Councillor reveals brave battle with cancer

It was the birthday surprise of the worst kind - finding mysterious lumps in her neck and armpits - but Jill Merrin is determined to take it in her stride.

Less than three weeks after being diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma, and just days after her first round of chemotherapy, the Wollongong councillor is already looking ahead to a day when she feels well enough to resume her early-morning swims at Austinmer ocean pools.

It is just one of many passions that will have to be placed on hold in the coming months, as Cr Merrin undergoes fortnightly chemotherapy treatments to beat her cancer, otherwise known as Diffuse large B-cell lymphoma.

The diagnosis has been a steep learning curve for the 58-year-old, who only discovered the lumps on November 7, while away on a break.

"I was away in the country after the Local Government Conference and we were driving back through the country - having a bit of a holiday through Mudgee and Grafton - and I had a bit of tightness in the chest and was coughing a little bit," Cr Merrin said.

"Then one day which happened to be my birthday - I noticed I had some lumps in my neck and under my arms, so as soon as we got back I went to the doctor."

She was whisked away for a series of tests and admitted to Wollongong Hospital for treatment as soon as the results came in.

Despite "not feeling too crash hot" after eight days in hospital and her first round of chemotherapy on Wednesday and Thursday last week, Cr Merrin has not ruled out attending tonight's council meeting.

Wollongong councillor Jill Merrin. Picture: ADAM McLEAN

Wollongong councillor Jill Merrin. Picture: ADAM McLEAN

"There are some Sandon Point items [on the agenda] so I was considering going [to the meeting] but I still don't know if I'll be up to it," she said.

"It's an issue that's close to my heart - it's actually one of the reasons I became involved in politics in the first place - so I would like to be there. But my health comes first and so, if I don't feel up to it, I just won't go."

The Sandon Point and McCauley's Beach draft Plan of Management will be tabled at the meeting, alongside a report addressing Aboriginal sites, pedestrian access, and biodiversity issues at the Sandon Point precinct.

And while Cr Merrin hopes to attend, the outing would come with a significant risk of infection.

Regardless, the Greens councillor - who has nothing but praise for the public health system and Prof Peter Presgrave's team at Wollongong Hospital - is taking each day at a time, with hopes of returning to work soon.

"I don't know how I'll go once I get into the swing of it. I might be able to be more active, but at the moment I'm just digging in at home for a couple of weeks and seeing how I manage," she said.

"So I want people to know that, if I don't respond to their inquiries, it's not because I'm not interested. I'm just not able to for a while, but I'm hoping to get back to council business very soon."


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