I was diagnosed with stage IV, terminal cancer over a year ago. At the time, it was devastating and shocking news, but I had huge faith that there would be a treatment I would respond well to, and, whilst maybe I wouldn’t ever be cancer free, I would be able to live for a while with it. Sadly, I have been incredibly unluckily at so many points. Unlucky not to be put on a proper cancer pathway after my polyps were removed in 2016, unlucky that it was so advanced at diagnosis, unlucky that even the most potent chemotherapy didn’t stop it growing, unlucky that, despite finding a theoretically treatable mutation, the treatment didn’t work.
As well as gruelling and miserable surgery, radiotherapy, chemotherapy and targeted drugs, I have also done everything in my power to care for my body and try to prevent the cancer growing; from diet and supplements, exercise and meditation, to hours in an infra red sauna blanket, I’ve done so much extra. In fact, I’ve always looked after my body well, so it seems exceptionally unlucky that I’ve been struck with such an aggressive disease. And I’ve never given up hope. Every day I am grateful I’m here, every day I endure what I need to physically and emotionally because it means another day of life. I choose the glass half full, I see the positives and not the negatives. I am strong and my strength and optimism have carried me this far, but now things are really tough.
The cancer is growing fast, especially in my liver which has never fully responded to treatment. At the moment, it is still functioning okay, although under a lot of stress and causing me pain, but well enough I can continue with chemotherapy and a privately funded drug called avastin, targeting the cancer’s blood supply. We are under no illusion of this being a cure, but maybe, just maybe, it will slow the growth a little and buy me some more time. Beyond that, we do not know of any more viable options, public, private, or more experimental, although we won’t stop looking. There are no clinical trials that I am eligible for currently, although these (especially early stage), come with high risks, and on average a 5-10% success rate, so are no golden ticket anyway. I have spent the past week in hospital fighting some kind of infection, whilst also dealing with the exhaustion that chronic pain causes. It has been frightening- even a minor infection in a body as vulnerable as mine can be fatal, but I have pulled through and am back home with my boys, the best place to be.
Whilst I will continue to hope, and will continue to research and do all the extra stuff I can to help my body, we know now that at this rate, my time is limited. Who knows whether this is a few weeks, or a few months, but a short period is what I am having to start to accept. I take each day as it comes, but I am willing myself to make it to the new decade! I’d like to make my 35th birthday, and to celebrate Brian’s 40th, both in December, spend another Christmas with family, and the first one Oscar will really enjoy, as last year, despite great hilarity about being dragged around the house in a cardboard box, and eating far more cheese (his favourite food), than was good for him, he was still so little, and so will not remember.
Such a short life expectancy is an incredibly surreal position to be in. You may have pondered the question of what you’d do if you were told you had X months to live, and probably filled it with thoughts of travel, adventure, fun… but the reality is different of course. Even without being tied to the hospital for treatment, and having limited energy, these things don’t matter to me. I’m lucky, I’ve done so much; travelled to 50 different countries, eaten incredible food at world renowned restaurants, attended fancy sporting events, a party at the Palace of Versailles (I wore a red silk dress which was as fabulous as the entire weekend), as well as having an incredible, challenging, interesting and successful career. I married the most wonderful, kind, patient and caring man you could possibly meet. He is my rock, my best friend, my everything. And I am a mum, something I knew from childhood that I wanted. Oscar is the most precious gift imaginable. He makes me laugh, he gets me out of bed each day (physically with plenty of poking and ‘get up mummy’ as well as on a higher level!) I can see already he has my perseverance and his father’s kindness. The two will take him a long way. But he is of course, the hardest thing about my situation. It breaks my heart that I won’t be here to see him grow up. I know he will be fine with such an amazing team of family and friends around him, but I feel beyond awful that he won’t have his mummy.
So I don’t have a ‘bucket list’, I cannot plan and I will just continue to take one day at a time, maximising time with my family and friends, I will stay strong, I will continue to be grateful for every day and see the positive in as many situations as possible. I will not give up hope, I will not be afraid. I will put on my best face for each new day, however hard.
So many of you ask what you can do, which means a lot to me. And there is a little something I’d like. I’d love every one of you to send me a photo, or a postcard/picture, with a memory of us on the back (they don’t need to be related!) It may be a funny memory, a happy one, a day of excitement or celebration, or just of a special conversation we had. I’m going to put them all in a book and whenever I need a boost, I can look through them and remember once again how incredible my life has been so far, and how lucky I am to have such amazing family and friends. If you don’t have my address, please try to get from a friend so I’m not fielding lots of texts about it!
This is an update, not a goodbye, I am most definitely still here now! But I want to tell you all once again how wonderful you are, and how much I value your support through this toughest of circumstances. I am still well enough to do things and see people on my good days, I just can’t plan in advance, so don’t be afraid to keep in touch. I hope to see much more of many of you, but when the day comes that I can no longer join you in person, know that I will still be there in spirit, sending you so much love. A tiny piece of me will wedge in each of your hearts… that is where I want to go when I die. And when that time comes, celebrate my life, and your life too. Dance, drink champagne and be happy, I hope I will be watching in some way and enjoying. And remember, take this lesson from me, don’t wait for tomorrow to make changes in your life that will bring you joy; don’t put off doing what you really want to do in life, reach for your dreams right now. I know you can get there.