Not even terminal cancer can stop me making others smile
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