Buderim mum Sandy Scott wanted to use her place in a reality TV series to highlight the importance of early detection
by CHRIS TAYLOR
Facing off against multiple contestants on Channel Seven’s recent series of SAS Australia, Sandy Scott was portrayed as “just a stay-at-home mum” who emphasised family over career. But her journey from humble housewife to stepping into arguably the world’s toughest reality show was inspired by her close call with cervical cancer a few years ago and her desire to live life to the fullest.
The 36-year-old mother of two hoped her cancer experience, which she shared with the show’s no-nonsense ex-special forces staff in intense interviews, would have been featured by the network to prompt female viewers to get regular checks. But her message never made it to the final cut.
“That’s the only thing I was disappointed with,” she says. “We spent a lot of time talking about having cervical cancer and none of it aired on the show.”
Even though her “15 minutes of fame” has since ended for the Buderim mum, Sandy is not giving up on warning others to get tested – especially those who, like she was, are in their early 30s.
At just 30 a regular pap smear detected irregular cell growth in her cervix. The problem was, she was not made aware of the potentially life-threatening cancer until two years later at her next check.
“They were like, you’ve got abnormal cells, when was your last pap smear?” she says.
A change of address was not followed up by her previous GP practice, and she had assumed “no news was good news”.
But doctors reviewed Sandy’s records and found she had the abnormal cells two years prior.
“So unfortunately the cells could have been there between two and four years growing,” she says.
“I was only 32 and we’re in that age where it was before the HPV vaccination was in schools and the changing-over from pap smears to cervical screening. Once we found out, a month later I had a hysterectomy and that was pretty brutal.
“I was lucky I had two healthy happy kids – they were six and four (at the time of the procedure),” she says.
But she says women are now choosing to have children later and should make sure they have their regular checks.
Sandy and husband Robert, who both come from three-sibling families, say a third child was always on the cards for them until her hysterectomy.
“All of a sudden I felt having that opportunity to have another child was taken from me,” she says.
Sandy says the cancer is preventative, with Gardasil vaccines in school and new five-year early detection cervical screening tests.
“There shouldn’t be any cervical cancer in anyone under 20 now,” she says. “That should be it, there shouldn’t be anyone not able to have kids.
“What it comes down to is, mums can be so busy and so focused on the kids and the family and home that sometimes you forget those little things.”
Originally from the UK, Sandy migrated to Australia with dreams of becoming a surfer or doing outdoor education but she ended up studying an accounting degree to get her citizenship. Up until her diagnosis, Sandy had been working with a busy Mooloolaba accounting firm for 13 years but says her cancer scare really put life into perspective.
“After returning to work, within six months I handed in my resignation,” she says. “Straight away I was like, ‘What am I doing behind this desk?’
“The cancer’s changed my path, from being in the office talking to clients to wanting to be outdoors. And because of that I’m always looking for opportunities, which is why the SAS thing came up. After the cancer I was like, I want to learn, I want to grow and I want to always challenge myself.
“I don’t want to have any regrets, I don’t want to waste life – life is for living. And I don’t feel I was living doing accounting. I was just existing.”
Even though she loved helping her clients, Sandy says she couldn’t have faced another 13 sedentary years as a CPA and is now on new a path to find her niche in the world.
She comes from a stoic British military family, with dad Peter a former paratrooper in the Falklands War and twin sister Louise a squadron leader serving in the RAF, along with brother Simon.
“So, as you see on the show, I got called ‘the civi’ in my family. And I always thought there was a path for me in the military,” she says.
SAS Australia was a chance to prove to her father that she could do it, and an opportunity to use the mental resilience and positivity that got her through her cancer.
“Finding that was the start of finding something else – life after work,” she says. “And part of the show was not that I’d lost purpose, but just lost direction.”
Sandy now wants to combine her love of the ocean in her next potential career move. She has also become a keen free-diver and applied for Channel Ten’s Survivor.
Although SAS Australia captured her on screen as saying “I’m just a stay-at-home mum”, Sandy says the “unedited” premise was always “at the moment I’m just a stay-at-home mum”.