In 2015, seventy-two-year old Jill Davenport and her husband Paul were enjoying exploring the country on their bikes when Jill started to notice problems with her skin and bowel.
After seeing multiple specialists Jill was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin lymphoma which she says she knew absolutely nothing about.
“My tests showed I had enlarged lymph nodes so I was referred to a haematologist in Waikato Hospital and from there everything happened very fast,” says Jill.
After losing her former husband to cancer, Jill says the diagnosis was a shock and certainly not what she was expecting.
“I just sat there with my mouth wide open while Paul just burst into tears!” says Jill.
Jill initially underwent six rounds of chemotherapy, each lasting three weeks.
However, this didn’t work as well as her medical team expected so she started on a stronger round of chemotherapy called CHOP. After six more rounds of CHOP treatment and 20 sessions of radiotherapy Jill was told she was in remission.
“I’m thankful I put my trust in the professionals because it obviously worked!” says Jill.
Early into her treatment Jill met Matthew Eby, Leukaemia & Blood Cancer New Zealand’s (LBC’s) Support Services Coordinator in the Waikato who she says opened the door for her to meet other positive blood cancer patients
“I loved the positivity from Matthew and the LBC newsletters so I started going to support groups straight away. I met so many wonderful people and every single person had the same outlook as me.”
When she was first diagnosed, Jill searched the internet about lymphoma but found there was too much information to know what was correct or not.
“Matthew gave me lots of helpful information about lymphoma and helped me make sense of it all” says Jill.
Although the treatment was tough for Jill, she and Paul tried to keep cycling as much as possible. Before Jill’s diagnosis, the couple established an over 50’s cycling group in Waihi and Jill still tried to make the regular meetings even if it was just for a coffee and to see everyone.
“The cycling group offered a lot of support and they were all so encouraging even when I couldn’t manage to get on the bike” says Jill.
When she was well enough to cycle, Jill was understandably a little slower than before.
After seeing an ad for electric bikes from Mercury Energy, she got in touch with the company enquiring about the price while telling them her story. To her surprise they gifted her a brand new electric bike which helped her keep up with the others.
Jill says she hasn’t found her blood cancer debilitating simply because she decided she wasn’t going to let it get to her.
“Paul and I had already booked a trip to cycle the Central Otago Rail Trail before I was diagnosed. My doctor said I should only ride what I could manage and I ended up doing it all!” says Jill.
“I’m a big believer in living life and I want to show people if you have limited time to get out there and live your life positively,” says Jill.
Since being in remission, Jill and Paul have moved to Tauranga to be closer to the main hospital but still head to Waihi regularly to catch up with everyone at the cycling club.
‘’We are still riding every chance we can get and we’ve just booked the Otago Rail Trail again for next March which will be our ninth time!” says Jill.
“As far as I’m concerned I am living my life and having fun. It’s the same old me!”