After battling numerous health problems for years, Carla Dyson received an unexpected diagnosis that would change her life.
This September is Blood Cancer Awareness Month, and the 68-year-old has a simple message - don't ignore your body if it's trying to tell you something.
Carla was diagnosed with blood cancer in 2010, but not before she had endured years of health issues.
She had been suffering from symptoms such as multiple chest infections, night sweats, itchy skin and blocked sinuses.
After visiting her GP, she went through several years of being prescribed antibiotics for the recurrent infections, before a severe bronchial infection put her in hospital.
She was finally referred to a haematologist, and after a number of tests, she was diagnosed with a rare cancer called mucosa associated lymphoid tissue lymphoma (MALT).
Now Carla is on a mission to spread awareness and encourage others experiencing persistent symptoms to seek help.
"You know your body best, try to understand what changes are happening in your body and don't dismiss anything," Carla advised.
"If you think something doesn't feel right, speak to your doctor."
Carla said learning more about blood cancers and finding a support network of others who were going through the same thing had made a huge difference as she came to terms with her diagnosis and underwent treatment.
She is now a volunteer driver for the Leukaemia Foundation - taking patients to and from appointments and offering a "safe space" for them to talk, if they want to.
Carla said the best advice she could offer to others battling blood cancer is to not let the disease consume them.
"It's been a tough slog, but when people ask how I'm doing I reply simply - still here, and despite everything my body's battled, I'm still playing golf, and winning," she said.
Leukaemia Foundation research reveals seven out of 10 Australians are not confident about recognising the main symptoms of blood cancer, despite the fact 53 Australians are diagnosed each day.
When combined, blood cancers are the second most common cause of cancer deaths in Australia, claiming more lives than breast cancer and melanoma combined. There are no screening programs available for blood cancer and is no way to prevent it through lifestyle changes.
Leukaemia Foundation chief executive Chris Tanti said recurrent infections, increased fatigue, night sweats, bone pain, bruising and enlarged lymph nodes could all be symptoms of blood cancer and should be discussed with a doctor immediately.
"If you don't understand what you're looking for, you can't possibly have a chance of finding it, and failing to identify blood cancer and diagnose it quickly can be fatal," Chris said.
Do you need blood cancer support? Call the dedicated support line from 10am-4pm, Monday to Friday. For more information on blood cancers click here.
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