In 2015, Georgia McLennan looked as smiley and healthy as the next person.
But the nursing student, from Broadbeach on the Gold Coast, began to feel stabbing chest pains on New Year’s Eve 2015 which led to three months of continuous aches.
Despite multiple trips every week to local GPs, the medical experts were baffled.
“I was in that much pain I was going once or twice a week to the doctor… It was at this point he asked if perhaps it was all in my head,” Georgia told the Gold Coast Bulletin.
Despite outwardly appearing fine, another doctor eventually determined that the full-time nursing student had tumours on her spleen and liver – although it wasn’t until Georgia had a PET scan that she realised just how bad it was.
To the shock of her radiologists, Georgia’s body – which had swollen so much that she looked pregnant – had become almost completely riddled with cancer, including every organ in her abdomen.
She was then diagnosed with Burkitt Lymphoma – an aggressive form of cancer that causes rapidly enlarging tumours in a person’s chest or abdomen and has a high tendency to spread through the central nervous system to a the brain and spine.
“All these radiologists came into the room to look at me… They couldn’t believe how healthy I looked given what they found inside me,” she told the Bulletin.
“When I saw the scan, I realised this is very bad.
“I found out later they thought I was going to die that weekend… I didn’t even have my mum there because I hadn’t really worried it was cancer.”
Following an aggressive three-month course of daily chemotherapy and 10 sets of weekly spinal injections to battle the disease, the cheery 24-year-old is now in remission and using her story to inspire others.
She has used her Instagram account, fittingly titled ‘Being Brave’, to detail her life and journey through treatment and to showcase the positive attitude towards life that is possible post-cancer.
“When I was diagnosed with cancer I was so scared about losing my hair but I have realised it literally means nothing and I’m soooo (sic) lucky to receive chemotherapy,” she said in one post.
“Feeling so so good after five blood transfusions, grateful for people who donate blood,” she said in another.
Her story is also being used to bring attention to the Gold Coast Hospital Foundation Care for Cancer lunch on Friday, which raises funds for the Foundation’s patient transport service and chemotherapy chairs.
“You don’t realise how much you appreciate a comfortable chair until you are forced to spend some of your most difficult hours in them,” she said.
“(But) I never felt like giving up. You go into survival mode and as I thought I was going to die, I didn’t want to waste any time I had left feeling sorry for my situation.”