ABOUT 76 people are diagnosed with anal cancer in Queensland each year. It's rare, hard to detect, and rarely spoken about.
When Rockhampton's Michelle Norton was first diagnosed with it she found that for many, it was a difficult cancer to discuss. There was a stigma around anal cancer.
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Now, she is determined to speak up and ensure that others diagnosed know they are not alone in their journey.
"I hope that by sharing my story, I am helping to spread word about this rare and forgotten cancer type," Ms Norton said.
Ms Norton was diagnosed with anal cancer on November 11, 2011; the day her life changed forever.
"I was in so much shock that I couldn't speak. I remember seeing the doctors' mouths moving but I can't remember anything they said.
"My husband Gavin did all the talking for me - cancer was the last thing I thought it could be. I'd never even heard of anal cancer and couldn't imagine what this would mean for me."
Ms Norton's diagnosis was stage 3B squamous cell carcinoma, detected after she experienced months of bleeding, itchiness and haemorrhoids.
Within a week of her diagnosis, she travelled to Brisbane to undergo surgery and a stoma was inserted, followed by radiation and chemotherapy.
"Cancer doesn't give any warning or leave you time to prepare. When I was diagnosed, we had to act straight away," she said.
"After a long and hard journey, in September 2013 I was declared cancer-free, but I now live with a permanent stoma.
"When I was recovering, despite the incredible support from Gavin, family and friends, I felt very alone.
"I ended up finding people through Facebook who had a similar experience which made me strong and showed me I am not alone.
"Now, Gavin and I are passionate about helping other cancer patients and raising awareness of anal cancer."
This March, Cancer Council Queensland is calling on all Queenslanders to get familiar with the symptoms of anal cancer and speak up as part of World Anal Cancer Awareness Day on March 21.
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