Personal cancer story
Annette was diagnosed with a rare and aggressive ampullary cancer in her bile duct in July 2019, at the age of 58.
Less than a month later, she underwent an intensive 11-hour Whipple surgery, where parts of her stomach and pancreas were removed. Six to eight weeks later, she was onto her first round of chemotherapy, and was over halfway through her treatment when the COVID-19 pandemic hit Australia. She still had another four courses of treatment remaining.
“I remember my oncologist sitting me down, it was unprecedented circumstances, and there were risks to both continuing and not continuing treatment”.
“But if the cancer came back, there would always be that question of, ‘what if?’
“I had a week to consider whether I wanted to continue treatment, and in the end, I decided that if I’d come that far then I would go through with the remaining four treatments”.
With Annette’s family being located interstate, and the indefinite period of lockdown, isolation proved to be challenging.
“I live with my partner Eddie, and his two teenage children 3-4 nights a week. We had only moved in together about eight months prior to my diagnosis, and it has been a lot of pressure on the family and our relationship”.
Annette experienced random acts of kindness during the COVID-19 pandemic, which although small, made a big difference.
“It’s those little things, the everyday tasks. As a cancer patient, everybody’s journey is different and in so much of your life, you lose control because it often just becomes about how you feel on any given day”.
“I had people insist that I take their place in the queue, help me to get items down from the shelves and help me to pack my bags so it wasn’t too heavy”.
Being appreciative of the support received, Annette would also love to see it extended to carers.
“People always consider the cancer patient, but often forget the carer. I feel if more people had made contact with Eddie to just check in and say, “Hey mate, do you want to catch up and go for a walk?” it would have helped to relieve some of that stress for him”.
With the COVID-19 situation stabilising in QLD, Annette is looking forward to seeing her family, but is concerned that people will start feeling complacent, and worries about the second wave.
“I think the COVID-19 experience has brought home to people the importance of helping others. I just hope people remember this as they resume their normal routines”.
Read more stories about people's personal experiences with cancer