I was in my early thirties, living in a trendy suburb of Sydney, working in marketing and studying part time when I started experiencing knee pain and having trouble walking but I tried to shrug it off.
Then I started to develop back pain – it became so intense that I could no longer ignore it and that’s when I knew something wasn’t quite right. I went for some scans and they found a tumour in my femur – it was a scary time but at that stage I didn’t know exactly what it was or what was causing it.
The diagnosis process was really long for me and went on for months. It was a time of limbo which was difficult to deal with. After three biopsies (I have some hardcore scars on my knee that make me feel very tough) and several tests I was finally diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma.
The cancer was growing very fast so I started chemotherapy the very next day after my diagnosis. I spent one week out of every three in hospital hooked up to continuous chemo.
I had lost my father to cancer five years beforehand – he had four different types of cancer during his lifetime so in some ways I had a lot of experience with the disease before I was even diagnosed. I think is why I was very task orientated in terms of dealing with my treatment and appointments. I tried not to get bogged down by the emotions of what I was going through but it was still tough.
However my boyfriend, friends and family were amazing and lifted me up with special surprises and presents – it was overwhelming at times to know how much they cared about me. The staff at the hospital were also amazing. I was close with both the doctors and nurses and they always managed to keep my spirits up even when I was really nauseous or had a mouth full of ulcers.
A lot of the emotions of having cancer are negative ones - including things you don’t really think of like anxiety and boredom. But I have also been lucky enough to find a best friend in the process.
When I was about half way through treatment a nurse asked me to speak to some other patients. The type of chemotherapy I was given was very new and I was asked to speak to other young women who were going through the same thing so that I could help explain what the process had been like for me. That was how I met Jess, she was just 20 but incredibly brave and gregarious. We laughed together at the craziness of going through treatment and we have been inseparable ever since.
While we were in hospital the nurses asked us to help make paper cranes to decorate the ward for Christmas, it turned out to be a great distraction and Jess and I made about 300 between us. Even though my treatment is finished I still visit Jess every day when she is in hospital so that I can help her and we can get through it together.
Now as we come to the end of the journey (I recently wore my first pair of high heels in a year!) we both plan to get paper crane tattoos so we can always be reminded that really beautiful things can come from challenging situations. Jess has now finished chemo and is waiting to see if she needs radiotherapy.
During my treatment I was given a lot of information from the Cancer Council which really helped me understand my type of cancer and the treatment I received.
The side effects of cancer continue to have a large impact on my life but I’m looking forward to the future. These days I am much more discerning about my time and how I want to spend it – I have created a situation where I have more time to spend with my friends and family. I am looking forward to returning to work full time and I’m also really looking forward to being able to volunteer.
I am supporting the Cancer Council to try repay an unpayable debt.
This year I’m dedicating my daffodil to my friend Jess. She’s an amazing person who helped me get through my treatment. Jess loves really loudly and she’s incredibly vocal about how much she cares about you. Having someone who 100 per cent understood what I was going through made it so much easier.
Cancer Council’s Daffodil Day is happening on Friday 26 August. Daffodil Day raises vital funds for, and awareness about the work of Cancer Council including research, patient support services and prevention programs, helping support the 350 Australians diagnosed with cancer each day. To show your support buy a daffodil pin on the day or text to donate and dedicate a daffodil to someone you know.
For more information about Daffodil Day visit the website.