“I’m still alive because of it”: Cancer survivor’s research request

Photo of Jacqui and her daughter Evie.

Breast cancer survivor Jacqui Faliszewski with her daughter Evie (age 3).

An Adelaide mother who was diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 37 has urged people to dig deep to support cancer research, saying she wouldn’t be here today if not for science and her young daughter.

In 2021, Jacqui Faliszewski was breastfeeding two-year-old Evie when she felt a lump in her breast. Initially thought to be related to breastfeeding, further medical investigation led to a devastating discovery – Jacqui had multiple tumours measuring more than eight centimetres in her breasts and was subsequently diagnosed with stage three breast cancer.

“It was just a massive shock to the system. I was 37 years old, a new mum and I had no family history of breast cancer so to receive that diagnosis was completely terrifying. Having to tell your parents and your family and then seeing their heartbreak, it was just awful,” said Jacqui, who is part of SAiGENCI’s Consumer Advisory Group.

SAiGENCI is a world-class cancer research institute jointly resourced by the University of Adelaide, the Federal Department of Health and the Central Adelaide Local Health Network (CALHN), which aims to bring together the best minds in cancer research in the hope of improving treatments and potentially finding a cure for the deadly disease.

“It went from zero to 100 in an instant. I had to stop breastfeeding the day that I was diagnosed due to the scans and starting chemotherapy. It all happened so fast that I was unable to undergo egg collection prior to starting treatment. This was absolutely devastating as we were trying to have a second baby at the time, “said Jacqui.

Jacqui underwent six months of chemotherapy as well as having a double mastectomy, radiation and hormone blockers. She set herself a goal – to see Evie start school.

Three years later, she was there for that emotional milestone and is now sharing her story to raise awareness of the importance of cancer research and encourage people to donate to the SAiGENCI appeal.

“I’m really passionate about research- without it, there are no treatments. I’m still alive because of it, my daughter has a mum because of it. You can really change a person’s life and I urge everyone to support this year’s giving appeal,” said Jacqui.

“I’m really passionate about research- without it, there are no treatments. I’m still alive because of it, my daughter has a mum because of it. You can really change a person’s life and I urge everyone to support this year’s giving appeal.”Jacqui Faliszewski, SAiGENCI’s Consumer Advisory Group, University of Adelaide.

Inside SAiGENCI’s state-of-the-art facility, research is currently underway into breast cancers that affect younger women. Triple negative breast cancer is one of the targets. One of the most aggressive forms of breast cancer, it’s more challenging to treat but a new drug formulation is providing hope.

The drug blocks the protein which regulates the genes that control how the cancer grows and researchers suspect the drug might not only be powerful enough to fight cancer on its own but may also make existing chemotherapies and immunotherapy more effective.

Mutations that encourage cancer growth are another focus for SAiGENCI researchers. Mutations in the GATA3 gene appears to be more common in younger, pre-menopausal women and researchers are using molecular techniques with cultured human mammary cells to investigate how it could drive cancer formation.

“These are just a few examples of the cutting-research we hope will help us achieve our goal of making cancer history. Our brilliant team of biomedical and clinical, researchers are working tirelessly to deliver lifechanging and lifesaving treatments for cancer patients,” said Professor Christopher Sweeney, Director of SAiGENCI.

Donations to the SAiGENCI appeal will go towards helping cancer researchers uncover those vital answers on prevention, treatment, relapses, and treatment resistance.

“I’m just so fortunate that my cancer responded to treatment. While I still live in fear that it might come back, I’m hoping that sharing my experience raises awareness of breast cancer and the importance of supporting cancer research. You really can make a difference and maybe even save someone’s life,” said Jacqui.

The SAiGENCI appeals runs until the end of June. To donate, visit https://www.adelaide.edu.au/give/saigenci

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