‘They thought I’d die that weekend’
THE day Georgia McLennan was diagnosed with cancer not just came as a shock to her but the medical experts doing the diagnosing.
"All these radiologists came into the room to look at me," the 24-year-old recalls of the moment a scan revealed the outwardly vibrant woman's body was riddled with cancer - in her lungs, every organ of her abdomen and even the spaces between.
"They couldn't believe how healthy I looked given what they found inside me.
"I found out later they thought I was going to die that weekend.
"I didn't even have my mum there because I hadn't really worried it was cancer."
Georgia's incredible diagnosis and subsequent battle with Burkitt's lymphoma came after a frustrating three-month search for answers to ongoing pain that one doctor suggested was possibly all in her head.
The Broadbeach woman's nightmare began on New Year's Eve 2015 when she had severe chest pain that she explained away as heartburn.
Then came stabbing pains on her left side, with the GP prescribing stomach ulcer medication that didn't work.
"I was in that much pain I was going once or twice a week to the doctor," Georgia says. "It was at this point he asked if perhaps it was all in my head."
Studying nursing full-time while working part-time, she pushed on for about three months before another doctor determined she actually had tumours on her spleen and liver.
"(A) haematologist initially didn't feel it was lymphoma as I didn't have all the usual symptoms such as extreme weight loss, rashes, fevers and drenching night sweats," Georgia says.
Then came the PET scan that revealed just how dire her situation was.
"When I saw the scan I realised this is very bad," says Georgia, whose stomach became so swollen she looked six months pregnant.
"(But) the only time I cried throughout the whole ordeal was when I had to tell my parents ... all these doctors couldn't believe I was even alive and how positive I was."
With Burkitt's lymphoma patients often having better outcomes than those with other cancers, Georgia had three months of daily chemotherapy and spinal injections every week.
She is now in remission and using her survival story to highlight this week's Gold Coast Hospital Foundation Care for Cancer lunch, which will raise funds for its patient transport service and chemotherapy chairs for GCUH.
"You don't realise how much you appreciate a comfortable chair until you are forced to spend some of your most difficult hours in them," Georgia says.
"(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."
The Care for Cancer lunch is on Friday, March 16 at Palazzo Versace. For more, visit