NAIDOC Week celebrations are held across Australia every July to honour the history, culture and achievements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
The theme of this year’s NAIDOC week is ‘Voice, Treaty and Truth: Let’s work together for a shared future.”
In celebration of NAIDOC week, we are featuring Leonie McIntosh’s story, a proud Wiradjuri Woman and artist, who underwent radiation therapy at our Albury centre.
Leonie McIntosh, 43, was diagnosed with a brain tumour after experiencing some confusion while trying to fill out a form and a recurrent ocular migraine.
The doctor conducted several neurological tests and scans which revealed a large tumour covering the right side of Leonie’s brain.
“I remember asking the doctor if I could go back to work the next day and then it slowly sinking in that I wouldn’t be returning to work for quite some time,” said Leonie.
Following her diagnosis, Leonie was referred to our radiation oncology centre in Albury to receive radiation treatment.
“I was a bit nervous because, as an indigenous person, you never know how you are going to get treated or greeted and things like that… But I walked in there and they had the biggest smile on their faces at the reception and the staff were so friendly,” said Leonie.
“At any time, if you feel scared, or are unsure, you can ask loads of questions. For me, as an Aboriginal person, it’s really important to know what is going to happen with things like my fingernails, my hair and all that because I don’t want no bad business to happen because some bad spirits have taken my hair.”
After receiving a tailor-made treatment mask, Leonie underwent six weeks of daily radiation treatment.
“When I was scared during treatment, I just put myself on country and I just thought about my favourite spot and did lots of deep breathing.
“Any time I felt scared, I had a buzzer in my hand that I could press and straight away they would stop and come in and unclip you.”
After finishing her treatment and returning home to her family, Leonie came up with the idea of creating a series of painted papier mache masks crafted from her original radiation mask.
She held an exhibition at the Burraja Gallery in Albury earlier this year to raise money for the Wellness Centre at the Albury/Wodonga Cancer Hospital.
You can learn more about Leonie’s journey with cancer by watching the video below.