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Radio star Georgia’s cancer nightmare

ZM presenter Georgia Burt reveals the diagnosis that saw her break down in tears

When ZM fans listened to bubbly radio host Georgia Burt on air earlier this year, they had no idea she was battling cancer behind the scenes.

For five weeks, the music lover juggled work with intensive radiotherapy to zap a rare cancerous lump on her thigh, which she was told could spread to her lungs and vital organs if she didn’t act fast.

“On Waitangi weekend, I was pushing my wee niece down a slide when I brushed past my thigh and felt a lump,” recalls Georgia, 28, who eventually told listeners she had a myxoid liposarcoma, a cancer of the fat that has the potential to spread through blood cells, a day before she had surgery to remove it.

“I thought maybe I’d been going too hard at the gym and it was muscle build-up, so I didn’t do much about it. At one stage, I even asked people on air to diagnose what the lump could be to get their advice!”

But when Christchurch-born, Auckland-based Georgia injured herself at the gym a month later and thought she’d popped a hernia, she went to her GP and mentioned the lump.

“An ultrasound found I’d pulled a muscle in my ab, but they said the lump didn’t look good either,” she recalls. “That was on a Friday and I had to wait over the weekend for news, which was hard. I went out with my best friend that Saturday night, and we had a few too many and cried about what it could be. Then my GP called at lunchtime on Monday and said the results looked concerning.”

Georgia was referred to a specialist’s clinic, where she sat with her university sweetheart, rural banker Hamish Stewart, 29. Together, they were told the lump was a 3x7cm tumour and the fit, young broadcaster had cancer.

“The surgeon said the word ‘cancer’ and Hamish grabbed my hand,” she shares. “I just said, ‘Yep, OK,’ but it didn’t register. It wasn’t until we were booking in for the next appointment that I broke down into tears.”

Afterwards, she broke the devastating news to her Hawke’s Bay-based parents, switched her phone off for the rest of the night, and joined Hamish and a couple of close friends for a night out.

“I decided to carry on and try to be as positive as I could,” explains Georgia. “I’m just lucky I have the best support people I could ever ask for. Hamish was amazing from the get-go. He was the shoulder

I needed to cry on. Bedtime was the hardest because it’s when the busyness stops.”

Luckily for Georgia, the couple had purchased health insurance eight months before her diagnosis, when they bought their first home together, which meant treatment could be fast-tracked. After five weeks, she was ready for surgery on her thigh to remove the lump and surrounding tissue.

Georgia’s partner Hamish was her rock during the treatment.

“I didn’t mention my diagnosis on air until the day before I went in for surgery because I didn’t know how to process it myself and I wasn’t ready to hear other people’s stories just yet,” she admits.

“I needed three weeks off work and everyone was incredible. I have the best boss in the world and when my team found out, they baked and arranged to drop off meals every night.”

Georgia’s family also kept her strong. “Mum and Dad were incredibly supportive and caring, always checking in,” she enthuses. “Mum would send a message at the same time every day to make me smile.”

After a successful surgery that required 42 staples, Georgia was left with a 20cm scar that her friends now joke could come in handy when she needs a ruler! While she still has bruising three months

on, regular physio and rehab appointments are helping Georgia regain strength in her leg – and it hasn’t stopped her usual 6am gym visits.

“The gym has been my time to distract myself,” she says. “Pre-cancer, I was the one going 110% all the time, but after I got sick, it was a massive lesson that I don’t always have to be that competitive person. The people at my gym were really supportive, like, ‘Chill, girl – just relax!'”

For the next five years, the ZM Workday host will need chest x-rays and CT scans every three months to ensure the cancer hasn’t spread throughout her body, but Georgia says her listeners are helping her stay positive.

“When I went back on the show, fans reached out to say they’d missed me and to thank me for sharing my journey, which was amazing. Life’s back to normal, but there are definitely days where I sit there and go, ‘What the heck was that?'”

And the bubbly personality has an important message to anyone who may find a strange lump or bump on their body: “Please get it checked out straightaway. Don’t hesitate going to the doctor just because you think it’s probably nothing serious. It’s so important to get it checked, even if just for peace of mind.”

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