TO SAY this week has been rough would be an understatement.
I started the week in liver failure, an inoperable tumour growing fast and very little hope.
While most people have been on the edge of their seats watching the Euros, I’ve been questioning if I am going to live or die.
The tumour is wrapped around my bile duct, and is obstructing my liver causing dangerous toxins to flood my body.
I was going more yellow by the second, as jaundice took hold and I could barely open my eyes or function.
I felt like I was fading fast, because I was on the brink of the beginning of the end.
Since being diagnosed with stage 4 bowel cancer four years ago, I felt for the first time like death was just around the corner.
On Monday, I was rushed in for an emergency op to fit a stent in my liver.
It’s a bit like getting the plumber in to fix a blockage, they insert a metal tube into my liver to help the toxins drain properly.
It wasn’t pleasant, but the surgeon and team were amazing.
My amazing NHS team…
It’s just another reminder that the NHS are incredible when the sh*t hits the fan.
I had to be transferred by ambulance because I needed to have the op asap, and couldn’t afford to wait.
The fast work of my medical team and so many others means I have been given a lifeline, another chance.
For the last four days I have faced an anxious wait to see if my liver function has improved.
I’ve been watched like a hawk in hospital, in the hope that my body plays ball.
The first 24 hours post-op were a complete blur, as my sedation wore off.
Then came the panic of ‘what if this doesn’t work?’.
Wednesday began with a lot more crying as there were fears I may have developed sepsis.
My heart was racing, my pain was improving and tests were showing some markers were still rising – not a good sign.
I managed to catch the school play
At 3pm I hit a brick wall and had a full meltdown, I told the team at The Royal Marsden I just wanted to get out to go to my daughter Eloise’s school play that evening.
Facing the horrible thought that my life was slipping away, I couldn’t face the thought of missing her performance.
It’s these happy memories that are the ray of sunshine you need in dark times, and I wasn’t going to let her miss out on those memories.
I made it, I was exhausted and could barely stand up, but I cried happy tears throughout their production of Annie.
Listening to them all singing ‘Tomorrow, tomorrow, I love you tomorrow, it’s only a day away’, was almost too much.
But it reminded me that I might just get a few more tomorrows!
And then yesterday, it felt like a miracle had happened and I started to feel a sense of relief as my blood tests began to show my liver is responding.
And so it means I can have chemo.
After the drugs that I’ve been taking for over two years stopped working, chemo is my only hope to blast the tumour around my bile duct.
Due to where it is, it’s impossible to operate on it.
But when my liver began to fail, my doctors warned that my body was strong enough to cope with chemo.
On Monday I was too scared to believe I would make chemo so soon.
But I am writing this update from my hospital chair as I’m about to restart chemo.
I feel like screaming, ‘I’m BACK in the game’ at the top of my lungs but I know I’m not out of the woods yet.
No one knows whether this will work, whether the chemo will shrink my tumour fast enough to stop my cancer spreading.
No one knows what other options I have if it doesn’t work.
Ready to fight this tumour
What I do know is that I’ve been thrown into the depths of hell this week, and now it feels like I’ve got a ladder to climb back out.
It’s not going to be easy, but as my oncologist said to me when I was first diagnosed, we are throwing the kitchen sink and some at this.
We know my targeted drugs have stopped working, so now we’re back to trying chemo that I had when I was first diagnosed.
Treatment wise, I am literally back to square one. Just this time there’s a lot more rapidly growing cancer inside me, and my body is knackered.
The plan is for me to have chemo once a fortnight as long as my body can take it.
Each session will be a three-day affair, one day in hospital followed by two days rocking my chemo pump in a new handbag that I plan to treat myself to.
I’m writing this before I’m hooked up because as soon as the chemo starts it’s like walking into the boxing ring.
I tend to suffer nasty reactions, crippling panic and flashbacks.
My anxiety goes through the roof and I feel terrified. But I don’t have a choice.
KNOWING BOWEL CANCER SIGNS COULD SAVE YOUR LIFE
BOWEL cancer is the fourth most common form of the disease in the UK – but the second deadliest, claiming around 16,000 lives a year.
Yet it can be cured, if it’s diagnosed early enough.
Fewer than one in ten people survive bowel cancer if it’s picked up at stage 4, but detected at stage 1 – before it’s spread – and more than nine in ten patients will live five years or longer.
There are two ways to ensure early diagnosis, screening and awareness of the symptoms.
Brits have been subjected to a postcode lottery when it comes to bowel cancer screening, with tests sent out in Scotland from 50, while people in England, Wales and Northern Ireland have to wait until they are 60.
That’s why The Sun launched the No Time 2 Lose campaign, calling on the Government to lower the screening age, to save thousands of lives a year.
In the summer of 2018, Matt Hancock agreed, in a victory for The Sun and campaigners – yet three years on and screening at 50 has yet to be widely rolled out.
While screening is an important part of early diagnosis, so is knowing the symptoms and acting if you spot the signs.
The five red-flag symptoms are:
- Bleeding from the back passage, or blood in your poo
- A change in your normal toilet habits – going more or less often for example
- Pain or lump in your tummy
- Extreme tiredness for no real reason
- Unexplained weight loss
If you’re worried, don’t be embarrassed and speak to your GP – doctors see and deal with bowel problems all the time.
I’m having to dig deep again, I’m shattered and my body feels like it’s run 20 marathons.
Mentally, I have hit rock bottom after two weeks in and out of hospital.
But then I look at my daughter Eloise and my son, Hugo.
I look at friends of mine who ran out of chances, who didn’t have an option to even get to the next step.
I look at this chance, however hard it is, however uncertain it might feel and I am grabbing it with two hands.
When I was diagnosed I was given an 8 per cent chance of surviving five years.
My chances of reaching that milestone in six months might be slimmer than ever, but I have a chance.
I haven’t been written off yet and that feels incredible.
That’s the hope that keeps me going. Step by step, one test to the next, one day at a time.
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