LET’S ALL light THE NIGHT

The Riverine Herald - - FRONT PAGE - Photo: Luke He­mer

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

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