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When Queensland musician and fitness influencer Shelley Bishop received the shocking news she had cancer, it was her friend, Australian pop princess Delta Goodrem, who inspired her to beat the disease.
Diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma in March this year, the 30-year-old Mater Private Hospital Brisbane patient said Delta’s successful treatment for the same cancer two decades ago gave her precious hope.
Hodgkin's lymphoma is a cancer that affects the lymphatic system, part of the body's germ-fighting immune system. The disease causes white blood cells called lymphocytes to grow out of control, causing swollen lymph nodes and growths throughout the body.
She said her friendship with Delta began five years ago after the pair crossed paths in the music industry, when Shelley was the studio manager at a prominent recording studio in Sydney.
Just a few weeks after being dealt the “low blow” by doctors, Shelley began intensive chemotherapy at Icon Cancer Care Centre, which is onsite at Mater Private Hospital Brisbane.
Inspired by Delta, who lost her voice as a result of her salivary gland being removed and later relearned how to speak and sing through rigorous rehabilitation and speech training, Shelley never gave up hope.
“I’ve known Delta for a long time. Knowing she was diagnosed with the same cancer meant she knew exactly what I was going through,” Shelley said.
“I needed someone to talk to. There’s no history of cancer of any kind in our family. Delta knew what to say and inspired me to push through my treatment and remain strong.”
Shelley said her friends and family were “shocked” when she told them of her devasting news.
“I discovered a lump the size of a walnut on my left collarbone which had been growing for six months,” Shelley said.
“I kept pushing my GP for more tests to be done because I knew something was wrong. Being a fitness fanatic, I am in tune with my body. I didn’t look or feel sick prior to my diagnosis.”
Shelley’s treatment at the Mater involved four rounds of chemotherapy, with four different drugs, and 10 sessions of radiotherapy.
Sharing her cancer journey with thousands of followers via Instagram, Ms Bishop said she hoped to give other young cancer patients hope and strength.
“I was the youngest by far in the Mater oncology ward and felt a sense of guilt,” she said.
“I was young and physically strong. I know a lot of patients would have preferred to have been in my position.”
Mater haematologist Dr Raymond Banh treated Shelley and said her diagnosis was fortunately a curable type of lymphoma.
“We tell patients, this is the type of cancer you would want if you were to get cancer,” Dr Banh said.
“The cure rates are high, about 98 per cent in some cases.”
Dr Banh said patients like Shelley were the beneficiaries of years of meticulous medical research, to improve the effectiveness of Hodgkin’s lymphoma treatment and the reduction of toxicity levels.
“In Shelley’s case, we have been able to limit the number of treatment cycles she received to reduce long term side effects.”
Dr Banh said the future for Ms Bishop looked “fantastic”.
“Shelley was diagnosed early, she’s very lucky,” Dr Banh said.
“No one really knows how this cancer comes about, sometimes it can be because of a virus.”
Dr Banh said Shelley’s positivity and “get up and go” attitude assisted her recovery.
“Shelley is among the youngest patients we have seen at Mater with this cancer,” he said.
“Her family support and connection with Delta have helped get through her cancer treatment.”
The cancer journey has been mentally challenging for Shelley, who is well known as a health advocate.
The Brisbane fitness influencer once weighed 110kg, but shed 45kg over two years as a result of stringent dieting and exercise.
Now in remission, Shelley is looking to give back to cancer research at Mater and hopes to hold a celebrity charity benefit concert later this year.
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