As a clinical psychologist, Jodie Fleming had counselled many patients through similar situations.
But nothing could have prepared her for the moment she would be on the receiving end of bad news.
It was 2010 and Dr Fleming was working at John Hunter Children’s Hospital.
“The reception was terrible so I walked over to the carpark because I’d been waiting on some test results, and, sure enough, the phone buzzed,” she recalled.
“It was a message from my doctor, telling me I had to come in to discuss the results.
“I’d never ever had a phone call like that.”
Soon after, Dr Fleming was diagnosed with breast cancer as a young 37-year-old with no family history of the disease.
She had a lumpectomy at the Calvary Mater Hospital to remove the cancer.
However, whilst waiting for a follow-up appointment with her surgeon, not two months later, Dr Fleming discovered a second lump in her other breast, which turned out to be another primary cancer.
She relocated to South West Victoria, where she practices now, to be with family while she underwent chemotherapy, followed by a bilateral mastectomy and immediate reconstruction.
It was discovered Dr Fleming carried the BRCA1 gene mutation, which increased her risk of developing ovarian cancer by 60%, so she also opted to undergo a prophylactic hysterectomy.
Throughout the ordeal, she found writing letters to her late grandmother therapeutic.
“She’d passed away four years earlier but we were very close and I knew what she would say and do in that moment, so it really helped,” Dr Fleming said.
What started as a series of letters documenting her journey, quickly snowballed into her debut book, titled A Hole in My Genes.
Dr Fleming will return to Newcastle this week for A Conversation on the Couch with long-time friend and former Hunter Breast Cancer Foundation (HBCF) vice-president, Michelle Faithfull.
The pair will discuss Dr Fleming’s memoir, and her journey from health professional to patient, at 48 Watt Street on Sunday 13 October from 3pm to 5pm in honour of Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
Tickets are $30 each and available at stickytickets.com.au/89152. Books can be purchased and signed by Dr Fleming at the event, with $2 from every sale donated to HBCF.
Alternatively, order your copy online at drjodiefleming.com.au
– By Georgia Osland