18 February 2019
A little over a year ago, Belinda’s world was turned upside-down when she found out that her dad had Stage 4 lung cancer. So when she saw an ad for The March Charge on Facebook, she knew that she wanted to challenge herself to raise funds for Cancer Council SA.
Dad was diagnosed with small cell lung cancer in January 2018. His cancer is a bit different from the type people get when they smoke. Dad was healthy enough, until one day, he was walking to the post box and was out of breath and light headed. I remember him ringing me after seeing his doctor and saying that his oxygen levels were low and the doctor thinks he may have some kind of virus or chest infection. The doctor could hear fluid in my dad’s chest, so he was sent for a chest x-ray. It was quite busy around then as it was the Christmas period, so he couldn’t get a scan until after Christmas (early January). I recall we all had Christmas lunch together as a family and we didn’t know anything yet about his diagnosis.
In early January 2018 my dad went for a chest x-ray. Within a few hours after having his x-ray, a doctor called and asked him to go straight to the emergency department at the Flinders Medical Centre. My dad called me and said, “Belinda, I don’t think things are good, the doctor has told me to go straight to the emergency department”. My mum is disabled and my dad is her full timer carer, so I went to stay with my mum whilst my dad went with my aunty to the hospital. My dad was told straight away by the doctors that he had lung cancer. Further tests would need to be undertaken to determine the type of lung cancer he had. My whole family was devastated by the news.
My dad always joked that he would get lung cancer one day, as he worked with asbestos as an electrician when he was younger. He worked with asbestos boards all the time with no protective gear, so originally, when the doctors knew his history, they believed the cancer was most likely caused by asbestos. Further tests were conducted at hospital and we had to wait several weeks for them to determine what type of cancer he had.
It was a very stressful month for my family as we waited for his results and prognosis. Finally we got to see an oncologist and he told my dad that he has small cell lung cancer, at Stage 4. My dad had no other symptoms until he was short of breath and had fluid on his lungs. My dad has never been a smoker. As soon as I tell people that my dad has lung cancer they always question, “Was he a smoker?”. He has never smoked in his life.
My dad’s small cell lung cancer is caused by a gene mutation. This type of lung cancer is very rare (around 10 per cent of patients are diagnosed with this type of lung cancer). Fortunately, my dad is able to take a tablet once a day instead of having chemo and radiation therapy. The tablet he takes has few side effects compared to having chemo and radiation therapy. My dad can still care for my mum and continue living as normal for now.
Sadly Dad’s cancer is at Stage 4 and is incurable. The oncologist can’t give us Dad’s prognosis, as some patients have been on this medicine for many years. The medication is working well and has shrunk his tumour, but eventually his body will reject the drug and the cancer will continue to spread.
Dad has regular appointments with his oncologist. It’s always a nervous wait for our family waiting on his results from scans and praying that the cancer hasn’t grown.
I first saw The March Charge on Facebook around the end of February 2018. I’ve always thought about doing some kind of fundraiser to raise money towards cancer research. I also received devastating news that one of my best friends had cervical cancer, so that made me more determined to raise money.
I love being outdoors and I try to exercise most days, so I thought it was a great idea for me to keep fit and raise money for cancer at the same time.
In total, I walked 122 kilometres in The March Charge in 2018. I tried to push myself and do a few extra kilometres on most days. I was lucky that my family and friends were very generous with their donations. It was a good time for me to do the challenge as people knew about my dad’s recent diagnosis and also what my friend was going through.
I walk my dog most days and do around three or four kilometres. Whilst I was doing The March Charge I pushed it to around five or six kilometres every day. I would also walk in my lunch break at work if I wasn’t able to walk in the evening. I was also going to Thailand on a family holiday and was motivated to get my bikini body! I actually ended up losing about three or four kilos with all of the extra walking. My weekends are a bit more chilled for me—but this challenge made me get up and go walking on the weekends too, and I had a good purpose for doing it. I’ll definitely be getting ready for The March Charge this year, I might try and encourage some other friends to do it with me as a team and try to beat my target.
I think my tips for others looking to get involved would be to work out the total number of kilometres they plan on walking/running for the month of March and break this down to a daily number of kilometres. It doesn’t seem as overwhelming this way! To make it more interesting, mix up your daily exercise routine. Go for a walk along the beach or at a park and do something different each day to keep you motivated. If you start doing the same thing every day it does become boring and repetitive. There is no better motivation than knowing that you are raising money for a great cause!
You can find out more about The March Charge and register for your own challenge in 2019.