Cancer first came into my life when I was 13 years old.
It was found in the parotid gland of my Dad's neck. It was 1972, and the boat my Dad had spent a year building was sitting in our backyard, unsailed, and unused, while he was in hospital, having survived the removal of most of the subcutaneous tissue, muscle, and lymph glands on the right side of his neck and upper shoulder.
Since that time in my life, the roll-call of cancer experiences has been frequent and at times, insidious.
Mum experienced eye, liver, and brain cancer, and passed away when I was 19.
Her two brothers passed away from lung and stomach cancer.
Since 1972, my Dad has had serious, almost fatal bouts of skin and prostate cancer, and now throat cancer. His sisters have had non-Hodgkin's lymphoma and breast cancer: but they are also still alive.
My sister has recently survived breast cancer.
My eldest brother had a malignant melanoma removed from his back, and recovered.
A female cousin survived bowel cancer.
I've had an SCC removed from my neck.
So there you are; cancer is highly prevalent in my family, and yet, when I look into it, there is no one familial tendency to one particular type of cancer. Sure there's a lot of it, but who hasn't been touched by cancer? My story isn't unique, but it sure feels like it.
I'm still wary of the Big C, even though I'm a health professional (I'm an RN, and have been for 29 years), and in a sense should know better.
The end of next week, I'm off to Adelaide for a couple of weeks to help my Dad and my family with his throat cancer. He's in his third week of radiotherapy, and at 94 years of age, the side-effects are horrible, he can't eat anymore, and he's going into hospital tomorrow to have a PEG (an enteric feeding tube) inserted into his stomach.
I'll keep you posted.
Cancer Council NSW would like to acknowledge the traditional custodians of the land on which we live and work.We would also like to pay respect to elders past and present and extend that respect to all other Aboriginal people.