Georgia McLennan is a vibrant 24-year-old with a big smile and even bigger ambitions.
Despite suffering for months with continuous body aches, and then discovering the presence of a deadly disease, the nursing student remains hopeful.
It was New Year’s Eve when McLennan, from Australia’s Gold Coast, experienced her first symptom: a stabbing pain in the chest that led to multiple trips to the doctor. Astonishingly, McLennan appeared outwardly healthy.
“I was in that much pain I was going once or twice a week to the doctor… It was at this point he asked if perhaps it was all in my head,” Georgia told the Gold Coast Bulletin.
Seeking a second opinion, a doctor eventually determined the student had tumours on her spleen and liver — but it wasn’t until McLennan had a PET scan that she realized just how bad it was.
To the shock of her radiologists, McLennan’s body had become almost completely riddled with cancer, affecting every organ in her abdomen.
“I was just in shock, very shocking, I couldn’t believe it could happen to me,” she said.
Doctors then diagnosed her with Burkitt Lymphoma.
“All these radiologists came into the room to look at me… They couldn’t believe how healthy I looked given what they found inside me,” she told the Bulletin.
“When I saw the scan, I realized this is very bad.”
“I found out later they thought I was going to die that weekend… I didn’t even have my mom there because I hadn’t really worried it was cancer,” she said.
Following an aggressive three-month course of daily chemotherapy and 10 sets of weekly spinal injections to help battle the disease, the 24-year-old is now in remission, and using her story to inspire others.
She also hopes to become an oncology nurse.
“I feel like I can be there for people, I can understand what they’re going through,” she said.
McLennan uses Instagram, fittingly titled Being Brave, to detail her journey and showcase her fighting will to survive.
“When I was diagnosed with cancer I was so scared about losing my hair but I have realized it literally means nothing and I’m soooo lucky to receive chemotherapy,” she said in one post.
“Feeling so so good after five blood transfusions, grateful for people who donate blood,” she said in another.
Her story is also being used to draw donations to the Gold Coast Hospital Foundation Care for Cancer lunch on Friday, raising funds for the Foundation’s patient transport service and chemotherapy chairs.
“I guess I just felt really lucky that I was having the treatment and that I have access to treatment,” she said.
“You don’t realize how much you appreciate a comfortable chair until you are forced to spend some of your most difficult hours in them,” she said.
“But I never felt like giving up. You go into survival mode and as I thought I was going to die, I didn’t want to waste any time I had left feeling sorry for my situation.”