Ruth Macklin, with daughter Rachael Shardlow, 17, has been diagnosed with stage four breast cancer.
Ruth Macklin, with daughter Rachael Shardlow, 17, has been diagnosed with stage four breast cancer.

'Lucky one': Mum with incurable disease makes most of life

FULL of passion for life, mother of two Ruth Macklin says she's one of "the lucky ones".

The 51-year-old says she's the only woman in the region, she knows of, with stage four breast cancer, the most dangerous kind.

Ruth will represent the Gladstone region as an ambassador at this month's Breast Cancer Network Australia summit, where she will meet other "cancer warriors" and learn about new treatments.

It's her determination and love for life, despite battling the disease, that makes her the perfect candidate.

She says the deadly diagnosis has taught her how to live again; with a new focus on healthy remedies and enjoying every day.

While the Boyne Island woman says her treatment is going "really well", without a cure she will live the rest of her life with cancer.

"When I got the news I had stage four breast cancer, I thought that's the end of me," she said.

"But the doctor told me they have had people live up to 15 years with stage four breast cancer.

"On average they say it's about five years, but that's the statistics I don't dwell on, because I believe I'll be one of the lucky ones."

Ruth is now 13 months in to her cancer journey.

Each day she's learning a little more about her passion and will to fight the deadly disease.

"It was a big shock, usually when you're diagnosed you're not usually at stage four ... I was straight into chemotherapy for four months," she said.

"Treatment has been gruelling."

"I lost all my hair, felt miserable and sick."

Now she's on a new treatment, monoculture, which is for metastatic breast cancer, which she receives every three weeks at the Gladstone Hospital.

But she said it was only a matter of time before her body becomes immune to that treatment, and she would have to find something else to keep her disease at bay.

Since diagnosis, Ruth and partner Geoff Shardlow have given up their full time jobs, Ruth as a support worker and Geoff as an environmental scientist.

She said the spare time allowed them to enjoy the "greatest blessing" of the incurable disease.

Ruth says giving up work for her disease has been a blessing in disguise, with the pair spending their spare time holidaying.

She's just returned from her first trip snorkelling on the Great Barrier Reef and after next week's summit, their next trip is to Tasmania.

"The biggest battle is to keep a strong mind," Ruth said.

"But what this has taught me is the ability to live in the now."

While she's not going to jump out of a plane any time soon, she said she wanted to see more of Australia, including Uluru and swim with dolphins.

She was diagnosed six months after her 50th birthday, before she had her first free mammogram.

She was experiencing some pain in her liver, and at first it was believed to be irritable bowel syndrome.

But scans confirmed the heartbreaking news. She had stage four breast cancer that had already spread to her liver.

It's not the first time it's touched her family.

She's lost a brother and a sister to cancer, who both died 14 months after they were diagnosed.

As part of the Breast Cancer Summit, Ruth is raising money to help find a cure, something close to many people.

To donate to her cause, visit summit2017. gofundraise.com.au/ page/RuthMacklin2017.



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