At 77 years old cancer survivor and Hawkesbury resident Dawne Dunlop keeps spinning and knitting as part of her fundraising drive for cancer research and support programs.
She started fundraising in 2000 when her spinning group was given the challenge to take freshly sheared wool from a sheep, spin the wool and knit a sweater (to fit the shearer) in less than eight hours.
“That year we raised $200, and then in subsequent years, the event grew bigger and bigger,” said Dawne. “Our last participation was in 2015 and by that time we had raised about $83,000 for Cancer Council.”
Since then her spinning group has continued to knit items for sale at a local market. In total Dawne has raised a staggering $92,000 for Cancer Council NSW over the years. Dawne was first diagnosed with breast cancer at just 39 years old and given a 50% chance of survival.
“At the time, I was a single Mum with two small children and no family nearby to help out. I had a casual job at a plant nursery so I couldn’t afford to be off work for long.”
Within three weeks of her total mastectomy, Dawne was back at work and planning for her six weeks of treatment.
“Fortunately, I had the last appointment for the day at the hospital so I could start work an hour early and leave an hour early. I continued working for the whole six weeks, much to the surprise of the area health nurse,” she continued.
Five years later a nuclear bone scan showed up six bone tumours and she there was nothing that could be done, except an Oophorectomy and then a high dose of a female hormone. Over the next nine years, annual bone scans showed that the tumours were slowly reducing in size until there were none.
“This amazed my doctors, but I kept on the very high dose of hormone, until in 2001, I started to lose the sight in one eye. Subsequent scans revealed that I had four brain tumours. These were removed except for the one wrapped around the optic nerve which was then treated with ray treatment. I was the first to have this treatment at Nepean Cancer Care Centre.
“ Then in 2016, pain in Dawne’s leg was diagnosed as a breast cancer tumour, which lay dormant until late 2019.
While deciding what treatment was appropriate, Dawne had a fall and broke the femur where the cancer had become active. A metal rod was put into her leg and she was home within two weeks.
“A recent scan showed the bone has healed well and the tumour is still there but has not progressed at all. Just goes to show that cancer does not need to be a ‘death sentence’ – some of us are lucky enough to defy the odds,” Dawne said.