MARIE Hall was devastated when diagnosed with breast cancer in 1992.
She was also pregnant with her daughter Meghan, who was delivered early so Mrs Hall could start her treatment.
Surviving her experience and going on to live a full and healthy life is the story she shares with others left reeling from a diagnosis.
The North Albury resident is one of Cancer Council NSW’s “Christmas Angels” — people who those affected by cancer can talk to help them cope.
NSW Cancer Council south-west region’s Melissa Nixon said the Christmas focus on festivities and family could be especially hard for many people affected by cancer.
Ms Nixon said the Cancer Council had more calls for psychological and emotional support at this time of the year “as people are worried about how cancer will affect them and their families”.
“It’s important for people to realise they are not alone in feeling like this and that talking with others is a powerful way of coming to terms with the uncertainty that cancer can bring,” she said.
Mrs Hall was living about an hour north of Melbourne when she received that breast cancer diagnosis.
“My second child was delivered seven weeks’ premature so I could begin chemotherapy and radiotherapy,” she said.
“Meghan turned 21 in September this year.”
Initially, Mrs Hall helped out pregnant women with a cancer diagnosis who went through Melbourne’s Royal Women’s Hospital.
She also began helping the Cancer Council’s Victorian branch, switching to the NSW group when the family moved to the Border in 2000.
“At the time of my diagnosis I felt really vulnerable because here I was pregnant and I was concerned about how this was going to affect my baby,” she said.
An incident when she went to buy Meghan a dress for her 21st from the Albury shop of a friend highlighted to her just why she chooses to help out others.
A mother with two teenage children came in.
The woman wore a hat to hide her loss of hair.
Mrs Hall knowingly asked her about it and the woman, who appeared upset and feeling down, told how she was going through chemotherapy.
“I said ‘for what it’s worth my baby is 21 today and when I was pregnant with her I had breast cancer myself’.
Mrs Hall told the woman how her prognosis was even worse as the cancer had already spread, yet she had “come out the other side”.
“She asked me more questions, and when she left the shop she had the biggest smile,” she said.
“It was like life had become really good for her again.
“That’s where I get pleasure — to see that you are giving hope to people who feel that hope has been robbed off them.”
Mrs Hall urged anyone who needed support to contact Cancer Council NSW this Christmas.
For further information on Cancer Council support services, visit cancercouncil.com.au or phone 131 120.