Training keeps Molly on the mend

MARYKE PENMAN
Last updated 05:00 19/12/2013
Molly Rowlandson
DUAL INSPIRATION: Devonport woman Molly Rowlandson, 21, who is recovering from leukaemia, with NZ Breakers star player CJ Bruton.

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Like many people her age Molly Rowlandson, 21, is on a gap year.

But instead of travel, or a working holiday, Molly has spent the past 11 months fighting an aggressive form of blood cancer.

The young Devonport woman was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (ALL) in February.

Just days earlier she had been enjoying her summer holidays road tripping around the North Island with friends.

Little did she know leukaemia had spread to 94 per cent of her blood.

"I had big lumps behind my ears and under my chin. I thought it was glandular fever."

The leukaemia was so acute that Molly was rushed into hospital for chemotherapy treatment within just a day of having blood tests at the doctors.

She has since put her university studies on hold to undergo treatments including bone marrow biopsies, lumbar punctures and blood and platelet transfusions.

"Right from the beginning I thought, 'just tell me what I've got to do and I'll do it'.

"The doctors have told me statistics and what to expect, but I don't even want to hear it - as far as I'm concerned I'm going to be fine."

After eleven months Molly has finished her main treatment. What remains is two years of maintenance therapy, including pills, steroids and monthly chemotherapy, to prevent relapse.

While her long blonde hair has long since fallen out and her muscles have wasted, Molly is on the mend.

On December 10 she was one of around 20 blood cancer patients to join the NZ Breakers for training.

The experience was organised with Leukaemia and Blood Cancer NZ to promote exercise for cancer rehabilitation.

Players CJ Bruton, Daryl Corletto, Gary Wilkinson, Alonzo Burton, Jarrod Kenny and assistant coach Paul Henare were there to pass on their skills and chat with visitors over lunch.

Molly says exercise is essential to regaining strength.

"During chemo I've had quite bad muscle wasting to the point I find it hard to even get up stairs."

The constant fatigue has been difficult to deal with, she says.

"I used to play social tennis, indoor netball, go for runs.

"Since I've had ALL I've realised I just can't push it."

Weekly yoga sessions and advice from a dietician are helping her recover so that she can return to university next semester.

Straight after her diagnosis Molly began a blog that speaks volumes about her resolute and spirited approach to the disease.

Go to mollyrowlandson. wordpress.com to read more.

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- © Fairfax NZ News

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