BENDIGO cancer survivor Kristy McIlroy owes her life to the generosity of blood donors.
The 31-year-old began her battle with cancer in July 2001 when doctors found a tumour the size of a house brick at the base of her spine.
Ms McIlroy underwent a vigorous cycle of chemotherapy, but after a year in remission, a CT scan found a growth in her brain.
Despite this, Ms McIlroy has now been in remission for eight years.
During treatment, Ms McIlroy said an IV pole became a permanent fixture as she was constantly given blood and platelet transfusions – about 50 bags of blood product in total – to help with her recovery.
“I am so grateful for people who generously have and continue to give blood,” she said.
“My journey with cancer has been long and hard and there have been times where I have felt that I couldn’t do it anymore.
“But, from my experiences, I have found that life is precious.
“It is said that, ‘the best things in life are free’, and I have found this to be true.”
This week marked National Blood Donor Week and Ms McIlroy plays an integral part in this, volunteering at the Bendigo Donor Centre.
In her role, Ms McIlroy speaks to various community groups about the importance of blood donation.
“I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for blood donors, that’s what brought me back when I was really sick,” she said.
“People should give what they can.”
Ms McIlroy acknowledges it’s been far from easy, but says her cancer journey has made her a better person.
“If something good can come out of what I’ve been through then that’s what I want,” she said.
“I get pretty nervous talking about it all, doing the public speaking, but giving blood saves lives. And I want people to know you can beat cancer.
“It doesn’t always have to be a death sentence.”
Ms McIlroy’s mum Helen said blood had been an amazing gift to their family.
“So, for the people who put up with the needles and gave their time to give blood, thank you,” she said.
“It’s an amazing gift – one of the greatest you can get.”