Sally Ewin has heard and uttered the word cancer more times than she cares to think about. As a physiotherapist, Sally has worked with many women recovering from breast cancer-related surgery and helped them in the biggest fight of their lives.
But a few years ago the tables were turned when Sally was diagnosed with breast cancer herself.
“In the beginning I went through a fairly typical reaction of just getting on with it while trying to pretend everything was normal,” the Telarah woman said.
So just days following a lumpectomy, Sally went back to work. Her first patient was a woman who had a mastectomy.
“It was a very different and difficult scenario for me and I found that from then on everything was coloured by personal experience. "Knowledge is one thing, experience is another,” Sally said.
Following her own experience with cancer and lymphoedema (a common chronic and debilitating condition in cancer patients where excess fluid accumulates causing swelling) Sally established a Maitland clinic designed to help others battling with the condition. The clinic thrived for three years until Sally was diagnosed with cancer for a second time.
“I had to have chemotherapy this time around and I thought I could keep the clinic going but in the end I was too sick so I had to close it down. This time around my treatment was fraught with difficulty.”
These days Sally continues to battle both the physical and psychological remnants of the insidious disease. But instead of giving in, Sally has become somewhat of a poster girl for those living with cancer and lymphoedema having served as the ambassador of the Maitland Cancer Network and founder of both the Maitland Lymphoedema and Maitland Women’s Cancer support groups.
“The surviving part of cancer is quite complex,” Sally said. “Some people manage to put it in the past and keep going, where other people have this ongoing anxiety to deal with and a constant fear of the cancer returning.
“We’re so vulnerable, all of us.”
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