We spoke with Sham about her metastatic breast cancer diagnosis, her decision to participate in the CAPTURE clinical trial, and her advice to other women who have received a diagnosis.

Being Diagnosed with Advanced Breast Cancer

Sham was born in Iraq in the Middle East but has lived in Melbourne with her parents and two children for the last seven years. In 2019, Sham was diagnosed with breast cancer after noticing some pain in her right breast while at work.

She is a participant in the CAPTURE clinical trial, which aims to identify women and men with hormone-receptor positive, metastatic breast cancer, who may benefit from a novel combination of drugs that may improve progression-free survival and offer a new treatment option. We spoke to Sham about her diagnosis and her decision to participate in a clinical trial.

“Yes, so it was 2019 just before COVID. I was at work, and I worked at Avis Budget Car Rental at the airport, and I just suddenly had a pain in my right breast. I thought ‘oh, it’s nothing’, but the pain kept coming back, and the next morning it happened again. So I had a day off next day, and then I thought, I’ll go and get it checked,” said Sham.

“So I had the ultrasound and biopsy and did all of the tests and things, including a mammogram, and they said that I do have breast cancer. I was shocked. I just couldn’t believe it. I didn’t know what to do or what to say. I just thought, how are my parents going to take it, you know I was just thinking of my mum and dad.”

“So I went to the hospital, everything was just urgent. My doctor called me the next day and they said, ‘you need to come in, we need to speak to you’. I told my sister, I didn’t tell my mum. So, when I told my sister I said the doctor just called and I need to go to the hospital.”

“While I was on the phone with the doctor, I was asking him what’s happening and I remember him saying, ‘I need to talk to you, you could have cancer’. I was like, wow okay. Then I went in and he said I’ll send you straight away to the hospital to do everything urgently so we can get on top of it as soon as we can. And then I started doing all the tests, they sent me to hospital, I did my other tests and everything.”

“I had a biopsy, and they booked me in for an operation. They said it’s just a very small cancer, it could be taken out. And then before the operation, it was on Friday morning, they called me and they said ‘we have to cancel the operation for Monday because it’s spread to your bones, to your spine, and to your lower back’. So straight away I started medication.”

“And now I’m on a trial. The people at the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre they’re lovely and they look after me.”

Listen to the Podcast

Sham was born in Iraq in the Middle East but has lived in Melbourne with her parents and two children for the last seven years. In 2019, Sham was diagnosed with breast cancer after noticing some pain in her right breast while at work.

Tell us about your Treatment after you were Diagnosed

“First, I was diagnosed with breast cancer and then I started treatment with injections and tablets, and then I had 10 sessions of radiation and got better. Like every time I went to see the doctor and they said, ‘we can’t see the cancer  anymore, and you’re responding to the medication very well’. And then when I had it on my bones, they had to change the treatment.”

“They keep changing treatments. They changed it to chemotherapy tablets, so I’ve been taking them. And then after that they asked me if I wanted to go on a clinical trial, and if I’m interested in that. I was like, yeah, whatever helps. And why not? You know, to be honest I thought I’ll give it a go. I asked if many people go on it and what’s the outcome and things like that, and then I decided to give it a go.. That’s what the doctors suggested, and I know that they want to help me to get better.”

“When Julia told me about the trial and asked me if I wanted to do it and to think about it, I asked one of my colleagues who came with me, and she said ‘why not? If it’s going to help you’. And she said, ‘you know, there’s women on it who are doing well.’ So, I thought, yeah, I’ll give it a go.”

“The first dose they gave me had really bad side effects, you know, dry hands and dry feet so they just reduced the dosage down a bit more. So, the results are good. They keep saying it’s not getting worse, it’s stable. Sometimes I just get these pains when I’m tired, but it’s helped with other tablets and things. But they did say it’s nothing, there isn’t anything going on with your cancer, which is good.”

“When I first went to Peter MacCallum, I saw Dr James McCracken. He was amazing, he was really good. Every time I went, he used to give me the results and he made me feel really good and feel like I was really positive and kept getting stronger day by day with my results. The way they treat me is just nice, very good. I’m very happy.”

“The doctors at Peter MacCallum, and the nurses and everyone are amazing. I feel great. Like when I go to my appointments, they do take good care of me and tell me all about how I’m doing, and they explain things well. I feel comfortable when I’m there, and I feel good.”

Sham’s Hopes for the Future

“So, my hopes for the future are to get better and to be happy and healthy. And that this will never come back. My family and my children are very important to me, so I want to see them happy. That’s all I need. That’s my hope. And healthy, of course.”

“From day one, I was really upset, to be honest when they first told me that I was diagnosed with breast cancer. Straight away I thought about my parents, how I would tell them and how they were going to take it because my mum and dad can’t handle that.”

“I asked the doctors, I was like, ‘look I know I’ve got this, and I can fight it, I’m strong. It’s just my parents. How am I going to tell them, how are they going to take it? How are they going to handle it? And they told me just to say, ‘look I can do this, I can fight it’. And my children, I was really nervous and scared to tell them. I didn’t know how they were going to feel about this. But they knew I was strong when they saw me like that, especially my mum. Seeing her be so strong, made me feel like I’m stronger now.”

“I get stronger day by day, and I’m positive, always positive. I’ve got this and I’ll keep working and living my normal life and doing all the things I would normally.”

“To be honest, I feel lucky to be on the trial. I was worried that I wouldn’t be eligible for it, and I’m grateful to the other women who have been on the trial and participating in research. It’s because of them that so many women have gotten better today, and they’ve provided more hope with research through being on trials. It’s much better, because of the trials and the research.”

Why are Clinical Trials so Important?

“So being a part of clinical trial is very important, and every woman should look into it, and do her research and it really can help, now and in the future. A lot has changed from before. I know people that were diagnosed with breast cancer and had cancer in their ovaries and things like that, and they didn’t make it, but like they were just diagnosed for one, maybe two years and they’re gone which is very sad.”

“Nowadays, everything is just amazing. There are lots of options and every time the doctors tell me ‘Don’t worry if this doesn’t work, we have lots of options for you, we have this, we have that, we have other treatments that we can try’, which is really good.


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