Life-changing experience

WHEN Boatharbour mother-of-three Erin Mitchell was diagnosed with breast cancer all she could focus on was one day at a time.

This week marks one year since her initial diagnosis and her focus has shifted to the longer term.

Mrs Mitchell, 44, was one of 10 cancer patients and carers who yesterday attended an information clinic on the long-term side effects of chemotherapy. She said she expected to be feeling the effects of her treatment for the rest of her life.

“I’ve had a lot of aches and pains in the joints and muscles, but it’s more than that,” Mrs Mitchell said.

“Cancer and chemotherapy make you think differently about everything.

“People worry about whether to buy pink or grey curtains but once you’ve been through something like this you think ‘they’re just curtains’ – you don’t worry about the small stuff.”

The guest speaker at the clinic was Lismore oncology and haematology nurse practitioner Kris Liebke.  Mr Liebke presented a long list of side effects cancer patients may experience many years after their diagnosis.

The physical side effects included chest pain, fatigue, weight loss, swelling, muscle aches, hormone changes, kidney disease, hearing loss, seizures, memory loss and infertility.

Mr Liebke also said there was a wide range of emotional and psychological side effects cancer survivors could expect to experience.

“One hundred per cent of people will change in one way or another,” he said.

“It has massive life changing aspects to it. We have people who experience depression a long time after their treatment.

“People see and do things differently. Some patients say they become completely different people because of cancer treatment.

“Some have an intolerance of people with minor complaints like the flu.

“There’s also a concept called survival guilt associated with people who meet other cancer patients and wonder why they survived and someone else didn’t.”

Mr Liebke also said cancer survivors may experience relationship difficulties, problems at work, body image issues and an effect on their spiritual beliefs.

Information clinics organised by the Cancer Council and Northern Rivers GP Network are held on the last Thursday of each month in Lismore. Next month’s topic will be cancer prevention.

For information call 6622 4453.

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