to manage the discomfort she is experiencing.
Being a part of the ABCpro study has provided Huia with a sense of support and peace of mind.
“For me, being a participant in the ABC study meant that I was going to receive extra immediate care and support. It feels like a wrap-around service.”
The ABC tool has enabled Huia to connect with an ABC nurse who provides her with ideas to help self-manage her symptoms and any side effects.
“I’ve built a really good rapport with my nurse, which has been great.”
Additionally, the ABC tool has aided Huia in connecting with specialists such as a physio, lymphedema nurse, and a dietitian, contributing to better quality of life.
Huia speaks highly of the ABCpro study, and the important role the regular surveys have played in helping her monitor and manage her symptoms and side effects.
“I have found over the years with full time working, after work family commitments and activities I haven't always taken the time to look out for myself. The ABC survey is a little reminder for me to check in on my health for the week.”
Huia hopes that other people living with advanced breast cancer can benefit, like she has, from the ABC tool, and improve their quality of life through ongoing and consistent monitoring and management of symptoms and side effects.
“I’d encourage anyone with advanced breast cancer to try using the weekly ABC tool, as it may nip any issues in the bud quickly. I hope that they continue to progress with this tool and others will have this option available throughout Aotearoa."
Huia understands the significant impact that research can have on the advancement and progression of breast cancer treatment and is a firm believer in supporting a cause such as the Breast Cancer Research Trust.
“Any work that the Breast Cancer Research Trust does that is going to give women and/or men longevity and quality of life living with an incurable disease is certainly well worth supporting."