Separated from her loving husband and three beautiful children while braving treatment for breast cancer, Karla O’Neill from Whyalla in country SA found comfort in a house to call home in one of The Hospital Research Foundation’s Under Our Roof homes – Bendigo Bank House. The completion of these homes is only possible thanks to the support of Mercer SuperCycle.
Here, she was able to have her own safe haven – a sanctuary to come home to and heal in, during a time where her life was turned upside down.
“I was watching TV when I first felt a lump on January 13th 2016. I remember that date so clearly. I travelled to Adelaide and underwent tests and a biopsy confirming I had breast cancer,” Karla said.
“I was back at work when I got the call and was told I tested positive for malignancy. I had to cancel a holiday and underwent my first surgery on February 4th, where the surgeon removed seven tumours which were invasive breast cancer and 2 lymph nodes positive for metastatic carcinoma.”
Karla then underwent another extensive surgery to remove 11 nodes to ensure all the cancer was removed, this time thankfully her tests came back negative.
Hearing about the Under Our Roof homes from her dear friend Maria Hall, whose family also stayed in one of the homes earlier this year, Karla first stayed in the Bendigo Bank House prior to one of her operations for a few days.
“Being able to stay in Bendigo Bank House prior to my operation and before I started chemotherapy was amazing for my family. It wasn’t far from Calvary Hospital, which made it easier on my husband and myself for travel, easing some of the pressure on us,” Karla said.
Since her diagnosis and initial surgeries, Karla has undergone 18 weeks of chemotherapy, a double mastectomy and just recently completed five weeks of radiotherapy, staying at the Under Our Roof home during her treatment.
“During the five weeks at the Under Our Roof home we were able to spend some quality time as a family together which was really important, especially for our kids who are 15, 10 and 4. My husband and kids were able to travel here from Whyalla on weekends, as the kids had school and kindergarten during the week and it was too tiring for me to drive home.
“It was like a holiday for the kids with so much to see and do in Adelaide! We’ve been able to take them to play cafés and down to Henley Beach because the house is so central and close to the city and the beach.
“The Under Our Roof home has made this experience much more comfortable and it’s given me an opportunity to heal and focus on myself. I’ve been staying here mostly by myself as my mum was taking care of my kids, it’s been hard being away from my family but staying here has helped me cope.
“If I hadn’t had this place to stay my experience would have been very different.”
Karla is extremely grateful to everyone who has participated in raising money for the Under Our Roof project, making the homes possible.
“It’s been fantastic and I can’t thank everyone enough who made this possible. I couldn’t imagine having to do this anywhere else.”