Nurse’s positive outlook after dire diagnosis

Fighting on: Daniel Valenzuela was diagnosed with cancer three years ago. Picture: Chris Lane
Fighting on: Daniel Valenzuela was diagnosed with cancer three years ago. Picture: Chris Lane

Three years ago Daniel Valenzuela entered Campbelltown Hospital in the morning as palliative care nurse.

That night he was admitted as a patient with a dire diagnosis.

“I was experiencing extreme pain in my abdomen and it got so bad I presented to the ED (emergency department),” he said.

“I was speaking to the surgeon and they thought I needed surgery for my gall bladder.

“The next day the doctors said they had found cancer.”

The Tahmoor resident was diagnosed with bowel cancer which has also “covered” his liver.

Without treatment, the oncologist said he only had six to 12 months left to live.

“So I started chemotherapy straight away,” he said.

Last year he had 70 per cent of his liver cut out in the hope “of getting rid of it once and for all”.

However, three new tumours were found shortly after the surgery.

The 45-year-old said he spent many night “crying and thinking what happens from here” following the diagnosis.

Though he was less concerned about himself and more worried about the impact the disease and his possible death would have on his two sons – now aged 16 and 20 – and his wife.

But rather than wallow, he decided to make the most of his days.

“Since the diagnosis, I have had the best years of my life,” he said.

"I got married and have been overseas three times.

“I’ve got two sayings. One is ‘don’t be scared of dying, be scared of not living’ and the other is ‘today is a gift not a given’.

“I still work three days a week (at the Tahmoor nursing clinic).

“I’m not worrying about things I can’t control – I have a new perspective (on life).”

Mr Valenzuela also said the support of the Macarthur Cancer Therapy Centre and Macarthur Bowel Cancer Support Group also played a vital role in his mindset post diagnosis.

“Without the cancer therapy centre, I wouldn’t be here,” he said.

“With the group it’s good to know there are other people in my situation.

“Some who are attend are survivors so there is that bit of hope too.”

The group – for patients and carers – discuss topics such as diet, meditation and exercise.

The next meeting will be held at Wests Leagues Club, Leumeah, at 7pm on Monday, August 7.

Details: 0477741569 or Roberta.Elston@sswahs.nsw.gov.au.