Sur­vivor’s hope mes­sage

Papakura Courier - - FRONT PAGE - MAR­LENE SINGH

A Pa­pakura can­cer sur­vivor is aid­ing those just like her, who are bat­tling the same con­di­tion she once fought against.

In April 2015, Shel­ley Wood­ney had just cel­e­brated her 43rd birth­day when she found her­self with a sore throat and feel­ings of nau­sea.

Think­ing it was some­thing mi­nor, she vis­ited her lo­cal med­i­cal cen­tre only to be di­ag­nosed with acute lym­phoblas­tic leukemia, a can­cer of the blood and bone mar­row that af­fects white blood cells.

‘‘I was given three to six weeks to live without treat­ment,’’ the can­cer sur­vivor says.

Wood­ney’s di­ag­no­sis was dev­as­tat­ing for her three chil­dren, at the time aged be­tween 16 and 21, she says.

She was in­ca­pable of work­ing and had to give up her ninemonth-old Labrador puppy.

Now 45, Wood­ney says she would have lost her home too if it wasn’t for her friends ral­ly­ing to raise money.

Her life might not have been the same if it wasn’t for the con­ti­nous sup­port she re­ceived, and she in turn has de­liv­ered to sur­vivors and car­ers through the Re­lay For Life event.

Thou­sands of peo­ple each year par­tic­i­pate in Re­lay For Life, it’s a chance to cel­e­brate can­cer sur­vivors, car­ers and re­mem­ber loved ones who fought through sim­i­lar bat­tles.

Wood­ney first heard about the Re­lay For Life on the an­niver­sary of her di­ag­no­sis.

Her friends sug­gested she should join as a sur­vivor. Wood­ney says ‘‘there was a great vibe and neat at­mos­phere’’.

‘‘I had my best friends and fam­ily join­ing too. I chose Find­ing Nemo as our team name be­cause my catch­phrase was ‘just keep swim­ming’ when things got tough dur­ing my treat­ment.’’

She’s shar­ing her story of sur­vival in the hope of mo­ti­vat­ing and in­spir­ing peo­ple to join the Re­lay For Life event.

‘‘You don’t know when it’s go­ing to hap­pen to you, or to some­one you love,’’ Wood­ney says, of can­cer di­ag­no­sis.

‘‘Your life could change in a split sec­ond. It’s so im­por­tant to have sup­port.’’

It’s also about hav­ing a pos­i­tive at­ti­tude. Wood­ney says when peo­ple see a woman walk­ing down the street with a head scarf, don’t think of her as a can­cer suf­ferer, in­stead think of her as a sur­vivor with an army of peo­ple con­stantly be­hind her.

‘‘By do­ing Re­lay For Life, you’re giv­ing your time, it’s a way to sup­port peo­ple. When you think about what peo­ple go through dur­ing treat­ment, it’s noth­ing,’’ Wood­ney says.

Can­cer So­ci­ety spokesman Paul Hayes says ‘‘fundrais­ing ef­forts will help pro­vide fund­ing for world-class can­cer re­search’’.

Wood­ney soon com­mences a new po­si­tion as a prac­tice nurse in a lo­cal surgery and she has also bought a small home.

Re­lay For Life in­volves teams set­ting up camp and tak­ing turns re­lay-style in walk­ing or run­ning around a track for 18 hours while en­joy­ing a car­ni­val at­mos­phere of mu­sic, en­ter­tain­ment, games, prizes and ac­tiv­i­ties.

The next lo­cal Re­lay For Life event will be held at Bruce Pul­man Park, Pa­pakura, from 4pm on Satur­day, April 7. To regis­ter or for more de­tails see www.re­lay­for­life.org.nz.

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