JESSICA Harbridge had never been admitted to hospital before, until August last year, when she was “stopped in her tracks a fair bit”.
Ms Harbridge was diagnosed with lymphoma and spent the next nine months in hospital or day centres in Melbourne, missing Ballarat and the green, open spaces of home.
One year on, Ms Harbridge is preparing to lead the Leukaemia Foundation’s Light the Night lantern walk in Ballarat. This will be Ms Harbridge’s first Light the Night, and she will carry the white lantern, symbolising her own blood cancer journey, which is now in remission.
This was her way of giving back.
“A lot of people don’t expect something like this to ever happen to them and then, bang, it’s all happening at once,” Ms Harbridge said. “The Leukaemia Foundation put me up for nine months. They did everything to help me.”
Ms Harbridge battled with symptoms for five weeks before her diagnosis. She said initially different doctors suggested whooping cough (she “sounded like a seal”), croup and asthma.
She presented at Ballarat Health Services Base Hospital one day, unable to keep food or fluid down and unable to lay flat on her back. Doctors found a 17-centimetre mass in her chest and Ms Harbridge was raced to Melbourne to start treatment.
Early on, medical staff had to monitor Ms Harbridge around the clock to ensure she kept breathing.
Ms Harbridge spent her 21st birthday in the day ward and was rapt all staff paused their important, busy work to sing her happy birthday and share some cake.
There is still a long road ahead, but Ms Harbridge was glad to be home and moving forward in her life,
“I still have to take chemo tablets every day but it’s a lot easier to deal with at home,” Ms Harbridge said.
“I hated being in a concrete jungle every day...I’m still getting back in the swing of things.”
Ms Harbridge has continued her commerce/management university studies with Federation University, scaling back units and has also been busy organising a craft market for the Light the Night event.
Ballarat’s Light the Night starts from the Eureka Hall in Stawell Street South on October 15, from 5pm.
For details to walk with Ms Harbridge, go online https://lightthenight.org.au/event/ballarat or call Ms Harbride on 0402 727 881.