Unlike many of us, Gayle loves public speaking. It’s a skill she’s developed over many years working as a teacher, and recently through being involved with Toastmasters, an educational organisation dedicated to improving public speaking skills.
In 2022, a local church asked Gayle to speak about her cancer experience at their Australia’s Biggest Morning Tea.
After giving it some thought, she realised that she was ready to share her story and said yes to the opportunity.
Gayle has had five different cancers since 1991, lost 11 body organs along the way, and in 2017 went through research for the BRCA gene mutation.
We spoke with Gayle to learn more about her experiences, and she shared her story.
Gayle hasn’t let cancer define her
Gayle is now 71 and thriving.
She has been learning to live with the results of the cancer treatments she has been through and is consciously grateful to be alive.
“Every day has a sparkle”, says Gayle.
Gayle, after having been divorced many years before, met a wonderful man and got married in 2003. Together, they share five adult children who have given them the joy of ten grandchildren.
“That’s been my greatest miracle, to have that amazing affirmation through finding love again”, says Gayle.
No symptoms, but a whole lot of courage and determination
Gayle first had cancer at 38 years old, when doctors found a 4cm tumour in her left breast. Within a week of diagnosis, she had a mastectomy which was followed by six months of chemotherapy.
Five years later, Gayle had another mastectomy after doctors found cancer in her other breast, and only a few years later, she was diagnosed with uterine cancer.
“I basically spent the 1990s working hard to survive. But after that, I was 16 years cancer free – I rarely thought about cancer any more, it was a thing of the past” Gayle says.
After those 16 years, in 2015, Gayle’s doctors discovered a rare form of cancer in her pelvic area. After initially being prescribed an invasive operation, Gayle was successfully treated with radiotherapy and chemotherapy instead. Although the cancer was gone, she now has a colostomy bag for life as a result of the side effects.
And then, in February 2023, Gayle needed to have her her left kidney removed after a cancerous tumour was found growing on it.
Remarkably, Gayle did not show symptoms for any of her cancers. But in 2017, when she decided to get tested for the BRCA gene mutation, the result came back positive and this gave her some closure.
“It was wonderful to have an explanation for those two breast cancers I had when I was young”, Gayle reflects.
During 2023, Gayle was referred to a geneticist so that she can be involved further with cancer research. She is keen for her case to contribute to helping future generations.
Discovering the power of her story on others
When a local church invited Gayle to speak at their Australia’s Biggest Morning Tea event in 2022, she realised she was finally ready to share her story in full.
“I’ve realised in the last few years that so much has been given to me, so many people have prayed, I’ve had such remarkable healing, and I want to share hope and positivity with others”, Gayle says.
Gayle’s speech made many of the guests relate and feel connected to her. One lady said to Gayle, “You’ve been such a help because I’m terrified of cancer and dying”. From that sort of reaction, Gayle realised her words could have a profound impact.
Gayle was invited back to the Australia’s Biggest Morning Tea at the same church in 2023, to MC the event and again be the speaker. It was another special opportunity.
“To hear someone say I’m okay, I’m doing well and living normally, I had the courage to fight this enemy and win – that can be really powerful”, Gayle adds, “I want to help demystify cancer and show that it’s not something to be feared. Cancer is just an enemy to be beaten”.