Bendigo Light the Night organiser shares her long road to cancer diagnosis and battle back to health

When Bendigo Light the Night organiser Tyler Lowe was diagnosed with cancer five years ago, she and her mother raised a toast to celebrate.

It’s not that Ms Lowe was happy to discover she had a life-threatening disease – far from it. 

But she was relieved to finally begin treating the illness that had besieged her body for the previous two years.

"It was a joyous moment," the 37-year-old said.

"We knew what it was and we had something to fight."

Her case of cutaneous T-cell lymphoma, a blood cancer usually diagnosed in elderly people, began as a mild skin itch that eventually grew so unbearable it kept her from sleeping at night. 

She would spend days inside, staying still and cool to avoid irritating her skin. For a long time, the condition stumped medics. 

"My file was shared all over the world just to try and work out what it was," she said. 

What followed her diagnosis was a three-year journey back to health, a period marked by bone marrow and stem cell transplants and a year in and out of hospital. 

 A heart attack and blood clots complicated her recovery, adding another 12 months to the already long convalescence.  

But Ms Lowe said her role during treatment was the "easy job", paying tribute to the work of doctors and loved ones who worked to save her life.  

They will be among those she remembers at this year’s Light the Night event at Lake Weeroona on October 6.

What will start as a festival atmosphere will give way to a contemplative walk around the waterhole for cancer survivors and bereaved families to reflect on their lived experience. 

Now in its tenth year, the national movement in support of blood cancer research is marked in more than 140 locations. This year’s Bendigo instalment will take place on Friday, October 6.

Light the Night events in 2016 raised about $2 million for research. 

On average, 35 people are diagnosed with a form of blood cancer every day.  

Ms Lowe said she was caught off-guard by her emotions at her first Light the Night event, overwhelmed by the shared experience of those with lived experience of cancer. 

"You really felt isolated," the blood cancer survivor said of her time in treatment, adding that she lost many friendships during her period of ill-health.  

People often did not know how to talk to someone living with cancer, a disease to which a stigma was attached, Ms Lowe said.

Fortunately, Ms Lowe is now healthier than ever, although she remains on some medication and still visits her doctors annually.

Asked whether her cancer experience had changed her outlook upon life, she said she never passed up an opportunity to indulge in life's sweeter offerings (“Like a wine tasting,” she said, with a laugh).    

Last summer was the first in years she did not spend hidden inside for fear of irritating her skin.