BRAVERY: Cancer survivor Colleen McDonald and her granddaughter Victoria McDonald at the Gladstone Relay for Life 2019.
BRAVERY: Cancer survivor Colleen McDonald and her granddaughter Victoria McDonald at the Gladstone Relay for Life 2019. Jessica Perkins

'We are the lucky ones': cancer survivor speaks out

TEN years ago, Colleen McDonald received news she hoped she'd never receive.

When Mrs McDonald went for a mammogram in 2009, doctors discovered a 4cm cancerous growth that required surgery, radium and chemotherapy over the next two years.

Ever since, she has participated in the Relay for Life to raise awareness of the disease and to celebrate others who have walked a journey much like her own.

Shortly after diagnosis, Mrs McDonald joined a Breast Buddies group to spend time with other women affected by cancer and found it to be very beneficial.

Four years ago, Mrs McDonald received the dreaded news the cancer had returned and she required surgery again.

"Because we got it early, I didn't have to go through that terrible journey of chemo and radium any more - they were able to get it early enough to remove it," she said.

When she received the news that she was cancer-free a couple of years ago, she said it was a "wonderful" feeling.

"Just to think that a lot of the people who were on the journey with me when I first started, they're not here any more," she said.

Every year, the Candlelight Ceremony of Hope forms part of the Relay for Life program and Mrs McDonald said she participates in memory of all those affected by cancer.

"That's what I always write on my candle: 'for those who can't be with me'," she said.

Mrs McDonald said Relay for Life was important to raise awareness of the disease and raise necessary funds.

In previous years, she said she and others would camp and do the laps through the night.

"That was like being with a family of friends who were on the same journey," Mrs McDonald said.

"You are walking for a reason - for other people."

She said walking the Survivors and Carers lap was always an emotional experience and it allowed time for reflection.

"We are the lucky ones - we are here.

"We have survived," she said.