Sandra takes us through her cancer journey, from diagnosis to treatment to survivorship.
Listen to your elders. It’s very, very important to listen to them. It’s not the shame shame thing anymore. It’s the game thing. You’ve got to play.
I’d like to introduce myself. My name is Sandra Markwell.
I am from the Yugambeh language region, which is Beaudesert goes all the way down from Beaudesert to Southport. I come from one of many tribes. I take my mother’s side, which is a Mununjali woman, and my father’s side is Kombumerri.
I was first early detected in 19…, cervical cancer in 1970… 1983, just after I had my youngest son. And in saying this, I was also pregnant at the time. My doctors actually came to me. He was a very, very fabulous doctor. I felt very comfortable with him because he had delivered my youngest son.
He advised me to have a pap smear test and I had, actually was a bit scared about that because I had had three miscarriages prior to my youngest son.
They detected that I had cysts on my ovaries and at the time I was actually pregnant.
So in saying this, he had given me a choice, an option of saying, he said to me, Well, it’s your life or it’s your baby’s life.
So in saying that, it was very difficult. Very, very difficult for me at that time because like I say, being a young mum of three, it was like, Oh my God, my world’s crushing, or crushing in around me.
I was working over at Redlands Health Service Centre as one of the Indigenous health workers. That was the hearing health worker. I worked there for three years.
When I turned 50, it was like a normal thing. I think you’d better go and have your breasts examined. Mammogram? No, I’ll be fine. I kept saying, I’ll be fine. One of the other health workers kept saying, No, you need to go and do it. That was in January of 2000.
One day I’m sitting there come February. It was, big gush of menopause. I think it was. I was going through hot flushes. Just hit me, hit me something terrible. I was sitting in the lounge. I thought, oh boy, I better go and do something about this. I just kept getting them all the time.
So actually, I didn’t feel comfortable, I got to be honest, with the Redlands Health Service Centre there. I just didn’t want everybody to know about my business because it was such a small office. So I decided I will go to the Chermside Breast screening clinic where I’ve always gone.
I went. I had my mammogram done.
Three days later, I got a phone call from the doctors, Please come up. I remember it so clear. I rang my husband. I said to him, I have to go back to the doctors. It was the 14th of February. I remember it was Valentine’s Day.
My husband had finished work and he came and we had the appointment with the doctor. She sat us down in this room and she told me that I was detected in my right side of my breast.
It was about the size, a little bit bigger than a rice grain.
I was devastated. Again, I thought, Please God, don’t take me yet. Please, please.
Anyway, from there on, I was sent to the private, Brisbane North Private Hospital where I was under Dr. Gough. He actually was so fantastic.
I tell you, even to this day, they supported me.
They looked after me and I had nine lymph nodes taken from my breast and partial my breast was removed.
But in saying that I survived that. So it is 2010 now.
I mean, right. Listen to your elders. It’s very, very important to listen to them.
It’s not the shame shame thing anymore. It’s the game thing. You’ve got to play.
You have got to go and get this thing happening.
Early detection, I found, has saved my life twice.
And I tell my granddaughters right, I have three beautiful granddaughters. I am also a great grandmother.
I have lived this long to see this and I hope I live a few more years to see them grow up.
And by hopefully, by me sharing my story of my life and my journey in life, I hope I can reach out to others to inspire them, right, to go and get these check-ups come to forums like this.