One day, Alanna thought she had a painful mouth ulcer. The next, she was facing the shocking news it was cancer. This young healthy mum was a fitness instructor with no known risk factors. Yet suddenly, she was preparing for major surgery to remove cancerous lesions from her mouth, tongue and neck.

She remembered, “I had no time to process anything. I was still breastfeeding my youngest son, and only had three days to wean him before I went to hospital.”

Alanna feels lucky The Wesley Hospital could fit her lifesaving surgery in so quickly. But that didn’t make it any less terrifying when she woke up in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) afterwards.

A third of Alanna’s tongue was gone, she had staples in her neck, and one hand was in a cast where her surgeons had to take a skin graft from her wrist for her tongue. Her worried husband, Brendan, was by her bedside. But she couldn’t speak to him because of the tracheotomy – or breathing tube – in her windpipe.

Alanna told us, “I couldn’t communicate and I felt agitated. I had to type on my phone with one hand to tell my nurses what I needed. They were so attentive and caring, and amazing at pain management and keeping my spirits up. Every hour, they had to check on my tongue, and check my neck for a pulse. If that stopped, they’d have to rush me back into surgery and take another skin graft from my leg. They went above-and-beyond, and it made such a difference when I was alone and feeling terrible.”

It’s hard to imagine how helpless and scared Alanna felt during her first few days in ICU, especially the times Brendan wasn’t there. He was looking after their two small sons – baby Charlie and three-year-old Miguel – on the Sunshine Coast, and wasn’t able to make the half-day return drive to see her every day. Cancer treatment is never easy – and even harder when you have to go through it without the people you love.

That’s why our wonderful nurses, chaplains and staff step up to be a family for patients like Alanna. But it takes ongoing funds to equip our frontline teams with everything they need to provide compassionate, one-on-one care.

You can make a difference to the health and wellbeing of patients and their families by donating today.

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