Margie Moore is a prominent figure in the Australian music education scene. As well as a lengthy career as lecturer in arts education, a music consultant and a teacher she has managed the world-renowned Sydney Symphony Education Program. In January 2011, Margie was awarded an Order of Australia Medal for her services to Arts through Music Education. Her partner is Dr Paul Hutchins AM, retired developmental paediatrician.
In October 2018, Margie was diagnosed with HER2+ breast cancer, a particularly aggressive form of cancer. “I went for a routine mammogram and unfortunately got a call back, but I wasn’t expecting any major issues as I wasn’t feeling unwell,” said Margie. “Suddenly I found myself on a journey that I had no expectation I needed.”
Margie went through a variety of cancer treatments at Chris O’Brien Lifehouse, including an extensive chemotherapy regime, two surgeries, radiotherapy and ongoing immunotherapy. During and between these treatments, Margie has utilised facilities in the LivingRoom at Chris O’Brien Lifehouse to support her in her journey to wellness. “The treatment unfortunately makes you feel pretty rotten. But the LivingRoom gives a balance, the things you do there actually make you feel better,” said Margie.
The LivingRoom is the area of Lifehouse dedicated to supportive care and complementary therapies. Expert clinicians offer treatment programs in exercise, acupuncture, oncological massage, reflexology, yoga, exercise and more. These therapies are designed to increase the wellbeing of patients, helping to improve some of the adverse effects of cancer and cancer treatment. Margie availed herself of many of the services offered, including while she was receiving chemotherapy treatment in Day Therapy. This service involves various specialists visiting patients while their treatment is being administered to give massages, reflexology or other therapies that help alleviate side effects like nausea, fatigue and anxiety.
“That was just amazing,” said Margie. “To have something that makes you feel better while you’re doing something that makes you feel terrible really does help. Every person treating me has been meaningful and they’ve all added wellbeing to my journey. I’ve found acupuncture particularly useful because I’ve had neuropathy in my fingers and toes. Lymphoedema massage has been most helpful and Jessica* has been training Paul to continue it daily for me at home. Mindfulness and counselling have been amazing, it all helps to keep you going.”
Dr Paul Hutchins has shared all of this journey with Margie and is in awe of the care and support they have both received throughout the Lifehouse experience. As a physician he is aware of the complexity of cancer and its impacts and that Margie is at “the better end of the bad news spectrum”. He is aware of traditional medical scepticism about the benefits of complementary and alternative therapies, particularly in his speciality of complex developmental disabilities. Dr Hutchins said, “The human body, brain and soul is so complex that many different systems of understanding, treatment and support can be effective. I am very aware of the objective evidence supporting complementary therapies.”
Paul is careful to emphasise that it is not only Margie who benefits from the service, “I am so impressed by how the whole LivingRoom team, both clinical and administrative, works together to tailor support to the individual and their partners, and to evaluate the impact of this support. This end of the medical spectrum is about wellbeing and support and is so important for people to consider. It’s about keeping you going from the beginning through to the future as patient and partner, however much or little you can manage to do.”
“Another thing about the LivingRoom (and all Lifehouse staff) is that they all understand the cancer journey,” said Margie. “They give you signposts for how to move through your journey and that’s so valuable. The cancer experience is something completely new and you know it’s not going to be all that good, and you don’t know how to prepare for each new step and symptom. Just having someone who cares about you tell you something, like ‘oh you’re doing radiotherapy next, make sure to moisturise your skin’, is just so meaningful and helpful. There is a sense of ongoing care as well as working with you on a specific treatment basis.”
Margie was declared cancer free after finishing chemotherapy. Both the previous surgery and radiotherapy had been effective. She is now on a program of immunotherapy injections once every three weeks. She will have completed her cancer treatment journey (hopefully for good) on the 23rd of December. She continues to use the services in the LivingRoom to increase and maintain her physical and mental wellbeing.
*Jessica Kyneur is a physiotherapist working in the LivingRoom who focuses on lymphoedema treatment.