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Lisa’s man wins PM honour

Tuesday, 18th October, 2011

By Erica Visser

Breast Cancer Network Australia was stumped when former BH local Scott Hopkins applied for the position as their Liaison Officer - a role that had been reserved for female breast cancer survivors.

Mr Hopkins landed the job and now he has the honour of giving a speech at the Prime Minister’s Lodge in Canberra on Friday to describe his experience as the partner of breast cancer survivor Liz Martin. 

Mr Hopkins, who now lives in Mildura, received an invitation from PM Julia Gillard’s partner, Tim Mathieson, to speak from a male partner’s perspective about the illness as part of Breast Cancer Awareness Week.

“The visit gives a voice to the partners of breast cancer survivors and to let the politicians and heads of medicine hear first hand how is affects not only the person but also the family,” Mr Hopkins explained.

He said that most men tended to shy away because they had trouble speaking about their emotions.

“I have made some good contacts through Breast Cancer Network Australia (BCNA) and am willing to help give a male perspective to anything that they are working on,” Mr Hopkins said.

“I wear my heart on my sleeve and am not afraid to let my feelings show.”

Mr Hopkins and Ms Martin had only been together for 18 months when Ms Martin was diagnosed with breast cancer at 33. 

He said the shock diagnosis upset their expectations for their relationship.

“The hopes and dreams that we had for our relationship ... suddenly we re-evaluated,” he said.

“For instance, we talked about all things such as marriage, kids and death all in a two-week period.”

He said that the situation was made more difficult due to the age of Ms Martin’s daughter, who was four at the time.

“Georgie took it all in her stride and we told Georgie as much as she needed to know for her age.

“We tried to keep most things as normal everyday life but chemo and cancer took control at times.”

Ms Martin said that it was only between rounds of chemotherapy that she had the strength to lead a “normal” life.

“I had a mastectomy, lymph node clearance, six months of chemo, eight weeks of radiation treatment and now I’m on oral and monthly injections,” she said.

“You know chemo will make you sick but I also had white cell injections with each round and those infection side-effects were worse than the chemo.

“Your bones are so sore, movement is extreme pain. A light touch on your hand feels like a brick has dropped on it and to put your head on the pillow hurts.”

Ms Martin said that her husband’s support had been vital to her recovery.

“I found for my own sanity I needed to let reality reign and succumb to the fact that I had to let my partner and family become the ones looking after my daughter when I wasn’t well enough.

“He was the super glue, he became my tissue when I cried, my nurse, my bodyguard from the world on my bad days, my sunshine on my good days.” 

Ms Martin said that Scott’s strength in the situation made him a “real man”.

“Many people turn to gambling, drugs, drinking etcetera when things in their life are out of control or troubling,” she said.

“Scott didn’t...he stood by his family.”

According to Mr Hopkins, more support was needed for the partners of breast cancer victims.

“We don’t look to take away from those with breast cancer but to have services, such as groups or even more information available to give to partners to read.” 

He said that there was a lack of support for cancer sufferers in country areas and because of this he had to rely on online support.

Online help can be found on the BCNA website at www.bcna.org.au. 

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