PREVENTION FOCUS: Cancer survivor Denise Sweeney talks about the risk factors and symptoms associated with gynaecological cancers.
PREVENTION FOCUS: Cancer survivor Denise Sweeney talks about the risk factors and symptoms associated with gynaecological cancers.

Denise is living a healthy and active life after cancer

DOCTORS have described Denise Sweeney as one of the success stories.

She is now fit and well, nine years after undergoing major surgery, chemo and radiation for gynaecological cancer.

Denise is sharing her story of success on a road trip to the Northern Rivers and beyond.

Through her lived experience, as well as her psychology studies, she describes the strategies she used to give her the best chance of surviving clear cell endometrial cancer.

This is a rare and aggressive type of cancer that has a poor prognosis.

Denise was given hope when she was offered treatment for ovarian clear cell cancer after she was told there was no treatment for her type of cancer.

"I was 50 when it first came. Four months later, it came back and it was the aggressive cancer," she said.

"My prognosis wasn't good. I was 51 at the time and was offered major surgery.

"My recovery is a combination of things. I was healthy to start with. I've always looked after myself.

"Modern medicine laid the foundations for me to fight back.

"The fact I've survived the five years and am going well, I don't need check-ups."

Denise was studying health psychology for a masters degree when she became ill, but decided to give it up to concentrate on recovery.

She focuses on prevention and early intervention in her talks.

Her advice is to look out for any abdominal changes and pain, changes in bowel habit and diet, back pain and any unusual bleeding.

"I must admit, if I hadn't said that I had changes in my bowel and it was unusual, the doctor wouldn't have thought to do further investigation," she said of her second cancer diagnosis.

"During chemo, that was really not pleasant. There were a couple of days I woke up and said, 'I can't do this anymore'. Naturally you just have down days.

"You have a reality check. At the same time, my daughter was pregnant with our first granddaughter. I thought, 'I'm not going anywhere'."

The 60-year-old is on her first road trip as a speaker after giving talks for nearly two years.

She also wants to lead by example by showing that it is possible to live a healthy and active life after cancer treatment.

"I'm doing this as an individual - it's me volunteering my time," she said.

In May 2016, Denise's book, Steps to Survival: Gynaecological Cancers: Raising Awareness and My Own Private Battle, was published.

Further information about Denise can be found at

According to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, just over 6000 women in Australia were newly diagnosed with gynaecological cancer in 2017.

The estimated number of deaths from the disease that year was 1769.

Hear Denise speak at:

Lismore Library, 110 Magellan St on Monday, May 28, 1.30-2.30pm. For bookings phone Lismore library on (02)66212464.

St Cuthbert's Anglican Church Hall, cnr Florence & Powell Sts, Tweed Heads (opposite hospital) on Wednesday, May 30, 2-3pm. Bookings at

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