Lynn Willis of Blaxland knows only too well how life can change once you have “recovered” from cancer.
She had lung cancer in 2003 and then six years later was diagnosed with breast cancer.
“I’m never going to be normal or the same as how I was, because I have a completely different outlook on life,” Mrs Willis, 66, said.
“Until you get to a point where you think ‘I am going to be gone’ and then you come out of it, well you wake up in the morning and think ‘I’m awake, I’m alive and I’ll make sure I live’.”
Mrs Willis is hoping carers, cancer sufferers or anyone with a connection to a person living with cancer, will come along to a meeting in Springwood next month to learn more about life after the disease.
“When I had lung cancer I said ‘I’m never going to get cancer again’, but I’m pretty confident that it’s not going to come back, it’s not going to get me three times. And that’s the message we need to get out there —we can survive.”
The Living Well After Cancer program is a free course run by The Cancer Council NSW with trained cancer survivors. Over two-and-a-half-hours participants are given practical information and take part in open discussion with cancer survivors, carers, family, friends and work colleagues.
Australian opera singer Anthony Warlow famously said surviving the big C was like ‘knocking on death’s door and then coming back to life’ and for those close to the sufferer it can be difficult to watch.
“I lost a couple of friends through cancer, they just didn’t come anywhere near me,” Mrs Willis said. “Your true friends do stick by you, but people you thought might stick by you sometimes don’t. I think they’re afraid they might say the wrong thing.
“I was lucky I had [husband] Laurie, but he went to work and it can be very lonely and frightening and Laurie was on his own when he was caring for me. Carers are just as alone.”
Mrs Willis attended a small Living Well group in Penrith last year and will attend the Mountains program.
“I mainly went to take Laurie. In 10 years we had never done anything, we had relied on doctors and health care professionals and it was really good in that it was an open forum where people could say what they felt,” she said.
“This course is a chance for carers to finally access something, say things in a group they had never been able to say before and get stuff off their chest and know that the feelings are normal,” said Cancer Council community programs coordinator, Rodney Titovs.
Mr Titovs, who lives in Lawson, has also felt the effects of cancer within his own family.
“My father was diagnosed with cancer two years ago — I attended Living Well After Cancer in Katoomba last year and am glad to have been able to convince the Cancer Council to bring the program to Springwood this year.”
Some of the issues up for discussion were fertility, friends, work, life for the sufferer and carer post cancer.
“Cancer and its treatment can bring a host of practical challenges, from changes in appearance and body function to managing the emotional and social impacts,” he said.
Cancer Council NSW data indicates more than 13,200 families annually lose a loved one to cancer, which translates to about 140 Mountains families.
Living Well After Cancer will be held in Springwood on March 9 from 10am to 12.30pm. Call 1300200 558 to register and for venue details.