A cancer survivor says never refuse support

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A tribute to Jane Wiles, Jane Warren and ‘The Thursday-evening Bathurst Ladies Club’

ENJOYING LIFE: Jill Macgregor is a cancer survivor and, having beaten her Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, is indebted for all the support she received from her family, friends and specifically the Thursday evening Bathurst Ladies’ Club
ENJOYING LIFE: Jill Macgregor is a cancer survivor and, having beaten her Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, is indebted for all the support she received from her family, friends and specifically the Thursday evening Bathurst Ladies’ Club

ON discovering she had Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, time seemed to stand still for Jill Macgregor. “To be honest, getting the official diagnosis was unbelievably surreal,” she said. “Had I known what the next nine months had in store I would have probably been more scared.” But, as she says, ignorance is bliss. Like so many others Macgregor believed that cancer is always something that happened to other people. But when her diagnosis came through in 2010, Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, stage 4B, she came to the realisation the support of family and friends is the most important vehicle while on the road to recovery. Macgregor knew something was wrong when she began to suffer weight loss, night sweats and extreme fatigue, accompanied by itching, itching and more itching – known as the “Hodgkin Itch”; all classic “B” symptoms. “By the time I was diagnosed I had lost 20 kilograms, and the lymph nodes in my neck had grown so large that my windpipe was restricted and breathing was incredibly difficult,” she said. Macgregor’s treatment included seven cycles of ABVD chemotherapy (adriamycin or “Red Devil”, responsible for hair loss, bleomycin, vinblastine, and dacarbazine). One cycle is made up of two chemotherapy sessions, one session every two weeks. Then it was radiation therapy for four weeks, 10 minutes every single day. “My side-effects of chemo were nausea, complete hair loss and absolute exhaustion,” she said. “And so, as we, the family, journeyed further down the road, we learned that seeing the humour in every uncomfortable, scary and invasive situation helped us cope. Being able to laugh at the situation, made it less scary.” She recalled how, when driving home after her first chemo session she was feeling absolutely “green” with nausea. “Until…I couldn’t hold it anymore. I just managed to wind down the window and stick my head out and let rip!” In the background all she could hear was her husband David saying, “Not on the car! Not on the paint! Just hold it I’m stopping….Noooo, not on the car Jill!” “To this day, he is convinced I vomited up a lime green alien!” she said. The cancer affected Macgregor’s family life. She says she went into survival mode, automatically dealing with everyday life without really being emotionally available to anyone. Besides having to deal with treatments and after-effects, she felt like she was in the eye of the hurricane, dead calm, while her husband and their two sons had to really deal with the fallout. “He took it all on and possibly more. This gave me the space to focus on my emotional strength to keep going,” she said. As for other support, Macgregor paid tribute to Jane Wiles, Jane Warren and the Thursday evening Bathurst Ladies’ Club. “Our family is ever indebted to you for the bravery, courage, hope and love you gave us at lowest point of our lives. You are true heroes,” said Macgregor. “Surviving cancer has forever changed us as a family, and still continues to change us. My children have learned that sh*t happens, you are not exempt, but try and make it work for you! “My survival journey has given me a softness and a hardness – I empathise with people more deeply, but no longer have the patience to deal with the bullsh*t people wail about. And while the latter is not always appreciated, I no longer care about what people think of me, which is another truly wonderful gift of being a survivor.” Of all the advice Macgregor received (and, according to her you get lots, as everyone seems to be an expert) one piece stuck. “When people offer to help, let them,” she said. “Get support in any shape or form, even if it’s something as simple as accepting a cooked meal; it’s one less thing you have to think about. And you will be surprised, support will come from the most unexpected places. Embrace it.”

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