DESPITE being cancer-free for more than 30 years, Mary Cramp does not see herself as a survivor.
“I’m just me, I’m just living,” she said.
The 88-year-old Edgewater resident was diagnosed with cancer of the cervix, uterus and vagina in 1984 and underwent radiation therapy.
“After five weeks, they rested it for a while and then they had another look and I had another four sessions,” she said.
Three months later, doctors found the cancer was still present, so Mrs Cramp had a radical hysterectomy, but it was still not eradicated.
Her doctor told her she had a maximum of 18 months to live, so suggested a new type of operation.
“I was the guinea pig,” she said.
“It was successful… but the radiation had burnt me badly.
“I had no control over my bowels at all.”
Mrs Cramp spent the next 5½ years in pain and unable to live normally.
“I couldn’t go anywhere or do anything,” she said.
“I thought, ‘It’s not worth living like this’, it was terrible.”
In 1990, she had 16 inches of her small intestine removed and was given a colostomy bag, which she said greatly improved her life.
Six years later, after regularly being admitted to hospital with urinary tract infections, it was discovered her right kidney was failing and it was removed.
Her remaining kidney later failed, but dialysis kept it going, though she now only has 10 per cent of it functioning.
Mrs Cramp sees a doctor every six months and said she had been relatively healthy for the past 15 years.
“I don’t know what keeps me going, but I do,” she said.
She credits her mother for her resilient attitude and the fact she was a carer for her husband.
“I had a husband who needed me, I had two sons, I just think, while I’m needed I get on with it,” she said.
“You don’t sit back and say, ‘I’m going to die’.
“Some days are good and some days are bad, but it’s like that for everyone.”
Mrs Cramp will share her story with fellow residents at Edgewater Mercy Hostel’s Biggest Morning Tea on May 26.
“I don’t think I’m anything special,” she said.
“But I hope they think, ‘If she can do it then I can do it’.”