By Danielle Kutchel
Being diagnosed with cancer is always devastating news.
But for Ridma Nalawatte, the bad news was compounded by the fact that at the time of her diagnosis, she was 12 weeks pregnant.
“It was a bit shocking,” Ms Nalawatte said of the moment of her diagnosis.
“My first thought was, ‘why me?’ and I felt like my whole world was falling apart, especially because I was pregnant.”
The Clyde North mother said her immediate worry was for her unborn son.
“It was distracting. I didn’t think about the cancer much, I was thinking about the baby and what we were going to do.”
She was warned by the doctors that her baby might not survive, especially when he came down with a stomach problem in the womb.
She was offered the option of terminating the pregnancy.
But Ms Nalawatte said she had a feeling about her child.
“Because of him, I found out about the cancer. I had this feeling like he showed me I have cancer.
“So I thought, no; I’m going to keep the baby.”
Ms Nalawatte’s son, Dion, was born healthy at 29 weeks.
She underwent six rounds of chemotherapy and said her doctors and family, who flew in from overseas, helped to give her courage and keep her and her child safe.
She is now in remission after the cancer was confirmed to have disappeared following the chemotherapy.
Her journey inspired her to give back the moment she could, and for the past five years Ms Nalawatte has competed in Run Melbourne to raise money for the Cancer Council of Australia.
Over that time she has raised more than $3000 and hopes that this money can go towards clinical trials to help stop cancer and prevent other mothers from facing the same experience she went through.
She said her husband in particular has been supportive of her as she trains.
She alternates running and cycling, and also goes to the gym three to four times a week in an effort to be as fit as possible.
Fitness has always been part of her life; prior to her diagnosis Ms Nalawatte said she would compete in sports and even while she was in hospital, she would get up early and walk around to stay active.
Ms Nalawatte said a positive attitude helped her to get through her cancer journey.
“It is a mind game as well,” she explained.
She encouraged other people with the disease to try and stay positive and think of their loved ones.
“I know it’s hard, mentally you are going down but … you can get through this.”
She said she feels lucky to have come out the other side cancer-free and urged people to donate to her Run Melbourne fundraiser.
“Every dollar counts. These clinical trials are helping a lot. This research will be very helpful,” she said.
To donate to Ms Nalawatte’s fundraiser, visit https://runmelbourne21.grassrootz.com/cancer-council-victoria/lets-survive-together