2 July 2008

University of Queensland PhD student Amanda Niehaus has worn many hats in her time: partner, mother and breast cancer patient, and is set to don another, her graduation cap, on July 16.

Ms Niehaus’s graduation will coincide with The Kim Walters Choices Program’s Think Pink Week, which aims to raise breast and ovarian cancer awareness and offer support, counselling and treatment to patients and their families.

The thirty two year old student said her graduation presented a unique opportunity to educate women about the age indiscriminate nature of the disease and demonstrate that a cancer diagnosis needn’t nullify one’s goals.

"When I would go in for treatment, most of the other patients were older than I was, which is something that people often don’t realise: cancer can happen to anyone, regardless of age," she said.

Ms Niehaus’s research into how organisms allocate energy in response to different environmental conditions presents a notable parallel between her area of study and lifestyle approach.

After receiving her breast cancer diagnosis, Ms Niehaus realised that she would have to reallocate her energy in accordance with this new life challenge.

"The tadpoles (in the experiments) had no choice or way to escape their environment once they were borne into it, so it was interesting to see how they would adjust to less than ideal conditions.

"This is really what I've taken away from my study and cancer experiences so far. The importance of being adaptable and creating a work/life balance," she said.

Ms Niehaus’s PhD supervisor, Professor Craig Franklin, described her as motivated, optimistic and ready for a challenge, such as that presented by the birth of her daughter Nelle, the day before her initial thesis submission date.

"PhDs never go exactly according to plan, and Amanda has used the knock backs to set her up for future challenges," he said.

When asked what advice she would give other cancer patients, Ms Niehaus emphasised the importance of a positive attitude, learning from experiences, leaning on family and friends and asking what can they change about their life to make it better, or more balanced.

For more information about The Kim Walters Choices Program, please visit www.wesley.com.au.

Media: Melanie Sullivan at UQ Communications (0439 366 001).