She may have been diagnosed more than 50 years ago, but Kurri Kurri woman Tessa Watterson has never forgotten the challenges of battling neuroblastoma.
Ms Watterson was diagnosed with the complex form of childhood cancer just after her third birthday in 1962.
She underwent radiotherapy and chemotherapy over the following three years, and has battled numerous side effects of the toxic treatment ever since.
She had primary ovarian failure at age 16, significant scoliosis for which multiple surgeries have been required, and undergone further surgeries to lessen the tumour around her spine.
Neuroblastoma – which forms as a solid tumour arising from nerve cells – is now the leading cause of cancer deaths in children under five.
In the five decades since Ms Watterson’s battle, the levels of toxicity in its treatment remain high, with one-third of survivors having last side effects.
Ms Watterson believes more research into neuroblastoma could drastically change these outcomes, which is why she is participating in the Run2Cure at The Domain and Botanic Gardens in Sydney on June 3.
“I have always known that most of my ongoing health issues have been more a result of the treatments I received rather than the neuroblastoma itself, which unfortunately is so often the case,” she said.
The 59-year-old retired midwife had never met anyone else with neuroblastoma until last year, when she attended her first Run2Cure.
Her sister took part in last year’s run in her honour, but this year Ms Watterson has decided to tackle the three-kilometre course herself.
She has been training at the gym, walking the dog and undergoing extra physio sessions on her back (where the tumour still exists), and is set to don a Wonder Woman cape for the superhero-themed event.
Run2Cure aims to raise $250,000 for research into improved treatment options and outcomes for neuroblastoma patients.
Neuroblastoma Australia principal Lucy Jones said the event will help with its goal to find a cure and developing better treatment for sufferers, so they have the best possible chance of leading long and healthy lives.
“As evidenced by Tessa’s story, the ramifications of highly toxic neuroblastoma treatments are immense and sadly the levels of toxicity have changed little since Tessa was a child,” Ms Jones said.
“Better and safer treatments must be found, but more research is required and that means more funding.”
To sponsor Tessa, visit run2cure2018.everydayhero.com/au/tessa-s-run2cure.