What a year it’s been

Maree Van Oirshot in the pink wig, with Auctioneer Andrew Hawkins with the Pink Ladies of Rainbow Beach at one of Maree’s Breast Cancer Awareness events

Maree Van Oirshot in the pink wig, with Auctioneer Andrew Hawkins with the Pink Ladies of Rainbow Beach at one of Maree’s Breast Cancer Awareness events

Many locals know the lovely and energetic Maree Van Oirshot as the previous owner of Rainbow Beach Houseboats from the early 2000’s.

Maree raised her children Terry, Annie and Josey here and son Terry still lives here.

She was one of the major organisers for the annual breast cancer awareness pink luncheons which raised thousands of dollars for breast cancer awareness over six years.

Maree has had a tumultuous year and we thought you would like to wish her all the best so we asked her if we could share her story.

“A year ago I visited my GP after getting a fever and what I thought might have been haemorrhoids. Upon examination she said ‘I think I would like to refer you to a specialist.’

Within the week I managed to see a Colorectal Doctor at Sunshine Coast University Hospital. where he took a biopsy.

The very next day he phoned to say he wasn’t satisfied with the results and booked me in for a surgical biopsy. The next day I had an MRI and CT scan and a week later I also had a colonoscopy.

My family and I visited the clinic for my results, to be given the shocking news. I had Adenocarcinoma T4 N0 M1. Bowel cancer with a 9cm tumour and lymph nodes compromised.
The good news was, I had no other cancer anywhere else.

The medical team at Sunshine Coast University Hospital gave me an option to have all my treatment prior to surgery. This was my best option to be ready and operable approximately 10 months later.

Within four weeks I commenced chemotherapy which took me on an eighteen week journey.

There was a two week hold up as I learned about my blood; My neutrophils were below 1 twice so this means no chemotherapy for a week.

There were setbacks as I discover are difficult to swallow as you just want to get through the treatment.

During this time I learnt that time once thought of as your enemy becomes a time to rest, heal and recover. I am so grateful for my family and friends who unconditionally supported me during this time. It certainly had highs and lows.

After having three weeks rest from chemotherapy, I started the next treatment of five weeks chemotherapy, seven days a week with five days a week in targeted radiation therapy.

Well this was a whole new test as week five came along and I succumbed to burns five more times in the radiation room. This tested my resilience as my mind struggled each day getting burnt again.

The medical team was truly fantastic and do an amazing job to get you through.

The volunteers who give you support and boost you up while waiting your turn are to be commended.

Everyone has their story and somehow you get through.

I then headed off into a thirteen week break prior to surgery.

I was feeling great after my burns healed and confident I was going to have a nice time to catch up on my life.

I was doing really well until three weeks later my daughters were spending the night in emergency as I developed a sepsis infection. Boom down I go.

My blood pressure was low and temperatures high and I spent time in ICU then a few days in the hospital. I had never been that unwell before and shocked my family and I think we all realised the gravity of my cancer.

During this time I headed off to see the specialist doctors at the Royal Brisbane Women’s Hospital. These appointments are filled with details of my surgery I was not fully prepared for. I guess I hoped that after treatment there might be a new outcome and the surgery not as huge as anticipated.

Processing this information was very difficult and I am so lucky my family was with me to help digest the size and details of my surgery.

I must admit, anyone going through similar circumstances would understand that having a break from medical appointments for weeks is very nice. It consumes your existence along with family and friends who give up their time to take you. This impacts them every time they see you as well and yet somehow we get through again.

Christmas and New Year are gone and surgery is set for February 12th.

Off to the RBWH on the 11th of February for admission.

The big day arrives and I go very early. The procedure took 14 hrs with many teams during the day carefully removing my cancer. The next four days I spend in ICU with my family very concerned about my wellbeing and spending hours vigil by my bedside.

As I improve I head off to a high dependency ward. I continue to progress and into the ward. Three weeks later I have no complications and am well enough to be transferred to Eden rehabilitation at Cooroy.

I spend another three weeks here working with the physiotherapist on my mobility. I am learning to walk, go up steps, gather my balance and generally regain mobility. It is a huge surgery and it took its toll on me that’s for sure.

The dietitian also helps with gaining weight and improving my diet. My body begins to heal although most days it feels like an eternity to wellness.

The six weeks in hospital was an experience. I never thought it would be happening to me! But there you have it, as healthy and active I presumed I was, a little cell decided to go rogue and become a tumour.

Fast forward a year from my diagnosis and the Surgeon has given me good news they were successful in removing the cancer and my lymph nodes are all clear. My oncologist tells me I do not need more chemotherapy. So a huge year with a great outcome.

Remember these cancers can often take a while to present, so be very mindful of your body. Become more in tune with it everyday. Consider your environment and exposure to the sun, chemicals and technology. Consider your intake and consumption of food and drink. There are always better choices.

Consider learning about your family’s medical history and gaining knowledge to perhaps help with preventative measures.

But I think the best medicine is to find joy and laughter, do things that fill up that cup we often talk about.

Life is certainly short once you’ve been dealt the cancer card. So live a good life. Love your family and get out in nature.

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