“I equate it to being on top of a mountain one minute, then the next minute, on the rocks below.”
In February, Annette Bennie’s life took a sharp turn when she was diagnosed with advanced ovarian cancer. Her diagnosis arrived after a doctor’s visit for what she thought was a urinary tract infection that wasn’t improving with antibiotics.
The news came as a shock to the whole family. Annette was a non-smoker with no history of cancer in her family. An active woman with a love of aqua-aerobics, travelling and the outdoors, she had been helping her daughter renovate her new apartment just days before the diagnosis crash-landed in the family’s life.
“It was completely out of the blue. I had no symptoms outside of things you might develop with age,” says Annette, who describes her pain level as only ‘a little uncomfortable.’
A registered nurse since 1968, Annette admits her transition from carer to patient compounded her anxiety.
“As a nurse, you never see people who get better—they aren’t the ones who come back again,” she explains. “You only see the patients with complications, and those are the stories you remember. You know a bit too much.”
Annette was introduced to Dr Rhonda Farrell through her son, a medical student who works as a porter with Dr Farrell. Within a week of her diagnosis, Rhonda had arranged to see Annette at Chris O’Brien Lifehouse.
Rhonda and the multidisciplinary team quickly developed the best treatment plan for Annette, which began with chemotherapy to shrink the cancerous tissue. Following this, Annette would undergo surgery and another two rounds of chemotherapy to destroy the remaining cancer cells.
So far, Annette’s treatment has been incredibly successful, with blood tests showing extremely low cancer levels in her body.
“It’s really important to have hope,” she says. “I can’t say everything will be fine but I’m in a front row seat. It’s looking really good.”
Annette credits the care she received from Dr Farrell and her team as a major factor in keeping her spirits up during an extremely difficult time.
“It was a scary, emotional time for me and for my family,” recalls Annette. “But I couldn’t have asked for better treatment and care. Rhonda explained everything, she was just great. The care here is seamless. I work in health and unfortunately that’s not always the case. It’s made me feel a lot better—I know I’m in the right place.”
“The care given to me by Rhonda and her amazingly caring team, and my confidence in them all, has made this difficult journey so much easier to travel.”