Sunday 22 April 2018

Cancer survivor urges patients to get support

Denise Atkinson
Denise Atkinson

David Looby

A cancer survivor from Ballycullane has urged people suffering from the illness to reach out for help to get them through the dark days of treatment.

Denise Atkinson said she always wanted to do something for the Irish Cancer Society and for Daffodil Centre in Waterford because of the tremendous support she received from both organisations when she was diagnosed with cancer in 2013.

The Daffodil Centre was launched at University Hospital Waterford in 2014. The centre, which is run by an Irish Cancer Society Cancer Information Service Nurse and more than 20 trained volunteers, is an information service on-site in the hospital where people affected by or concerned about cancer can receive information and support.

Denise was diagnosed with stage four Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma, a cancer that affects the blood. 'I had it in my lungs, liver, diaphragm, pelvis and I had a large tumour growing from my spine to my stomach,' she said.

She started treatment in University Hospital Waterford in September 2013 with a gruelling regime of chemotherapy including spinal chemo.

'In 2013 I had a lot of trips to the doctors as my immune system started breaking down. I went to my GP in New Ross as I had never been ill before and I said something wasn't right. I got a chest infection I couldn't get rid of. Eventually I got so ill I couldn't sleep laying down and my son Tom said I needed to go to hospital.'

Denise attended Wexford General Hospital and one and a half litres of fluid was found on her lungs. Tests confirmed that she had cancer.

'I thought straight away that was it but my consultant told me that it was treatable. I just tried to stay positive and I received fabulous treatment in Waterford over six months.'

Describing the chemotherapy as 'dreadful', especially the metallic taste in her mouth, Denise said she arrived one morning for chemotherapy only to be told that there was no sign of any illness in her body.

Thankfully after her treatment Denise went into remission and she has been cancer free for three years. Denise found great support in the Daffodil Centre in Waterford.

'During my treatment the nurses said that a positive attitude helps. I really needed someone to talk to and when I went to the Daffodil Centre I met an extraordinary nurse who gave me a lot of help and tips. It can be lonely but it does get easier. I am three years in remission now.'

Gorey Guardian