January 2003; a semi-final appearance, 3rd perfect reaction and almost 1900 runs down a drag strip. February, I'm 47 years of age and with no hesitation on my part I'm off to have a mammogram after finding a rather large lump in my left breast. While having this unpleasantry performed the nurses indicate it wasn't looking normal and more than likely cancerous; trying on the same day to do a biopsy without success. On insertion of the needle, to take a tissue sample, it was like they'd hit a brick wall; the mission then aborted. My worse nightmare was about to come true.  

I was silently contemplating my feat, while waiting for my name to be called, and taking in the musty smell exuded by most hospitals. Results from the mammogram were given to the public hospital surgeons, and it was confirmed by these it was most likely cancer, but they wouldn't know for certain until the lump was removed. Now feeling like a progressive gathering of dark clouds were overhead and my apprehension growing and anxiety building. After talking for a while and given papers having to be handed in at the front desk, I stood up and proceeded to leave the room almost in a daze. I walked up to the counter, handed the paper to the receptionist and broke out crying. The girl behind the desk asked if I was alright. Stupidly I said yes. Did I look alright? Of course not, I was far from it. My mind raced and I thought I was going to die.


I was not after sympathy or any consoling and found myself wandering the halls of the hospital searching for the exit. Immediately leaving and on arriving home I gave my husband the news. We were both in shock for a few days and then came the day for surgery. I had given the doctor instructions only to take the lump and not the whole breast without me knowing first if this would be necessary. A lumpectomy was performed and upon waking I was given the news. It was confirmed as being cancer with all the lymph nodes surgically removed as all bar one had cancer cells. This then meant chemotherapy and radium treatments needed to kill off cancer cells that may have made their way elsewhere in my body. After surgery, and still feeling drowsy with the anaesthetic barely worn off, I sensed company. Warren was standing by my bedside and asked how I was feeling. I indicated I was fine but soon after faded into sleep. Sometime later a nurse appeared wanting to remove the drain in my chest where the lump had been. She said she'd be gentle and told me to take a deep breath. I could feel the drain being pulled out and the instant pain from it's removal was unbearable. I was surprised at how long it was and thought there must have been a gaping hole in me. The nurse carefully re-bandaged the area and luckily the stitches were dissolving ones. My surgeon did a great job in the OR leaving me with minimal scaring.  

Before given any type of treatment my weight was checked and height taken to surmise the correct chemotherapy  dosage. The first treatment is about to begin as we are escorted to a chair among others who are in the process of having their treatments. Some of these people looked okay while others looked like death warmed up. I'm waiting patiently with Warren, but visibly nervous, when a nurse appears all dressed in what looked like plastic covering. My thoughts were, "WOW! This stuff they intend pumping into me must be potent." My brother-in-law, Steve had bowel cancer before this and was in remission and I remember in one of our many conversations on the front veranda with him saying to watch out for the 'Red Shit' as he so named it. His words were, "The red shit is the worst of the treatments to give any cancer patient." Time for the needle to be placed in the back of my hand! I looked away not wanting to watch the needle penetrating my skin as this was definitely not a favourite of mine. Okay it's all done! The nurse then takes out a tube of clear liquid, hooks it up and commences pumping it slowly into my body. Phew, clear liquid! I was relieved. It took way longer than expected (I could have read a short novel) however the nurse did say it would be a slow process. All done and then some saline to flush it out, then another tube of liquid and I thought, "You got to be kidding me." These tubes were by no means small in size and I was absolutely astounded at the amount they were pumping around my small-framed figure. Yet another tube appeared! It was the 'Red Shit.' Oh my God! I was stunned and after the treatment was all finished even Warren wondered how my body was going to handle all these drugs.


Instructions from the nurse were to take the anti-nausea tablets the second I felt signs of being unwell. Righto! This seemed like an easy request. Been home for a while and feel alright! A few hours pass and now I'm not feeling too well at all, so I pop the tablets into my mouth. A short time later I start throwing up, to the extent that hubby was getting worried. I just couldn't stop and threw up all night long. Morning and I'm still being ill and totally drained as well. Warren is really concerned and knows something has to be done. Contact was made with the hospital and another anti-nausea drug for me to take. Thankfully this worked but for the next two weeks I felt extremely unwell. My treatments were to be every third week on a Thursday and I was to have six sessions. With every treatment always came another two weeks of being very ill which left me one week between these drugs when I felt kind of normal and then it would start all over again. My hair is falling out and the sight of it coming out by the handful saddens me. I ask Warren to shave what hair I had left before it all totally fell out knowing this would be less stressful. My second session of chemo; I'm completely bald opting to wear a wig that drove me crazy by nightfall and was flung to one side and replaced with a beanie. On the fourth visit to the hospital looking for veins by now proved to be a little difficult as they had collapsed, so no treatment today. Not a good sign! The doctor knowing, not missing one of these treatments was vital to my fighting this disease, had immediately swung into action ordering a portacath to be surgically implanted under my skin in the shoulder. I had no other option but to go along with this.


The following Monday I'm in the OR under the knife again having the portacath inserted. I spoke to the surgeon before being put under asking him if there was anywhere else this portacath could be placed. Inquisitively he asked the reason for this strange request. My reply, "I'd like to go racing in a couple of weeks and need to wear a harness." His answer, "Don't worry if anything the harness will hold it steady and it shouldn't be a problem." Satisfied I said, "Okay, lets do it." This instrument is designed for attaching to the heart and when the drug is pushed into it, the heart then pumps it around the body. Back to the hospital on the Thursday ready for another dose of red shit and this time it's to be pumped into the portacath. To my surprise I didn't feel a thing. Man! Someone should have thought of this earlier. No more veins to be sabotaged! Another problem had raised its ugly head! Blood tests were taken between chemo treatments and this showed my white cell count dropping to a concerning level. The solution was another drug to be given via the stomach 24 hours after chemo. A home nurse would come visit on the Friday to give the injection. More needles! Ouch! After being poked and prodded 4 times on the day they couldn't find a vein, I hated the sight of needles, so again I looked away. Then an infection took hold during chemo sessions and I was placed in hospital in a private room for three days with antibiotic fluids given via an intravenous drip. More needles! Double ouch! Big sissy babe, aren't I? 


The last chemotherapy treatment was coming up and I asked myself, "Can I go through another?" I dreaded going but knew if I was to survive I must. After all self-preservation was high on my to-do-list. Being bedridden sometimes and needing an escape from this ailing body, and at times feeling like a train wreck, I took to listening to relaxation CD's. It was something I wouldn't have done in the past but right at this time of my life they were well accepted. The first one was Tony O'Connor's "Rainforest Magic" with the sounds of birdsong and distant waterfalls, accompanied by an enchanting blend of beautiful instrumental music. The other, "Echoes of the Humpbacks" by Serenity; this took me to a magical place with the whale songs of the ocean. It was serene for I could imagine myself engaging with these magnificent creatures of the sea. I could see them clearly in my mind and floated away with them over the waves and under the clear, blue water to the depths of the ocean floor. These ran for fifty minutes and for a short amount of time I was at peace.  

Stomach upsets were frequent and I found eating snacks throughout the day eased this, but to my horror caused unwanted weight gain. Radium treatments were to begin and having to drive from our home town of Ipswich for about 20 kilometres to a Brisbane hospital Monday to Friday for 6 weeks. Once there, they mark out the body area like marking out a map to pinpoint exactly where the radium is to be aimed. The treatment itself only takes about 15 minutes and you don't feel anything, not even heat. It can however drain a person of their energy and I bore this full on and spent most of my time feeling lifeless and having to apply creams to the area to relieve any discomfort. Finally all treatments have come to a halt and the only medication is a small white tablet to be taken daily for the next 5 to 6 years. So it's a waiting game for a while then scans to see if all signs of cancer have gone. The result is positive! Thank you Lord!


Back home I was comparing scars with my brother-in-law who came up the winner for not only was he in remission from bowel cancer he also had a tumour removed from his forehead. He had a lovely row of stitches from ear to ear. My scar was nothing against his beauty. They say if you stay in remission for 5 years your chance of the cancer returning reduced dramatically. Steve would come visiting just about every weekend to chat with his brother mainly about cars but sometimes he would pipe up and say, "I just need to get to that 5 year period." He must have had doubts about getting that far or knew better and was keeping it to himself. His cancer did return and sadly he is no longer with us and dearly missed by all. Warren was a tower of strength in my time of need, but underneath the surface he must have been desperately worried about the outcome. I wondered myself, and experienced a few emotional meltdowns mostly in the privacy of our bedroom, but I've come out the other side a stronger and more determined person to do better not only in my chosen motorsport but also life in general.  

My passion for drag racing saw me through some of the tough times, for when I knew of a Street Meeting coming up I was really focused on getting well. I would don the wig at the track and it looked so much like my real hair that for quite a lengthy time others didn't realise. Then when race time came I'd switch from the wig to my helmet while in the amenities. I drew strength from this activity that kept my spirits high. The adrenalin was pumping and I would overcome my illness for at least a day. Despite having to endure chemo and radium treatments I only missed a handful of meetings. The drag racing calendar consisted of 12 meetings annually and I actually made 3 finals this year. My love of this sport literally got me off the lounge and back on track. It was a place to conquer all fears and allowed me to become the aggressor against that which set about destroying my life.

 BREAST CANCER NETWORK AUSTRALIA -                                     

August 2011 has's 9pm and I've now been rushed to the Princess Alexander Hospital in Brisbane for immediate surgery on my spine...CANCER has reared it's ugly head once again. I'm now facing months of recovery!