‘I didn’t even think I’d make it to my birthday’: Gillian’s story a reminder to stop and smell the daffodils

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Kellie BalaamAlbany Advertiser
Albany cancer patient Gillian Determes will host an open garden for Daffodil Day.
Camera IconAlbany cancer patient Gillian Determes will host an open garden for Daffodil Day. Credit: Laurie Benson

After the discovery of stage four bowel cancer and a near-death experience with renal failure in March, Albany’s Gillian Determes is taking every chance she gets to stop and smell the daffodils.

Ahead of the 35th Cancer Council Daffodil Day Appeal, Ms Determes spoke to the Advertiser about raising a message of hope with a sea of yellow.

The 55-year-old will host an open garden event at Brookfield Farm in Marbelup to raise money for the annual appeal, which funds life-saving research and provides hope for the 145,000 Australians diagnosed with cancer each year.

One of the key attractions will be the farm’s daffodils, planted by her late father before he died of prostate cancer.

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Ms Determes said she was blindsided by her diagnosis in March.

After being hospitalised with a 40C temperature and concerns about a blocked bowel, she was flown by the Royal Flying Doctor Service to Perth for tests.

Doctors discovered her liver had become so big it caused a lymph node to press against a ureter triggering renal failure and requiring an emergency stent in her kidney.

Albany cancer patient Gillian Determes.
Camera IconAlbany cancer patient Gillian Determes. Credit: Laurie Benson/Laurie Benson

Stage four bowel cancer has a five-year survival rate of about 14 per cent.

“It all happened so quickly,” she said.

“I only started experiencing symptoms in February this year, including fatigue, night sweats and pain in my right side.

“I never thought for a second that it might be cancer.

“I had my last bowel screening test in July last year which was clear and I know the importance of regular testing once you turn 50, so when the scans revealed I had bowel cancer it was the last thing I was expecting to hear.

“My birthday is in July — I didn’t even think I’d make it to my birthday.”

Ms Determes, a former Albany medical receptionist, is receiving chemotherapy every fortnight at Albany Health Campus.

Despite her health troubles, she maintains a positive outlook.

“I could have died with the renal failure but I didn’t so that speaks volumes to me, I’m supposed to be here,” she said.

I still have things I have to accomplish and do with the time I’ve got left.

She was preparing to hold a Daffodil Day open garden event at her farm last year in honour of her late father, but COVID-19 halted that.

Now, she has even more motivation to turn her garden into a fundraising tool.

“I’m fundraising for Cancer Council this year because cancer doesn’t discriminate and is something that is likely to affect everyone at some stage of life,” Ms Determes said.

“My father passed away in 2014 after his prostate cancer spread to soft tissue organs, and as well as receiving the news of my own cancer recently, I know so many others including friends that are dealing with their own cancer journeys.”

Cancer Council WA regional education manager Cassandra Clayforth said that with less funding available due to COVID-19, it was more important than ever to back our cancer researchers.

She said that on average, 36 West Australians were diagnosed with cancer every day.

The 2021 Daffodil Day appeal aims to raise more than $2 million for cancer research.

Ms Determes’ open garden event will run from 9.30am until 4pm on Saturday.

Appropriate footwear is recommended and pets are not allowed.

“There will be refreshments including home-baked goods, plus a gate prize, raffle, classic car display and a boot-throwing competition,” Ms Determes said.

“There is also the opportunity to spend time among the daffodils that Dad originally planted in the farm’s beautiful garden.”

Brookfield Farm is at 47 Marbelup North Road in Marbelup.

Cancer Council 13 11 20

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