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How cancer turned Kellie’s life upside down

With three girls to care for, a full-time job and a property to tend to, Kellie Sullivan’s life was always “go, go, go”, but time stopped, and her life came to a halt in 2019 when she received an aggressive cervical cancer diagnosis. 

Kellie’s life was turned upside down by cancer not once, but twice, within six short months. In that time, cancer had already taken her ovaries, her cervix and her father’s life—and it threatened to take so much more.

Her tumour was aggressive and advanced. Things had to happen quickly because every day was critical to her chances of survival. So, Kellie started treatment straight away, with no idea how it would affect her but with the hope that it would save her life.

Kellie had two major surgeries—one for the initial hysterectomy that took her cervix, and a second to remove her ovaries after the tumour was discovered. She then began an intensive treatment program that included months of daily radiotherapy and weekly chemotherapy. It was exhausting, and frightening.

Kellie’s husband and teenage daughters were by her side throughout the debilitating treatment—all the while not knowing whether she would survive.

Kellie says her family were a vital source of strength and support.

“The chemo left me feeling nauseous, tired and unwell all the time. And the radiotherapy made my skin and bones ache. When I went home every weekend, I was pretty much bedridden,” she says.

While cancer treatment took many things from Kellie, what she missed most was quality time with her husband and girls.

“We used to have these family fun nights once a fortnight where we’d sit around the table all night playing games and laughing,” Kellie says.

“We love those nights, but we haven’t been able to do them since my diagnosis because I’m just not well enough.”

The diagnosis, treatment and all of its side effects have taken so much from Kellie and her family and for too long. And sadly, Kellie’s story is not unique.

In 2019, the same year Kellie received her diagnosis, 75 South Australian women were also diagnosed with cervical cancer and 16 lost their lives.

Every day, Cancer Council funded researchers are working to find new and better treatments to help save the lives of South Australians facing a cancer diagnosis, treatments like immunotherapy.

Right now, immunotherapy is one of the most promising areas of cancer research. It is revolutionising how a range of cancers are treated. However, to date, it has had little impact on solid cancers like cervical, breast and prostate cancer. On cancers like Kellie’s.

With the continued support of Cancer Council, Associate Professor Alexander Swarbrick has bold ambitions to change that.

Daffodil Day is coming and it’s a day for all Australians to come together to support people impacted by cancer… people like Kellie. Each and every dollar raised on Daffodil Day helps advance cancer research to find new and better treatments and help save lives.

Kellie is sharing her story in the hope the South Australian community will give once again this Daffodil Day for all that cancer has taken from people just like her. You can make a donation to Cancer Council SA’s latest appeal today and help give hope for a cancer free future.

If you have recently been diagnosed with cancer, our Cancer Council Nurses are here to help.

Get in touch today by phoning Cancer Council 13 11 20 for confidential information and support service or email

We are extremely grateful to Kellie for sharing her story with us. You can show your support for Kellie and the thousands of South Australians impacted by cancer.

Make a donation to our appeal here