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X Factor audition and chemo – all in one day

Published Date: 3 November 2016 Categories: Patients, Lymphoma

Hodgkin lymphoma patient Lisa Burges was going through her first round of chemotherapy when she decided to audition for this year’s season of X Factor.

LisaAfter chemotherapy in the morning, Lisa walked down the esplanade in Cairns, her home town, and wowed the judges with her rendition of Arms of an Angel by Sarah McLaughlin.

Although she didn’t progress into the second round of auditions, the 33-year-old described the moment as “the most fantastic experience”.

“During my first round of chemotherapy I was pumped full of steroids and very awake,” Lisa said.

“At three in the morning I was flipping through Facebook and saw X Factor auditions were being held in Cairns that day. I just thought, why not!”

After moving to Cairns a year earlier from Dalby, Lisa began singing professionally at shows around north Queensland, as well as teaching aqua aerobics and swimming.

But she noticed changes to her voice quality and breathing, attributing it to anxiety. Despite the symptoms, Lisa kept working.

“My husband, Simon, was not working at that stage so I just kept going,” she said. “I spent a lot of time resting while I was at home and eating as healthily as possible to try and increase my energy.”

Other symptoms included a rash on Lisa’s upper arms that were put down to anxiety and she was prescribed medication. She also thought that her regular night sweats were due to Cairns’ humid climate.

It wasn’t until Simon’s birthday in April this year, when Lisa’s struggle to breath hindered her from joining in on the day’s activities, that she finally admitted there was something wrong.

Blood cancer diagnosis

After a chest X-ray identified some complications, Lisa was sent for a CT scan which confirmed a diagnosis of Hodgkin lymphoma. 

One lung was completely filled with fluid and a mass the size of a two-litre milk carton went from Lisa’s collar bone, across her throat and down into her chest.

“The pressure of this mass had not only caused two broken ribs, but had pushed my heart to one side and completely flipped it over,” Lisa explained.

“I could tell from my doctor’s face that he was pretty horrified at what he was seeing.”

Lisa’s treatment began immediately in the Cairns Base Hospital, with six litres of fluid being drained out of her lung.

Chemotherapy treatment

Chemotherapy then commenced and Lisa said she was so grateful for the support of Simon and their parents.

“Simon was just beginning a new job which was so difficult for him, so we were very grateful our parents rallied around us and gave us much needed support,” she said. “I also had wonderful friends who helped us through this tough time.”

After Lisa’s third round of an intense chemotherapy regime, a pet scan revealed her tumour was inactive.

“It was such a relief, but I must admit I wasn’t as happy as I thought I would be. I cried a lot; it was just a really emotional time.”

Lisa is thrilled that her voice is “as good as ever” and she is now getting through the final stages of treatment so she can get on with her life.

While Lisa says her experience with lymphoma has made her see so many things with new eyes, she said she now has a totally new appreciation for the incredible ability the human body to deal with illness and heal.

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