Denise Sweeney has a Bachelor of Psychology Honours degree and lives her life by the belief that the body is designed to move. She was completing her Masters of Health Psychology in 2009 when her life came to a grinding halt when she was diagnosed with recurrent clear cell endometrial cancer.
Her personal story not only offers hope to other women affected by cancer but it also may help them cope better. She outlines the psychological strategies she used to give herself a better chance of surviving clear cell carcinoma, a rare and aggressive form of endometrial cancer. The strategies include self-talk, visualisation, compartmentalisation, visual cues, mindfulness, relaxation, goal setting and a graded-activity schedule for her recovery.
Her cancer experience was unusual as her recurrence (clear cell) was a different type of endometrial cancer to her first cancer (adenocarcinoma). The strategies also helped her to manage the side effects of major surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy. In particular to cope with the challenging times she experienced as her bowels had to adapt to a new way of functioning as a result of having had an ultra low bowel resection where most of her rectum was removed.
Women can take a proactive approach to their health by learning about the risk factors and symptoms associated with each of the gynaecological cancers (uterine [endometrial], ovarian, fallopian tube, vaginal, cervical and vulvar) with the aim of seeking medical advice sooner if they notice any unusual changes in their bodies particularly, in the pelvic region.
Yes, the symptoms may be associated with other medical conditions but it's better to be told it's not cancer, or better still, we've caught it early. Prevention or early intervention for cancer is far less invasive and time consuming than cancer treatment for more advanced cancer.
Denise organises community talks to support other women who may be experiencing cancer as well as raise awareness of gynaecological cancers. She also addresses women's overall health by reminding women how important it is for them to have their regular cancer screening done, which includes mammogram, cervical screening, skin checks and bowel screening .
She has been successful in getting her book used as a resource for a number of Cancer Councils around the country, The New Zealand Gynaecological Cancer Foundation, The Gawler Foundation, BreaCan, Women's Health Queensland Wide, Gynaecological Cancer Centres as well as a number of University Libraries. Her book is also on the recommended reading list for the Cancer and Haematology Nursing course at Sydney University.
Denise has well and truly beaten the odds to survive as she is coming up to being a ten year cancer survivor. She continues to go by her belief that the body is designed to move. She keeps herself healthy by walking and doing Tai Chi which she has been doing since finishing her cancer treatment. Denise is currently training to become a Tai Chi instructor as well as continuing to raise awareness of gynaecological cancers through her community talks.