Dudley Park cancer survivor says community is important

COMMUNITY: Sandie Bentley with her mother Pat. Photo: Gemma Little
COMMUNITY: Sandie Bentley with her mother Pat. Photo: Gemma Little

Dudley Park woman Sandie Bentley says she has been through a "whirlwind" after undergoing life-saving brain surgery and a cancer diagnosis.

Ms Bentley has spent years volunteering in the Peel region, particularly community theatre in the Shire of Murray.

Ms Bentley's battled serious health issues from 2014-2019 including multiple brain surgeries after discovering her brain had pushed through her skull and was sitting against her spine and her cerebellum had blocked her spinal fluid.

After her brain surgery, she found herself once again being rushed to the hospital, this time her body in sepsis due to an infection. At the time, there were only two specialists in WA, and there usually weren't any on duty that day.

"By some miracle, one of the specialists was on-call that day. If he hadn't been, we wouldn't be talking today," Ms Bentley said.

"But other than that, I'm good."

It was soon after her surgery that she received a diagnosis for endometrial metastatic cancer.

She began preparing herself for a long recovery.

When asked what helped her through her diagnosis, Ms Bentley brought to light something that she said many cancer sufferers experience.

"Community is important for healing - but it gets smaller," Ms Bentley said. "I thought I had a lot of friends until I was diagnosed with cancer."

Ms Bentley continued that the struggle was not only for cancer sufferers, but those around them. "People put off getting in contact because they don't know what to say."

Ms Bentley also reflected on times when she struggled to communicate before her diagnosis. "I've had plenty of times in friendships where I've thought - 'I'm too busy.' It took something as serious as a cancer diagnosis to realise that excuse doesn't really cut it."

The light in the darkness for Ms Bentley was her mum, Pat. "My mum is like a saint," she said. "She was my community."

Her community began to grow further as people pushed past their discomfort to reach out to her.

Some days you think 'there is light at the end of the tunnel' - and then someone calls to check in and proves it to you.

Sandie Bentley

Ms Bentley finished chemotherapy in October 2019 and has been in remission for almost a year.