Bec Sherman was the first South Australian to register for the iconic Marilyn Jetty Swim in 2013. Now, eight years on, the event means more to her than ever before.
Held every February as a part of the Channel 7 Brighton Jetty Classic, the Marilyn Jetty Swim sees more than 200 women (and a few men!) swimming or paddling 400 metres around the Brighton Jetty—all dressed head to toe as ‘50s icon Marilyn Monroe.
Bec, a mum of two teenagers, first signed up after hearing about the event through a close friend.
“I didn’t really know what it was, but it sounded like fun, so I decided to register. My other friends must have been a bit slow off the mark, because years later, I found out I was the first person to register, ever,” she laughed.
“I didn’t really have a lot of experience with cancer at that stage. My husband had lost his mum to leukaemia and I lost my grandmother to cancer, but that was many years ago” she said.
That all changed in 2018 when Bec was diagnosed with Epithelioid Hemangioendothelioma or EHE, a rare cancer that grows from the cells that make up the blood vessels.
“It came as a complete shock and was quite a lengthy process. In February 2018 I started feeling a pain in my leg that wouldn’t go away. I originally thought I had pulled a muscle at the gym, but when it didn’t get any better, and physio and chiro weren’t helping, my GP sent me to get some scans.”
“After several appointments, the scans revealed a tumour on my right pelvis that was constricting the vein in my leg, which was causing the swelling. It also revealed a second lesion in a bone in my left pelvis that didn’t look quite right. They were able to biopsy the bone, which revealed that I had EHE,” she said.
Additional lesions were discovered in Bec’s liver, and she started chemotherapy not long after.
“I had four rounds of chemo, but the cancer wasn’t responding in my liver at all. In fact, scans it showed that it was growing. I stopped chemo just before Christmas and after speaking to a number of people, reaching out to support groups and doing my own research, I decided to take a break from treatment while I investigated what to do next.”
“During this time, I had another scan which showed that my lesions had stabilised, and fortunately, they have been stable ever since. I now have four monthly scans to monitor the tumours and really am on a ‘wait and watch’ treatment plan.”
“The incredibly difficult thing about my cancer is that there is so little known about it – there are only around 26 of us living with EHE in Australia – so each person responds differently to treatment. And it can be dormant or aggressive, and turn aggressive very quickly, so we don’t really know what the future holds.”
“My doctor himself told me that he had only ever treated a few people with EHE and they had passed away. So were really are in uncharted territory, but at the moment I’m doing well,” she said.
Throughout her treatment, Bec continued to don the blonde Marilyn wig and take part in the Marilyn Jetty Swim.
“Every year I stop and think “do I want to do it again this year” but then I think about how empowering it is and I can’t stay away. It’s an inspirational experience, especially being there from the beginning and seeing how the event has grown year on year.”
“There are so many people, all there with the same reason, sharing stories about how cancer has impacted them and their lives. It’s hard to explain it to someone who hasn’t taken part before, but it really is incredibly special.”
The 2021 swim will be Bec’s seventh and now that she has been through a cancer experience herself, supporting Cancer Council SA is even more important.
“My dad was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2019, so we went from no recent close cancer experiences to having two close family members diagnosed within a short space of time. It might sound like a cliché, but cancer really does impact everyone, it’s one of those diseases you just can’t avoid. I didn’t choose to have cancer, you never know if it will impact you.”
“While the money raised doesn’t fund EHE research directly, I know that it will go towards cancer research that could benefit me, or someone like me in the future. My hope is that the money I raise will go towards finding a cure for everyone impacted by this horrible disease.”
Bec will be donning the blonde Marilyn wig again in 2021 and says that it’s a truly life changing experience.
“My message to taking part in the swim for the first time is that you really will have an incredible time. You get so much out of it personally, and the money raised also changes the lives of others. It’s a truly unique experience.”
The Marilyn Jetty Swim will take place on Sunday 7 February as a part of the Channel 7 Brighton Jetty Classic. To donate and support the bold, fabulous South Australians taking part in the Marilyn Jetty Swim visit themarilyns.org.