LAST year with more than 10 cancer-free years, Casey MacAulay must have thought she was home free.
Cancer had touched her twice before she was 10, first with a rare brain tumour at two and then at age nine, leukaemia, which saw her undergo a bone marrow transplant and extensive chemotherapy.
She’d been given the all-clear in her yearly check-ups and was enjoying her life at age 23, a vibrant young woman.
Then in September 2011, doctors found a tumour on the left side of her stomach, signifying the return of her cancer.
“It was a big shock,” Casey’s mum Wendy said of the malignant, slow-growing tumour.
“We thought we were out of the woods, then to discover it’s all back again, it’s devastating.”
Casey is now undergoing chemotherapy and undergoes three-monthly scans to try to shrink the tumour but only time will tell if the treatment has proved successful.
Dad Gary is her friend and supporter, driving Casey to her three-monthly scans, holding her hand through difficult moments and sitting with her through treatments, no matter how tough.
“He’s my rock,” Casey said.
Gary and Wendy suffer occasional dark days but refuse to let the diagnosis get them down, saying they remain very positive and believe in getting straight back into family life.
“You can’t let it take over your life,” Wendy said.
“I worry as a mother, but Gary doesn’t ever get stressed or let it get to him.”
Casey suffers stomach pains, and is unable to stand for long periods of time, and is unable to hold down a job.
An operation on her brain to remove the tumour when she was three left her without an ear canal and with nerve damage on her right side. She says people often come up and ask her what happened.
“It’s just a part of me,” she explains, not minding the looks, and wearing her hair up whenever possible.
Casey is excited about being an auntie for the first time, with her sister Natalie’s first child due in February, and plans on “spoiling it rotten.”
Describing herself as a bit of a home body, she cross-stitches, beads and loves to make cakes, dreaming of one day opening a
bakery with her special butter cakes topping the sales.
This Saturday with 2000 other people whose lives have been touched by cancer, Casey will walk in the Relay for Life at Tamworth’s Carter St baseball fields, surrounded by friends and family.
One in three people will be affected by the disease in their lives according to Cancer Council NSW North West community relations coordinator Jane Sweeney, but she says events like the Relay for Life are crucial to fundraising efforts.
“It’s a time for family and friends to get together, a fun event but for a serious cause,” Mrs Sweeney said.
“People will continue to get cancer but an event like this reminds people to get to the doctor and have that check-up.”
This year, while walkers circle the field, there will be a big screen and a musical showcase to entertain those who are waiting for their turn, with a full night of entertainment planned.
Ashleigh Dallas, Buddy and Goori Knox among others will perform all through the night, pausing only for the candlelight ceremony at 8pm where loved ones can remember those who have passed.
Although the MacAulays are positive their girl can beat cancer one more time, they say they’ll be there with a tray of freshly-baked cupcakes and “Casey’s Camp” signs for their tent.
The Tamworth Relay for Life begins at 10am on Saturday.