COMFORT BLANKET: Ann Withers, from Clunes, with a quilt friends made for her when she was diagnosed with bowel cancer earlier i
COMFORT BLANKET: Ann Withers, from Clunes, with a quilt friends made for her when she was diagnosed with bowel cancer earlier i

Long, lonely road, but Ann still reckons she is lucky

By Alex Easton

DOCTORS give her a less than two-in-three chance of surviving past the next five years, but Ann Withers, of Clunes, reckons she's lucky.

Ms Withers was diagnosed with bowel cancer in January.

By the time the cancer was found it had already entered her lymphatic system, meaning that since then she has been going through an aggressive course of surgery and chemotherapy to remove as much of the cancer as possible, and beat whatever remains into remission.

Even that process, which has now been running for six months, offered Ms Withers a barely even chance of living more than five years, so now she is preparing for a six-week course of radiotherapy treatments to bump up her chances of survival to the 63 per cent mark.

That's where the luck comes in.

Because Lismore has no radiotherapy unit, Ms Withers will have to drive to the Gold Coast for treatment every day for six weeks. It's an imposition that will force her to put her life on hold for the duration of her treatment.

However, were it not for the support of her family and friends, she might not be able to make the trip at all.

Ms Withers said she was going to try doing the drive herself, but her husband had taken time off work to drive her during the final two weeks of her treatment, and friends from as far away as Casino had made a standing offer to take her up each day.

Many others were not so fortunate, she said.

Sole parents and people recently moved to the region who lacked strong support networks could easily struggle to make the long daily drive to the Gold Coast, especially while enduring the physical and emotional battle with cancer.

"It really isn't fair," she said. "These are the people I feel for. I'm one of the lucky ones, because I can make%that trip."

n NSW Cancer Minister Verity Firth said the new Lismore Base Hospital cancer and radiotherapy unit would be built 'over the next few years', and has now named Sydney-based consultancy Hassell Pty Ltd as the unit's project manager.

Hassell would be responsible for the project's preparatory planning and had experience in the developing of health facilities, including radiotherapy units, she said.



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