"Cancer definitely made me a stronger person"
MACLEAN nurse Narelle Robison will take part in the Lower Clarence Relay For Life to honour those she has met along her cancer journey and for those who can no longer participate in the event themselves.
She will also proudly walk in the survivors' lap of honour to mark the start of the event.
Ms Robison was 49 when she was diagnosed with stage 2 multifocal invasive lobular breast cancer at the end of 2009. It was the same year that Narelle lost close friends Di Groves and Yvonne Moss to cancer.
Ms Robison had multiple tumours in her breast and with all biopsies positive for cancer, it was recommended that she have a double mastectomy and an auxiliary lymph node clearance. She also required chemotherapy and radiotherapy.
"It was so much to take in," Ms Robison said. "My head was in a spin but luckily I had amazing support. My husband at the time and my mum went with me to the appointments and between us all we made some sense of it.
"My battle with cancer officially started with the first mastectomy and auxiliary lymph clearance. Luck was on my side as there wasn't as many lymph nodes involved as predicted and only seven of the 35 nodes removed were infected but still too many to avoid not having the chemo.
"I had six rounds of chemo over six months, then a few weeks off to heal, then up to John Flynn Hospital for five weeks of radiotherapy, followed by 10 weeks of healing from the radiotherapy and onto my second mastectomy.
"I lost my breasts, my hair, my appetite, my sense of taste and smell, I got chemo brain, and those that have had chemo know exactly what I mean. I lost my energy and stamina and any sense of modesty that I'd had, as I was poked, prodded and repeatedly scanned.
"But it was all worth it as I am here today.
"I don't believe I fought harder or that I was braver or that I had more reason to live or that I am in any way better than any of those who have lost their battle. What I am, though, is just luckier, and I am so very grateful."
Ms Robison said participating in the Relay For Life provided an opportunity to celebrate as a community and walk in the memory of loved ones lost, offered a chance to support those battling cancer and cancer survivors got to publicly thank all those carers that played a part in the recovery.
The event also raises funds for the Cancer Council.
"I relay for many people," Ms Robison said.
"I relay for all the patients I've nursed over 35 years of nursing. On a more personal level, I relay in the memory of my father-in-law Dennis who sadly passed away at the age of 50 from lymphoma, thus denying my three sons the chance to meet and get to know their grandfather. I relay in the memory of my own dear father who passed away from cancer at the age of 70, though a little luckier than Dennis, as he did get to see many of his grandchildren grow up, but he still left us far too early.
"I relay in the memory of two of my best friends, Di Groves and Yvonne Moss who fought with all their might but very sadly and unfairly lost their battles with this horrendous disease at young ages.
"And I also relay for my dear, beautiful friend Anita Smith, who right at this very moment is fighting a very courageous battle herself.
"The Relay For Life itself is wonderful, with the community coming together in a common spirit, walking the laps, catching up with friends as you walk, listening to the fabulous music from the many talented people we have in the region and seeing all the kids have fun.
"The candlelight ceremony is very moving. I wholeheartedly recommend to anyone that hasn't taken part in a relay, to do it, it is a wonderful event."
Ms Robison said the money was going to a good cause.
"Cancer Council NSW helped me with very good information ... that was easy to understand and access," she said.
"They offered counselling and they made me hopeful with all the money they are putting into research and the determination to find a cure.
"Cancer has definitely made me a stronger person... It has also helped me to be more empathetic and I believe it has helped me to become a better me."