The cost of cancer in Australia: Pregnant mum's rare and aggressive diagnosis at 31

Kate Grainger was 37 weeks' pregnant when she found out she had triple negative breast cancer.

Preparing for life as a family of five and pregnant with her third, Kate Grainger was not expecting her life to change in the way that it did.

Just weeks ahead of her due date in March this year, the 31-one-year was diagnosed with rare and aggressive triple-negative breast cancer after noticing her first milk, colostrum, was pink instead of the usual yellow.

"It was hell, absolute hell on earth. I was just shaking so much with fear and panic and anxiety," the mum-of-three told Yahoo News Australia four months after receiving the news. "It's been an absolute shock to the system because no one ever plans on getting cancer and mine is non-hereditary, so it's purely random".

Kate Grainger and her family after cancer diagnosis.
Kate Grainger found out she had triple negative breast cancer when she was 37 weeks' pregnant with her third child. Source: Addie Hockney/supplied

Family forced away from home for treatment

Five weeks ahead of the birth, and with her husband Joel, 35, and their two children Leo, 3, and Iris, 2, Kate travelled from their remote hometown of Newman, in Western Australia to Busselton, which had more suitable birthing facilities. However, their temporary five-week stay in an Airbnb is now approaching five months in the town, resulting in tremendous financial strain.

Kate gave birth to Heath in late February and was "wheeled from the maternity ward to the cancer ward" right away — a place she's visited regularly and will continue to do so over the next six months.

"We ended up buying a little house — which is nothing we'd ever imagined we'd be doing — because the rental market was so hectic," Kate said. "We couldn't find anything suitable to rent".


Kate Grainger with children after cancer diagnosis.
Kate has now had 12 weeks of chemotherapy to help eliminate the cancer. Source: Supplied/ Addie Hockney

Kate said they weren't expecting to have to buy a home in the current housing market. "It's just outrageous prices and what we've had to pay so that so we've got a roof over our head and I can be near treatment," she said.

Ongoing medical costs: 'It's been rough'

Currently, the mum-of-three is on maternity leave from her job as a teacher while Joel — a carpenter at BHM Mining — is on parental leave, so they're not earning an income. "It's been a bit rough," Kate said.

A GoFundMe page was set up for the family to help cover the costs of medical treatment which has so far included 12 weeks of chemotherapy and immunotherapy — but there's more to come. The couple used part of the almost $80,000 raised for the house deposit and the rest has been for everyday expenses like food and fuel.

Kate Grainger in hospital with cancer (left) dad Joel holding baby and young son (right)
Kate has spent most of the past four months in hospital while her husband Joel has looked after the kids. Source: Supplied

"We still don't know how much my surgery is going to be," Kate said of the procedure which will likely take place in six weeks.

"I got into a program for immunotherapy which has been incredible because it was going to be about $9,000 every three weeks," she explained.


Community donations

To help ease the financial burden, the Busselton community, where Joel grew up, has rallied together in support. Some have offered home-cooked meals and others have donated items for the baby.

Kate Grainger on wedding day with husband Joel (left) three children laying on bed (right)
Kate and Joel have had to uproot their kids' lives in order to save her own. Source: Supplied.

"People have been incredibly kind by donating. It's so overwhelming and really humbling," Kate told Yahoo. "We'd be screwed without the community support and our friends and our families. It's been really helpful".

Kate said the experience has been "very traumatic" for her family. "It's not how it's meant to be," she said. But the hardest part has been not being able to bond with her newborn or breastfeed her baby.

Until her surgery, the 31-year-old won't know if the chemotherapy has worked in eliminating the disease, or if the cancer has continued to spread.

Do you have a story tip? Email:

You can also follow us on Facebook, Instagram, TikTok and Twitter and download the Yahoo News app from the App Store or Google Play.