Imagine going to a doctor, trying to work out why the cold you’d had for months wasn’t going away. You’re 20 years old, fit and healthy, except that you have a bit of trouble breathing and you just can’t kick this cold which has actually morphed into pneumonia (yay).

You post a selfie on social media before the appointment, hoping you don’t have a collapsed lung.

The doctor looks worried and says there’s a tumour the size of an apple in your lung. You’ve got a disease called Hodgkin’s lymphoma. You’ve no idea what Hodgkin’s lymphoma is and don’t understand why the doctor sounds so worried. Then, after the appointment, you Google it. 

“Oh f*#k. That’s cancer.”

Shelly Rankin's usually chirpy voice wavers for a moment as she recalls the moment she realised Hodgkin’s lymphoma could be fatal
 and the road ahead gruelling.

“I just felt numb,” she says. “I wasn’t even upset. I was just like, ‘oh’.”

A week after the diagnosis, Shelly was rushed to hospital because she couldn’t breathe. There was nearly 1.5 litres of fluid in her lung and they had to be painfully, surgically drained.

Every dollar you give will support people like Shelly. Click here to donate

Six rounds of chemotherapy and six months later, Shelly’s treatments had been successful, the tumour was gone and she was in remission. Blood tests and other scans have shown no evidence of cancer. She has six-monthly check-ups and monitors for symptoms, but as far as she knows is cancer free.

Shelly found Bloomhill Cancer Care thanks to a caring and resourceful nurse at Sunshine Coast University Hospital where she was treated, who also worked at Bloomhill. She has been supported by Bloomhill through almost her entire cancer journey so far.

Shelly is now an advocate for Bloomhill’s personalised services for people touched by cancer, after accessing supports that made a huge and positive difference to her.

“I want people like me to know it’s there for them, and if they know anyone looking for a worthy cause to support, please give to this awesome, community based Sunny Coast charity,” she said. 

One of the challenges for Shelly, like so many cancer survivors, is processing the experience which was layered with shock and trauma and going about “normal life” when so much has changed inside.

In the past year, Shelly lost freedoms, her long blonde hair, and even friends. She’s now in the process of rebuilding – physically and emotionally - and laying down the path her life will take from here.

Bloomhill ‘gets it’

When Shelly found Bloomhill Cancer Care and came to the wellness centre in Buderim, she felt relief that there were people who “just got it”.

At Bloomhill, it was normal to feel the shock she was still in, to experience trauma from the treatments, and feel alienated as she watched her friends go to uni while she felt “stuck in mud”, taking one step at a time and hoping she would get through.

“What’s helped me is having a community who understand,” Shelly said. “Even if they’re not your age or your cancer, people get it. You just talk to people and keep in touch; find like-minded people. We’re all a lot more mature than others our age. Nobody else really gets it.”

She enjoys the Art Therapy Group facilitated by counsellor Clair, every Thursday. She’s made great friends at that class, including 34-year-old Kharlia.

“I look forward to going there every week,” Shelly said. “I feel like Kharlia and I can have laughs, and we can go from having a laugh to crying, and duck right back to having a laugh. You can be emotional, and still just be ourselves.”

Shelly also sees other health professionals at Bloomhill, receiving strength and fitness support from exercise physiologist Ryan, nursing support and care plan guidance from Mel, massage from Debbie and the team of massage therapists.

She encouraged people touched by cancer to reach out to Bloomhill, and anyone in the position to support the local charity to donate now

“The op shops that fund Bloomhill have had a rough year because of COVID and it would just be awesome to see the community rally behind us now. It’s a really honest local charity, and it’s providing support you just can’t get anywhere else locally. So many people who have cancer don’t know about it, and I want them all to come and see it for themselves.

“Also, I’d really love some more young people to come up (to the wellness centre). Cancer is much more prevalent in people aged over 55, and the wellness centre is totally here for them.

“It’s not the same when you’re in your 20s…nobody really gets how intense it is to have to take on a disease with full-on treatments and everything.

“And we want to see their families too, because cancer is definitely felt by everyone in the family of the person who’s got it.”

It costs on average $1454 for Bloomhill to support a client for one year. That’s roughly $125 each month. Please give to our Greatest Need Fund and help Bloomhill continue our vitally important services. Click here to donate

Images: Top - Shelly Rankin at our wellness centre in Buderim, by Patrick Woods. Bottom - Shelly's friend and Bloomhill client Kharlia Beck, with therapist Clair Pinks at an Art Therapy Group (photo supplied). 

Author: Nicky Moffat Published: 30 March 2022