SURVIVING CANCER 

A ‘SECOND CHANCE AT LIFE’  

By Benita Cheatley 

was quite shocked when a routine mammogram showed up a 2.5 cm lump in my breast in 2017. I had been having regular, 12-monthly breast checks as my sister had had breast cancer. My breast surgeon thought a lumpectomy and some radiation would be adequate treatment 

Due to my sister’s cancer, and that I had just become a grandmadecided to have a double mastectomy, to give myself the best possible chance of breast cancer not returning. 

I had immediate reconstructive surgery and implants put in at surgery, where they also discovered the cancer had spread to the lymph nodes.  So it was back to surgery for a lymph node clearance. This also meant six months of gruelling chemotherapy.  Even this proved not to be so straight-forward.  The pain in my chest got worse and liquid seeped from the wounds. The implants had become infected - so two more operations, and on my 50th birthday they removed the implants. 

It was time to start chemo, but after one round I became sick, and in pain. The wounds had begun to seep again - the infection was back.  I went to Emergency at the public hospital, I was very sick and needed more operations. 

I found going public a real game changer, the plan my new team mapped out proved so much more effective, but I was also was assigned a cancer nurse.  A cancer nurse is like your coach, she gets things into a perspective you can understand, and moves you along on the path that you just can’t navigate on your own. 

With the brilliant care I received at the Sunshine Coast University Hospital, my wounds healed, we finally beat the infections but the battle had just begun, as I faced many the rounds of gruelling chemotherapy.  All my hair fell out and I suffered the dreadful side effects of chemo 

Lou, my lovely cancer nurse, strongly suggested I go visit Bloomhill.   

At Bloomhill I found great comfort. It was essential to my healing process.  All of the staff, from medical to management, just seemed to get what you were feeling.   

It’s that type of healing you don’t get at all the hospital appointments. In a time when you just need softness and love, everything at Bloomhill just seems so comforting. It’s more than the wonderful staff, it is an environment where your wellbeing and mental health are paramount, and you learn so much more about the treatments how to manage the side effects.  

The emotional benefits that joining Bloomhill’s community gave me were absolutely life-saving. Having cancer is so bewildering, it’s foreign world, therefore I found chatting to other Bloomhill clients so reassuring, discussing our treatments and how we were combatting side effects.  It was our safe place, where we could take off our beanies or turbans and sit there with our bald heads and have coffee after yoga. 

Trish Wilson, the Clinical Services Manager, helped me in many ways, often as a shoulder to cry on. She also introduced me to meditation, encouraging me to take the classes, and this is a skill I still use, to this day.   

Trish also organised free membership for me when money became very tight. Bloomhill gave free care for some time and I am so grateful.  I met a woman there, who had asked her wedding guests to donate to Bloomhill instead of giving presents. It was people like her, the people that help raise money, that help people like me, and others by helping keep Bloomhill open.  

The wonderful, calm environment at Bloomhill was my world for a year. The library, the gardens, the classes and the bond with other clientsbecame so important to my recovery. 

Two years on, and with eight surgeries behind me, my hair has grown back and a second attempt at reconstruction has been successful.  I now have a partner and life couldn’t be happier.   

I am very grateful for my life, my family, my friends, and everything in it.  I will always be eternally grateful to Bloomhill for being the backbone to my journey.  I wish to give back and am now able to, so my October cancer morning tea is to raise money for Bloomhill, so that they can continue to help people going through cancer.  

 

HELP US TO CONTINUE SUPPORTING SURVIVORS LIKE BENITA. VISIT WWW.BLOOMHILL.COM.AU