Shanel Cornille

I am 28 years old and was diagnosed with Cervical Cancer on 23rd December 2009 - what a great Christmas present - not! I had been having abnormal smears for a few years but thought it was all under control as I was keeping up to date with 6 monthly or yearly smears and had had diathermy treatment 18 months before to remove some pre cancerous cells. I had had no symptoms leading up to my diagnosis and had been super fit, having just represented New Zealand at the world age groups championships for long distance triathlon in Perth two months before. So when the doctor mentioned the 'C' word I thought - 'this cant be right - I'm so 'fit and healthy'. Well apparently that didn't matter.

In the next few months my world would be turned up side down. To start with there were MRI's and CT scans, specialist appointments and meetings with fertility specialists. That was the hardest part of my whole cancer experience. Being 28 years old and single and to be told I may never be able to have children was just heart breaking. Luckily I saw the fertility specialists at just the right time in my cycle and was able to start a round of fertility treatment the next day. And I am glad to say I was a good 'chook' and now have 14 eggs stored safely away. With medical technology these days it is amazing what they can do and I hope that one day I will have children of my own. Since then I have undegone six weeks of chemo and radiation therapy.

I managed to continue working two afternoons a week as a physiotherapist right throughout my treatment and just having that routine and sense of doing something normal was a huge help to me. I got through the treatment surprisingly well which I partly put down to a positive attitude and partly thanks to the unfaultering support I had from my friends, Mum, Dad and four brothers and sisters. They couldn't have been more amazing.

Seven months down the track I am back at work full time and back into training and even though my specialist said I won't be competitive again for at least a couple years I am out to prove him wrong. I have entered the Tauranga half iron man in January 2011 and my big goal is to qualify again for world champs. AND...in the last month I have just been selected by Sam Warriner (former World #1 and NZ triathlete) to be part of her 'sweat7' team - a team of seven girls who she will coach toward triathlon nationals in Wellington in March next year. I have worked under Sam before but we had not been in touch for over a year. When I saw her advertising for applications to be part of her coaching team I thought why not. Sam had not known anything about my cancer and what I had been through so as soon as she read my story she picked me as the first girl from over 200 applications. I was over the moon - Sam is an inspirational athlete and I know that with her guidance I will get my fitness back and hopefully be an inspiration to others to show that what ever you come up against you can still achieve your goals. So I look forward to some hard training over the next few months.

I would also like to mention Fi Patterson - I was introduced to Fi through a rowing friend and she was a huge support to me throughout my treatment. We met for coffee in Cambridge a few times and she said to contact her whenever I wanted to ask any questions or just needed someone to talk to. It was invaluable to not only have someone like her- who had been through what I was going through -to talk to but also to look up to her after seeing what she has achieved with her rowing since cancer. She gave me hope that I would get back to peak performance just like she did.

In August I had a clear MRI! So here's hoping I have beaten this thing and I can put it all behind me knowing I have come out the other side stronger and even more determined. I'd like to thank the Cancer Society for all their support and to the awesome Oncolgy team at Waikato Hospital who made my cancer journey that much easier with their smiley faces.

(November 2010)