Rockhampton nurse finds inspiration in hardship

A shock breast cancer diagnosis and 12 months of treatment inspired Rockhampton mum Narelle Yench to become an oncology nurse and help other women facing a similar trial.

Narelle had been working at the Kaloma Home for the Aged in Goondiwindi when she was diagnosed with an aggressive form of breast cancer in September 2020.

“I was 43 years old at the time, a mother of two teenagers,” she said. “I immediately began chemotherapy treatment which meant I was unable to continue to work.

“I moved to Rockhampton to be close to my family and started having my treatment at Mater Private Hospital Rockhampton’s oncology unit.”

Narelle said the compassion and care she received from oncology nurses at Mater Private Hospital Rockhampton inspired her to consider a similar career path.

“I went on to have mastectomy surgery in March this year and radiation in June,” she said.

“I just felt that I could offer other women going through similar circumstances genuine empathy and bring my lived experience with breast cancer to the role.”

Narelle, who had been studying to become a nurse before she was diagnosed, began working in the oncology unit at Mater Private Hospital Rockhampton last month –one year after she was diagnosed.

“Although there is a great deal for me to learn from a clinical perspective, I am ready for the challenge,” she said.

Mater Private Hospital Rockhampton Executive Officer Sue Thurbon said patients valued Narelle's understanding of their situation.

“It’s often important that cancer patients feel the people providing their care understand the mental, emotional and spiritual challenges they are facing, as well as the physical aspects,” Sue said.

“Narelle has been incredibly resilient through her treatment and has a lot of real-life experience that patients will find extremely valuable and inspiring.”

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