Cancer can be unforgiving, but Australian female body builder Julie Lindsay continues to battle it with positive attitude and a brave face. The 48-year-old resident of Gold Coast was diagnosed with colorectal cancer in March 2022 after countless MRIs, PET scans, blood tests, ultrasounds, colonoscopies and other tests whilst she was taking part in a body building competition.
She recalls visiting the doctor after dealing with symptoms for several months. During an email interaction with Happiest Health, she says, “In December 2021, I noticed that my left lymph nodes were raised. I had just finished my first season of bodybuilding. So, I was very lean and hence, the nodes were sticking out even more. My other symptoms included significant changes in bowel habits, infrequent blood in my stools, tiredness and some rectal pain.”
Colorectal cancer diagnosis
She received a call from her doctor in mid-March 2022 and was referred to the blood cancer unit of the hospital as they believed that she could have lymphoma. But she was allowed to compete in another body building show while they waited for her biopsy results. “I was told I had stage 4 colorectal cancer. I had a tumor in my rectum that was 5 cm by 3 cm. It was also in my lymph nodes, which were about the size of two golf balls,” she says.
She began her treatment for colorectal cancer at the end of April with six sessions of 48 hour at-home chemotherapy over four months. Then, she underwent six weeks of radiotherapy combined with oral chemotherapy. During a follow-up on 16 January, 2023, she was told that the tumor in the rectum was gone but she now has a small mass on her liver. She was further informed that the best course of treatment was a liver resection as it was highly likely that the mass might be cancerous.
On March 23, she underwent a liver resection and her gall bladder was also removed. She also had a groin dissection where the cancerous lymph nodes were removed along with a margin of other nodes. She was in the hospital for another five days due to some surgical complications like seroma (swelling due to accumulation of fluid), which has delayed the start of her next chemotherapy sessions. “I have to stay fairly sedentary for the next few weeks until my lymphatic system adapts to the changes from surgery,” she adds.
Fight against cancer
Describing her journey from diagnosis to the present day, she says, she has seen colorectal cancer as any other medical condition that needed a plan. She adds, “I continued training at the gym even when I was in pain or fatigued. This has helped me to manage my pain as well as my mental and physical health incredibly. I have regular therapy sessions so that I can process what’s happening to me. I have ensured a super healthy diet. I don’t drink and smoke or do anything that can affect my treatment or recovery. My medical team believes that all these things helped me respond to the treatment better.” She also stays positive and has surrounded herself with family and friends. She believes she fights for her children. “I fight because we should always fight. Even when the fight seems unwinnable, it can still be won,” she says.
She advices other people with cancer to keep the hope alive, continue exercising for better response to treatment and ask for help, when needed. “Be kind to yourself. This is a difficult journey and accepting life isn’t normal for a while is okay,” she says.