WHEN Joanne Mackay was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2001, she was thankful that she at least had the financial means and support of family and friends to fight the disease.
The wife of former St George rugby league star Brad Mackay was 36 when she found a lump in her breast, 10 weeks after giving birth to their third child.
She was diagnosed with aggressive breast cancer had a mastectomy followed by chemotherapy.
During her treatment, Mrs Mackay who grew up in St George, expressed concern for women who were not only going through the physical and emotional pain of breast cancer, but had the added anxiety of paying bills.
Sadly, the cancer spread to her bones and Mrs Mackay (pictured with husband Brad before her illness), died on July 11, 2002.
Three months later, the Joanne Mackay Breast Cancer Foundation was formed. The first fund-raiser was held in October 2002, with fellow breast cancer sufferer Jane McGrath among the attendees.
Unlike the McGrath Foundation, which uses funds raised to provide breast care nurses, the Joanne Mackay Breast Cancer Foundation helps patients and their families meet day-to-day living expenses such as transport, medical bills and household costs.
They will even pay for a house cleaner or buy wigs and prosthetic breasts. Patients are referred by oncology nurses or social workers at St George Hospital.
"We have 30 women on the books at any given time," director Karen Wyght said.
"We are supporting more women every year and for a longer amount of time.
"Sometimes they need our help for six months and sometimes they come back because they need more treatment," she said.
Brad Mackay is still involved in the charity, as are the couple's two oldest children, Angus, 17, and Bria, 15. Their youngest child, Tully, is now 11.
ONE GRATEFUL MUM
Fiona Christer-Brooks, of Caringbah South, was grateful for the financial help she and
her husband received during her breast cancer battle.
The mother of three children — Madison, 12, Aimee, 9, and Jai, 7 — was diagnosed in April last year after seeing her GP.
‘‘I had an irregular blemish on my breast,’’ she said. ‘‘My GP gave me some antibiotics and said to come back in a week if it was still there.’’
A mammogram and ultrasound revealed cancer in her milk ducts. She had a lumpectomy followed by four months of chemotherapy and seven weeks of radiotherapy.
Mrs Christer-Brooks, 40, was too unwell to work her regular hours and was worried about paying the bills before she was referred to the foundation.
‘‘They paid for some of my medical expenses and council rates and the electricity bill and things like that,’’ she said. ‘‘It was just like a burden had been lifted’’.
*The foundation will celebrate its 10th anniversary on August 31 with a Bollywood night at Stanwell Tops Conference Centre auditorium. The BYO event costs $50 a head ($80 a double for mothers and daughters)