LET’S ALL light THE NIGHT
Annie Gibson and Bill Kuluris are ready for the annual Light the Night walk across the Murray next week to raise awareness of, and money for, the Leukaemia Foundation.
WHEN Barmah’s Annie Gibson carries a lantern across Echuca-Moama bridge on November 2, she won’t be doing it for herself.
She’ll be doing it for the legions of others who, like her, have fought a battle (tragically, too many times, a losing one) with leukaemia.
Above all, for the countless roll of victims yet to be diagnosed with this horrific blood cancer — the innocent men, women and children picked for a lottery no one wants to win.
By carrying a lantern across the bridge at Echuca-Moama’s Light the Night event, she’ll be joining with the Leukaemia Foundation in fighting back.
So one day the rate of people diagnosed with disease in Australia each year won’t be 13,000 — it’ll be zero.
Diagnosed with type 1 diabetes 30 years ago, the 58-year-old didn’t think things could get much worse until her doctor said ‘‘leukaemia’’.
Although in some ways that was a relief because of the uncertainty and fear as doctors took six months to finally get the diagnosis right.
Annie first knew something was up when, towards the end of 2017, she began to struggle with daily, excruciating pain on her right side.
Her body also rapidly shed 16kg and she was diagnosed as anorexic.
Despite a revolving door of scans and tests and more appointments, pain killers and triple-zero calls than she can count, doctors were stumped.
In a final desperate bid, Annie visited a local doctor’s office where she was seen by ‘‘angel’’ Dr Mena Attalh.
Although he was still unsure of the precise diagnosis, Dr Attalh kicked into emergency mode and immediately raced Annie to Royal Women’s Hospital to be operated on.
‘‘I needed a hysterectomy — but when they got in there, everything was such a mess, they still couldn’t diagnose me,’’ she said.
Conducting a frozen biopsy, doctors sent samples to Peter Mac and Royal Women’s for testing. It still took doctors three weeks to find the answer Annie had been waiting for.
She had diffuse large B-cell lymphoma (DLBCL).
One of several types of leukaemia, the cancer affects white blood cells responsible for producing antibodies, causing an aggressive tumour to form.
In Annie’s case, it started in her left ovary, causing it to twist inside itself, bleed from within and slowly disintegrate.
‘‘This released the cancer, meaning in the future it may spread to other areas including my lungs, lymph nodes, brain and so on,’’ she said.
Currently, Annie is on a watch and wait threemonthly testing and consultation system.
‘‘Chemo would currently kill me due to my weightloss and diabetes. If I do eventually start it, I’ll have to go to Melbourne and be monitored closely.’’
Despite lifelong struggles with illness, Annie is anything but defeated.
Grateful to those supporting her, she soaks up the joys of life wherever she can, enjoying time with her family and — above all — raising money for the Leukaemia Foundation.
Annie will join with hundreds for the foundation’s upcoming Light the Night event.
The evening will include a lantern ceremony, where lanterns of different colours will be raised — white for people currently suffering from leukaemia, blue for people supporting those with leukaemia and yellow for people who have passed away from blood cancer.
After the ceremony, people will walk across Echuca-Moama bridge and back.
Sponsored by Moama Bowling Club and Moama Workers Club, the night kicks off at Kerrabee Sound Shell from 5pm, featuring live music, stalls and raffles.
To get involved, visit lightthenight.org.au/ events/echuca-moama