Spread­ing hap­pi­ness

Not even ter­mi­nal can­cer can stop me mak­ing oth­ers smile

Chat - - Inside - By Anita Brown, 46, from White­hill, Hamp­shire

Ever since my son Ashleigh was born, I’ve had kid­ney prob­lems.

End­less in­fec­tions, kid­ney stones… Dou­ble pneu­mo­nia was next, then I con­tracted sep­sis. Talk about un­lucky! Fi­nally, in June 2015, I had my blad­der washed out in the hope it would help. It didn’t.

A couple of months later, I no­ticed blood in my poo.

Re­ferred for a colonoscopy in Novem­ber, it came back clear.

‘How can it be?’ I asked my hus­band Tim, 46. I was so ob­vi­ously un­well. Then the blood in my poo be­came more reg­u­lar.

Christ­mas, my favourite time of year, came and went, but I felt ex­hausted.

‘Must be the long, dark days,’ I said to Tim.

In Jan­uary last year, I no­ticed blood in my urine.

Some­times my face, neck and chest would burn and go bright red.

What was go­ing on?

Baf­fled, doc­tors pre­scribed an­tibi­otics, and I was sent for an ul­tra­sound.

In the mean­time, though, I started wee­ing blood clots.

Fright­ened, I turned to search­ing on Google.

Blad­der can­cer cropped up re­peat­edly.

Then, on 1 April last year, my scan re­sults came back…

‘You have small cell blad­der can­cer,’ a neu­rol­o­gist at The Hamp­shire Clinic ex­plained. ‘You’re very young for this.’

It’s a cliche, but it’s one of those things you think will never hap­pen to you.

Look­ing at the scan im­age, my eyes were in­stantly drawn to the big, scaly thing, which I knew shouldn’t be there. A huge tu­mour. Fight­ing back tears, I found Tim in the wait­ing room. ‘You can have the tu­mour taken out,’ a doc­tor told us as we sat to­gether in a side room a few min­utes later. We were stunned. But hope­ful. They can take it out. They can save me, I thought.

Want­ing it over as soon as pos­si­ble, we booked in with a pri­vate neu­rol­o­gist.

Only, it wasn’t to be.

‘I’m afraid we can’t op­er­ate. The tu­mour’s too big and has gone through the blad­der wall,’ the neu­rol­o­gist said days later. Dev­as­tat­ing. The fol­low­ing week, I vis­ited an on­col­o­gist to start dis­cussing chemo­ther­apy. Then an­other scan re­vealed the can­cer had spread to my lymph nodes, liver and hip bones.

Hear­ing ‘bones’ felt like I’d been handed my death war­rant.

If it hadn’t have been for Tim, Ashleigh, 23, and my friends, I never would’ve got through it.

I started chemo in May last year.

Al­though it was gru­elling, I felt happy some­thing was fi­nally be­ing done.

And I started to look at my life dif­fer­ently.

Be­fore then, I was

My eyes were drawn to the big scaly thing... a tu­mour

just liv­ing. Now, I started to ap­pre­ci­ate ev­ery sin­gle day, minute and sec­ond I was alive.

I was de­ter­mined to make the most of the time I had left.

So, in Au­gust last year, Tim and I went to The Ritz for af­ter­noon tea – so spe­cial.

We went out on day trips when­ever we could, to the beach, the fun­fair, for crazy golf.

But what makes me hap­pi­est is mak­ing oth­ers happy.

Think­ing I’d never make it to the end of the year, my friends and I or­gan­ised a Christ­mas party and 80s disco in June last year.

We raised £2,000 for Macmil­lan.

With­out my Macmil­lan nurse, I think my brain would ex­plode. She un­der­stands like no­body else.

I also took part in the an­nual Macmil­lan World’s Biggest Cof­fee Morn­ing.

Then, de­ter­mined to raise more, I took part in ‘Dare to Bare’. Yep, I stripped off and posed for the camera!

We hope it’ll raise thou­sands for Can­cer Re­search UK.

‘You never would’ve done that be­fore,’ Tim laughed. Then I had a brain­wave... Last Septem­ber, me, Tim, my friends Su and Jan­ice and Jan­ice’s son Max went to Lidl and bought all their flow­ers. Four trol­leys full. ‘Happy Fri­day,’ we cheered, hand­ing out the bunches.

I’d never felt hap­pier, bring­ing a smile to ev­ery­one’s faces.

I met so many lovely peo­ple, and we shared our sto­ries. One lady had suf­fered a mis­car­riage and said she’d try to re­mem­ber this day for the flow­ers, not her trauma.

An­other woman took two bunches to take to the shel­tered hous­ing where she lived. We’ve now got our think­ing caps on for more ran­dom acts of kind­ness.

So far, I’ve had 11 ses­sions of chemo, which shrank the tu­mour and de­ac­ti­vated the can­cer else­where.

I’m con­vinced help­ing oth­ers see the sunny side has helped me, too.

But the na­ture of small cell can­cer is that it will be back. It’s hard, but I’m lucky. I never thought I’d be here to tell my story, and I’m so grate­ful for ev­ery sin­gle day.

It means more time with Tim and Ashleigh, and more time mak­ing oth­ers smile.

The world can be a ter­ri­ble place, but it’s so easy to spread a lit­tle hap­pi­ness.

I met so many lovely peo­ple and we shared our sto­ries

The flow­ers we bought to give away

En­joy­ing tea at the Ritz with hus­band Tim

Bat­tling on Hav­ing treat­ment in hospi­tal last year Ev­ery day is so pre­cious

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