Mount Isa midwife Madeleine Beavis will never forget the moment she received her cancer diagnosis.
- Mount Isa midwife Madeleine Beavis says she ignored what she thought was a blood clot for “too long”
- She is in remission after being treated for a rare, aggressive, soft-tissue cancer
- Ms Beavis is warning others to take their health seriously
Warning: Readers are advised there is a graphic image in this story.
“It was August 30, 2019. I was standing in Woolies looking at toothpaste when my phone rang with the news,” she said.
Ms Beavis is now in remission from a rare, soft-tissue cancer and she is urging others not to ignore the warning signs, no matter how insignificant they may seem.
“Take your health really seriously because once it’s gone, it’s gone,” she said.
Not just a blood clot after all
With no family history of cancer, it was the last thing on Ms Beavis’s mind when she noticed a lump on her leg a few weeks earlier.
Assuming it was a blood clot, Ms Beavis ignored the lump until she was on holidays in Townsville, where she visited a GP for a quick check-up.
“It was confirmed I had a blood clot. I was given a script for blood thinners and they said an ultrasound wasn’t necessary,” she said.
But a curious intern insisted on doing an ultrasound for practice, and it was then that Ms Beavis was told “it’s definitely not a blood clot”.
Doctors then determined that Ms Beavis had an unknown mass in her leg, but she was reassured the likelihood of it being cancerous was small.
A biopsy confirmed she was that one-in-a-million, after all.
The lump was stage three synovial sarcoma — a very rare, aggressive, soft-tissue cancer.
“Shortly after my diagnosis, I underwent daily radiation for six weeks in Melbourne, which was like sunburn on steroids,” Ms Beavis said.
She said some of her leg muscles were removed from one leg and replaced with muscles from her other leg. She then had to learn to walk again.
The radiation treatment was not enough to put Ms Beavis in the clear, but doctors were not sure whether chemotherapy would help or not.
She said she was also concerned about the effect the treatment could have on her fertility.
“I didn’t even know if I still had cancer or not, and I just thought, ‘How am I supposed to make this decision with no help?’,” she said.
In the end, Ms Beavis decided not to proceed with chemotherapy, a choice that has paid off so far.
‘Everyone here has your back’
Sixteen months into her seven-year remission period, Ms Beavis is back living in outback Queensland and working as a midwife at the Mount Isa Hospital.
But she has a message to others.
“I’m urging people to go and get those things checked out.
“Keep up to date with your skin checks, your pap smears and do all of the things we know reduce the risk of cancer.”
Ms Beavis said life since her cancer diagnosis looked very different.
“You definitely suffer from ‘scan-xiety’. I have scans every three months and in the week leading up to a scan it can be really stressful,” she said.
“The one thing I’ve learnt through all of this is resilience. You don’t realise how tough you can be until you have to be.”
She says the support of her Mount Isa community has helped her through her darkest times.
“That’s a Mount Isa thing though. Everyone here has your back all the time.”