The Baulkham Hills resident is one of the first patients to be treated at the centre, which opened its doors in September 2022 and will deliver radiation services for up to 900 patients in the Hills Shire region each year.
Maria keeps a positive tune during her breast cancer journey
Maria Worthington celebrated her 79th birthday in October 2022 playing her beloved piano accordion to mark her final session of radiation therapy at the new Icon Cancer Centre Norwest.
“I felt a lump in the breast while I was showering and booked in to see my GP the next day. Within a week of being diagnosed with breast cancer I was having surgery, followed by four months of chemotherapy. I was also advised to have radiation therapy. I found out through my daughter that Icon was opening up in the Hills. At that stage I was planning to travel to Penrith so when I was (referred to Icon Norwest) I thought Santa had come early. I was initially referred to a private centre in Penrith, as I wanted something a little more personalised and smaller than a large public hospital. The closest centre with the same type of technology is nearly an hour away in Penrith and while we were prepared to travel, it makes things very difficult for an older person,” Maria said.
“Given the cancer had already spread to my lymph nodes, and it was Stage 3 and aggressive, I was told the radiation therapy was crucial. They kept telling me I may feel tired and fatigued after the first few sessions, but truly had the most minimal of symptoms. Maybe I was lucky and I know every cancer patient is different, but I found keeping a positive attitude really helped,” Maria added.
The mother of six and grandmother of six said there are other secrets to surviving cancer in older age.
“I kept exercising. I think we have been taught to wrap ourselves up in cotton wool when we get cancer, but small daily weights, walking through chemotherapy if I was well enough and playing my piano accordion kept me sane,” Maria said.
“Moving the bellows in and out was my way of exercising and preventing lymphoedema, which is a common side effect of breast cancer and the doctors really tailored the therapy so I could still do that. I’m not sure if this was so great for my neighbours though because I have been playing it every day during the treatment,” Maria laughed.
Maria also says that the cancer centre and “its exceptional staff” are a Godsend to the local community.
“Not only will it save people travelling every day for many weeks for daily sessions, but it will mean not having to navigate big hospitals and find parking.”
Professor John Boyages AM, one of Australia’s leading breast radiation oncologists treated Maria. He said he was mindful of the impact radiation therapy would have on Maria’s shoulder.
“Shoulder dysfunction after radiation is not uncommon. Thanks to modern radiation techniques used here at Icon, we can better direct the treatment to where it needs to go, which was imperative in Maria’s case. I’m constantly amazed at the sub-millimetre accuracy we can now achieve for patients through our cutting-edge treatments. We have also introduced a new advanced tattoo-less technique. Many radiation departments still use tattoos to help the radiation therapist position the patient correctly to deliver treatment to the right location. Unfortunately, these are a constant reminder of treatment even many years later. It’s wonderful we can bring these advanced treatments and techniques to patients in the Hills Shire and surrounds,” Prof Boyages said.
Become a patient
Find out how to become a patient at Icon Cancer Centre, or request more information from your nearest centre.
Icon brings together some of Australia’s most experienced medical oncologists, radiation oncologists and haematologists.
Learn more about breast cancer in Australia, including signs and symptoms, stages and frequently asked questions.
There are many different treatment options for breast cancer. Find out more about common treatments for breast cancer here.