A blood cancer patient has used Blood Cancer Awareness month to urge people to learn more about the disease, with 53 Australians diagnosed each day.

Last year, it was a routine visit to the optometrist that led to a ‘sliding doors’ moment for Violet.

When performing the examination, the optometrist noticed something unusual on Violet’s eyelids and suggested a follow-up appointment with a specialist to investigate.

The unexpected outcome of this investigation was a diagnosis of follicular lymphoma – a type of non-Hodgkin lymphoma or cancer of the lymphatic system.

With the diagnosis, Violet’s blood cancer was dormant and since she was experiencing no symptoms, it would be monitored.

“It started from that moment,” says Violet. “But I could go home, you know, happy chappy, nothing a concern.”

Months later, Violet woke one day with severe pain. She suspected it may be kidney stones and went to the Emergency Department. It was here that she learned the lymphoma was now active.

“It had been dormant, but it woke up,” says Violet.

“That was the biggest shock, to realise it had transformed so quickly. That’s the reality, cancer has a mind and nature of its own – it’s not predictable.”

Violet began chemotherapy and is now undergoing her fourth cycle of treatment at Epworth Freemasons, where she will be an inpatient during Blood Cancer Awareness Month in September.

For Violet, greater awareness of blood cancer in the community means you are not alone if you are faced with a diagnosis like hers.

Violet admits she knew virtually nothing about blood cancer until her own diagnosis. Now, she knows much more and she educates friends and family.

When she first told them about the lymphoma, Violet was met with shock and pity.

“People would usually say, ‘Oh my goodness, you must feel horrible, that’s terrible.’ And I was thinking, ‘No, not at all’,” she says.

Violet puts her attitude down to an appetite for self-improvement and embracing optimism.

“I want to keep that positive bubble. I do courses for personal improvement – that’s my hobby!

“Even if you don’t feel happy, bring the happiness that you know from the past, because you can’t be happy and unhappy at the same time. Bring the happy memories that you have. That’s what helped me all the way through, to accept this from that perspective. Your brain will accept that it’s reality,” she says.

Violet says greater awareness of blood cancer can also be reassuring, as treatments have improved over the years.

“Our medical advancement is huge,” she says.

“Even knowing about diagnostics in medicine, which means we can catch it much earlier.”

Violet’s positivity touches everyone around her and she enjoys taking in the beauty around her. Each day, Violet and her husband exchange photographs on their phones, sharing images of the small things that have delighted them.

“We use social media to keep in touch. For instance, this morning I got this photo of an orchid. It’s always a nice photo or I will take a photo of the nice sunrise. That’s how we communicate and stay in touch,” says Violet.

Violet’s message for Blood Cancer Awareness Month is to believe in hope.

“Don’t be afraid. That is my main message. In my case, I always find something positive… just don’t be afraid.”

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Blood cancer symptoms checklist

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