Cancer Survivor Lily was diagnosed with adenoid cystic carcinoma in May 2015 and had surgery to remove her left voice box as part of her treatment. The realisation that she could lose her voice and never speak again was a wake-up call for Lily, who now uses her voice more than ever before to share her experiences and help others in a similar situation.
Those dreaded words
For a doctor to call me at such a late hour on a Friday afternoon was not a good omen. When he asked whether I was with anyone, I was even more concerned, but managed to say the words, “I am with my sisters”. I will never forget his response, “The biopsy result came back – you have cancer.”
As soon as I heard the word “cancer” my whole body went numb. I didn’t hear much of what he said after that but luckily, my sisters had heard the whole thing. It’s actually very rare that all of us 4 sisters are together – with one in Darwin and one in London – especially at such a crucial moment.
After the initial shock I somewhat managed to regain some composure and all I could think of asking was, “Am I going to die? How long have I got? Tell me straight – what should I do?”
I don’t know where I found the courage to even ask those questions, but it just came out.
Finding my voice again
Before my operation I was told that I could lose my voice altogether. I remember thinking: “This can’t be happening – no voice at all?” You see, prior to my cancer diagnosis, I had been suffering from depression for many years, I was withdrawn and preferred to keep to myself. Being told I may lose my voice hit me hard and I made myself a promise – that if I lived, I would start speaking up for what I believe in.
I’m confident I am now doing just that – I’ve trained as a Positive Culture Coach, hold my own workshops and am a Community Ambassador for Cancer Council which I do to help make people with cancer aware of all the support on offer, so they don’t have to face their cancer journey isolated and alone. It’s amazing what a life changing experience like cancer does to you.
Even more recently, I was filmed talking about my experiences for a Westpac video about their wonderful matching gifts programme, where they match donations made by their employees to Cancer Council, helping fund the services that support people through cancer.
A new lease of life
It’s been almost 3 years now since I was declared ‘cancer free’ and, each year, I celebrate my anniversary. I feel it is important to celebrate these milestones, to celebrate life and the people around you. I’ve certainly come to realise the meaning of the phrase “life is too short”.
If there was anything positive to come out of my cancer journey, it would be my fresh outlook on life and my newfound purpose. I’m doing what I can to make the most of my time here and hopefully help and empower others – by using my voice!
By matching their employee’s donations, Westpac have helped fund vital Cancer Support services and helped people like Lily get the support they need. Find out more about Westpac Group’s Matching Gifts program.