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The Research that Saved a Life


Alison Reid, a Sydneysider living and working in Perth, was enjoying the view at Cottesloe beach when she felt a pain under her arm. Health-conscious Alison checked for lumps later that evening and found nothing. The pain persisted and the next morning she discovered a lump under her left arm.

Doctors told her it was probably just a cyst. But a tissue biopsy revealed cancerous cells were present.

Alison called her family in Sydney to break the news. She says it was particularly difficult telling her two young daughters. Over dinner that night, she shared her news with a close friend who offered Alison her support and accompanied her to a series of doctors’ appointments.

A few days later, Alison was in the operating theatre where eighteen lymph nodes were removed; four of which tested as cancerous. Alison’s friend recommended a break in Bali before the next stage of her treatment. So, somewhat refreshed by her holiday, Alison returned via Sydney to Perth where she began a course of six chemotherapy sessions.

Nurses at the hospital were amazed when straight after the first chemo session; Alison went on her first blind date. It seemed she was coping well both physically and mentally.

Then disaster struck. As a friend was driving her to the theatre in Subiaco, a car heading in the same direction cut them off. The serious crash left Alison with compressed vertebrae, and fractured spine. She spent three months in a back brace having narrowly avoided becoming a paraplegic.

Determined as ever, Alison continued working. But dealing with the double blow of radiotherapy treatment and being restricted by a back brace, it was at this time Alison felt her most vulnerable. 

Surviving this life-changing experience took determination and positive thinking. Alison is a busy business woman, but first and foremost a mother. She often kept the full details of her ordeal from her daughters as she couldn’t bear them becoming stressed or upset.

“I never once thought that cancer could possibly beat me, nor would I let it,” Alison says.

This year, Alison celebrates six years of being cancer free but says, “I’m cancer free; and although I may have beaten it 6 years ago, I will never escape the effects. For as long as you live, you will live with the effects of cancer.”

This is why it’s important to end cancers before they start. The Harry Perkins Institute of Medical Research are aiming to bring an end to Women's Cancers. Support Medical Research and register for the 2016 Weekend to End Women’s Cancers