Deaf woman’s devastating double cancer diagnoses
RECEIVING a cancer diagnosis is a devastating thing for anyone to contemplate, but for those who suffer from deafness, it can prove even more challenging.
Ipswich 54-year-old Belinda Mace, who was born deaf, realised these challenges recently, receiving a diagnosis that was delayed due to communication difficulties.
Ms Mace had been suffering from a cyst on her ovaries for 12 years before a node was found in December 2019.
She was told she was eligible for a hysterectomy after having previously been knocked back because she hadn't had children.
After undergoing the operation in March 2020, Ms Mace was delighted to find out she was cancer-free, but there was shocking news yet to come.
She later received a letter from the oncology department at her hospital advising her that she had not received a full hysterectomy, and that signs of ovarian cancer were present.
"My mum had died from ovarian cancer very suddenly," she said.
"It was extremely depressing finding out I had cancer; I thought first I am born deaf, then my mum dies, and now I have cancer and am experiencing what my mum went through."
She said she was extremely frustrated by her difficulties in communicating with doctors.
"The challenges were so frustrating, especially trying to get interpreters in for my surgeries and medical appointments," she said.
"I was NDIS managed and it was so very hard to get any support with me having a communication barrier.
"Because of COVID-19, interpreters just weren't showing up. So I relied heavily on my sister Karen. She did everything for me."
During what was already a difficult time, Ms Mace also noticed a large red welt appear on her breast.
A biopsy confirmed the worst - it was breast cancer.
She went on to have a full hysterectomy and breast lumpectomy in the space of two weeks and was then referred to Icon Cancer Centre Springfield for 20 sessions of radiation therapy treatment, which she completed in September this year.
She received latest in radiation treatment at the Springfield facility, including what is known as Deep Inspiration Breath Hold, which protects the patient's heart during radiation.
Icon Radiation Oncologist Dr Manoja Palliyaguru said the treatment works by telling the patient to hold their breath for short intervals during treatment, which causes the heart to move further away from the radiation treatment area.
"Instructions have traditionally been communicated verbally using an intercom system," Dr Palliyaguru said.
"To support Belinda in receiving DIBH, our team developed a screen and light system that visually indicated when to breathe in and out."
Ms Mace is now determined to beat the cancers and says she is feeling "quite well".
"I have started hormone tablets which I will be required to take for five years," she said.
"At the moment I'm struggling with the instant menopausal symptoms. It is very uncomfortable especially the horrible hot flushes.
"I have seen my GP and he has always been very supportive.
"I can't express how much the Icon and Mater hospital staff made my cancer journey so comfortable.
"My advice to any others that have to battle cancer, is to find support (NDIS). There are so many appointments. And it's so easy to get depressed."
Deaf Australia CEO Kyle Miers said Ms Mace's story demonstrated the importance of providing care that considers the needs of every person, including those that are deaf and hard of hearing.
"We know that society can take sounds for granted, which impacts the ability of deaf and hard of hearing people to access healthcare and services in their everyday lives. With appropriate support, as was clearly demonstrated in Belinda's experience at Icon, the individual can take appropriate action to help improve and manage their healing process. This is something we can do more of to ensure that no one is left behind," Mr Miers said.