When Ethna Renner was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2019, it was the most daunting news she had ever received. Suddenly she was faced with something she had no control over.

Her family have been amazing and work has been really supportive, she says. She is also full of praise for the hospital staff and the medical team who looks after her. “You feel like you’re special rather than just a number.”

Something very important to Ethna that she has found incredibly helpful in her breast cancer journey is the free support pack from Breast Cancer Aotearoa Coalition (BCAC), Step by Step. Every woman diagnosed with cancer in New Zealand is offered one.

It contains an information book, diary and journal. If you haven’t received one, please order on our website or write to BCAC, PO Box 90224, Victoria St West, Auckland 1142.

Ethna says, “when I was first diagnosed I was handed a range of information. Most of the documents were clinical – black and white or navy. I was really happy with Step by Step because it really stood out to me and made me want to read it.

“It is bright, colourful and cheerful, which is what you want when you are given bad news. It has really valuable information that gives you lots of easy-to-read information about breast cancer and helps you and your family make informed decisions.”

Step by Step is produced by volunteers from BCAC who themselves have breast cancer. Ethna says, “you can tell it’s been created by women who understand what you are going through. It is absolutely fantastic. I put all the information I receive in there, in one place. It’s like my bible.”

“It’s useful for key information you are told that you may not understand at the time so you can look into it, appointments and contacts. You can give it to your medical team to write in things they know is important for you. I always carry mine around.”

With chemotherapy, memory can be affected so one of the goals of the support pack is to help women remain on top of where they need to be and when. Family commitments and other activities can be added.

Ethna also writes information she is told by her oncologist or nurses so she can refer to it when she needs to, including if the same subject is brought up again. She didn’t think she would use the journal as that is not something she has done before but she started writing in it after every chemo appointment.

“There are positive quotes in the journal which are uplifting so I would write my own positive notes. It helped me feel empowered.

“I think Step by Step is a very valuable tool. When you have something you have no control over, it is great to have something that helps you feel more in control.”

BCAC has been producing and distributing Step by Step nationwide since 2008. The pack is now in its 4th edition, with over 100 packs being sent out each month. “We’re so glad to hear the packs are doing what they were designed for – providing information, strength, confidence and companionship to others going through breast cancer,” says BCAC Committee member Louise Malone.

BCAC is grateful to the Breast Cancer Foundation NZ as principal funder of Step by Step.

11 Sept 2019