Cancer journey inspires generosity in survivor

SURVIVOR: After a tough battle with ovarian cancer, Warwick local Carolyn Ettery plans to shave her head to give to others suffering from cancer.
SURVIVOR: After a tough battle with ovarian cancer, Warwick local Carolyn Ettery plans to shave her head to give to others suffering from cancer. Sophie Lester

WHEN Warwick truck driver Carolyn Ettery first noticed a lump on her torso, she knew it was cause for concern.

Two days later, the lump had tripled in size and a doctor scheduled her for surgery.

It was in the operation that Mrs Ettery and her partner Robert's worst fears were confirmed: ovarian cancer.

"We initially went to the doctors in Toowoomba and they said 'Oh, that's not good' and decided to send her to the Mater Hospital in Brisbane," Mr Ettery said.

"We got the diagnosis in April 2010 and then I underwent a radical hysterectomy and from August I had six months of chemotherapy," Mrs Ettery said.

"I would travel to Brisbane every three weeks and be in the hospital for five hours and then drive back home.

"It was a really scary time for us, but a bit of a blur for me going through it.

"I was so sick from the chemo and my hair was falling out in clumps, but through it all I always thought there were people who were sicker than me and that I was lucky."

With a tough battle behind her, Mrs Ettery, now 47, is using her experience with cancer to help others fighting the disease.

On August 6 she will shave her head once again and donate her hair and funds raised to charity to help young kids suffering from hair loss.

"We've been fundraising since the start of the month, and we're looking for a hairdresser who will hopefully shave my head for free," Mrs Ettery said.

"We decided to donate to the Princess Charlotte Alopecia Program through the charity Variety, and we've already raised about $500 of our $5000 goal.

"We actually learnt recently that one of Robert's workmates (in Brisbane), his little girl has it, and even if we don't make our goal at least the charity gets something.

"I had really great help from the Cancer Council to get a wig, which I donated back to them when I didn't need it anymore."

Through her experience with her cancer, Mrs Ettery said she had the support of her husband, parents and extended family and staff at the Mater Hospital.

"I don't have kids myself but we have a very close family - I had a lot of support from Robert and the rest of my family," she said.

"When my hair started falling out Robert and I went to my sister's place and they shaved our heads.

"When I first wanted to shave my head my nieces and nephews didn't really understand, so I let them touch my hair and allow clumps to fall out to show them why I was doing it."

Mrs Ettery's sister, Carmel Farrell, said she was thankful the diagnosis led to rapid treatment.

"It was devastating when we got Carolyn's diagnosis," Mrs Farrell said.

"It wasn't something we expected but we're so happy it was caught in time."

"The one thing I'd say is you need to trust your instincts if you notice any changes," Mr Ettery said.

"I feel like I got this lump for a reason and I wasn't meant to die yet.

"If nothing else we just hope this makes people aware."

To make a donation, visit /au/carolyn-1

Topics:  cancer health survivor warwick

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