Georgia McLennan looked so healthy when she was diagnosed with stage four Burkitt’s lymphoma in May last year, doctors were stunned.
“The oncologist was like ‘how is she walking?’ They couldn’t believe that I’d walked myself into the hospital and that I looked so fine when I was really not,” the Gold Coast local told Mamamia.
“I didn’t know at the time, but they thought I was going to die.”
As the then-23-year-old found out, her youth and healthy appearance had been working against her for months. Doctors had been repeatedly attributing her persistent “stabbing” abdominal pain to lesser ailments like stomach ulcers.
But when a PET scan came back at the end of May after Georgia was eventually referred to hospital, the state of her health was clear.
The scan showed that the gradually worsening pain the nursing student had been feeling in her sides since the start of the year was caused by tumours. Tumours of a former of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma that had spread throughout her body and threatened her life.
Her situation seemed so dire in fact, that doctors were afraid to tell Georgia just how bad they thought it was. Meanwhile, they started her on chemotherapy before the biopsy results had even come back to confirm what type of lymphoma she had.
Still, Georgia was initially relieved to learn that the diagnosis was for a physical illness and the pain could eventually leave her.
"I started to get really disappointed that we couldn't find out what was wrong with me and I was worried I would be in this pain forever."
"It all happened so fast and you don't really have time to think about what's happening.
"But when I was able to process it, I just thought how lucky I was I was in Australia because if I wasn't I wouldn't have the same opportunity to survive."
Georgia also maintained an enlightened perspective when faced with challenges like losing her hair.
Sally Obermeder recalls the moment she decided to shave her head. Post continues.
"That was literally my first question - it wasn't 'am I going to survive?' it was 'will I lose my hair?'
"But when I did lose my hair I realised it really doesn't matter at all.
"Other women lose their ovaries or their uterus or have parts of their liver cut out or they lose a leg. I just felt really lucky that all I lost was my hair."
Georgia's doctor also remained extremely upbeat throughout the three months of chemotherapy that followed.
"My specialist was so optimistic, and it was because she was so optimistic that it made me feel really optimistic and I really trusted her."
"She was really amazing, she just constantly said 'you're gonna be fine, you're gonna be fine'."
And thankfully both patient and doctor were right to be hopeful. Within six weeks of starting treatment, Georgia's cancer had all but disappeared. And in October 2017, six weeks after she finished treatment, she was given the all-clear.
Now, six months in remission, the 24-year-old is just getting on with her life, studying for her degree and spending time with her partner, family and friends.
Jana Pittman talks to Mia Freedman about the symptoms women need to look out for when it comes to gynaecological cancer. Post continues.
"I'm just excited to be a nurse and be a nice nurse, because I really appreciated the nice nurses that I had."
Georgia says her experience has changed her attitude in all the ways you might expect of someone who skated so close to death and survived.
"It changes your perspective on everything.
"You're just really grateful for everything and things that used to bother you are absolutely nothing, they're so small and insignificant."
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