THE journey of Malua Bay mother Jennie Marsh, Camp Quality’s Dick Gillard Volunteer of the Year, is a great example of how trauma can turn to triumph.
Jennie’s life was turned upside down when her then 15-year-old son Josh was diagnosed with Burkitts Lymphoma in 2004, but her involvement with Camp Quality since has given her a new purpose and perspective.
“I’m addicted to it now; I love it,” she said.
“I love being able to give back after being given so much.”
Josh Marsh, now a police officer based in Griffith, was a Carroll College student when a doctor’s appointment in Batehaven revealed a lump inside his neck.
A visit to an ear, nose and throat specialist followed and then a biopsy.
“We got a phone call with the results and were told we had to be at Sydney Children’s Hospital by 5pm, so we left at midday,” Jennie said.
Josh was placed into intensive care, and medication had to be administered to prevent the tumour doubling in size in 24 hours.
The family spent seven months Sydney, staying at Ronald McDonald House, until treatment finished and Josh could come home.
He was soon invited to his first camp at Illawarra Camp Quality.
“It was hard to let him go, but he had so much fun and came home a changed boy ready to have fun and live life,” Jennie said.
“There is nothing sad about the camps; they are all about kids having fun,” Jennie said.
Both Josh, who was elected as captain of Carroll College, and Jennie became camp volunteers, with Jennie getting into organising camps and fundraising and becoming and integral part of the Illawarra leadership team.
Josh’s brother Chris, 13 at the time of the diagnosis, joined him at camps.
“Siblings and children of cancer sufferers are a a big part of what we do, because they experience a lot of anxiety,” Jennie said.
As well as the volunteer of the year award, Jennie has also received an award for five years outstanding service.
Josh’s diagnosis wasn’t the first time Jennie’s life had been touched by cancer.
“I lost my father when I was 21,” she said.