Dy­ing from a can­cer I ate

Some­thing Danielle Smal­ley, 23, from Bas­ingstoke, had eaten as a tod­dler was now slowly killing her…

Pick Me Up! Special - - Contents -

Sit­ting on the side of the bath, I let out a groan.

‘Are you OK?’ my boyfriend Jack, then 24, called from out­side the bath­room door. ‘I don’t know…’ I started. But I couldn’t fin­ish my sen­tence, be­cause I had to lift the toilet seat to be sick again.

For months, I’d had terrible ab­dom­i­nal pains and at­tacks of vom­it­ing.

‘You re­ally should see the doc­tor,’ Jack said when I even­tu­ally stag­gered out. ‘I know,’ I sighed. Ac­tu­ally, doc­tors were very fa­mil­iar ter­ri­tory for me.

Born at 26 weeks, I’d been in In­ten­sive Care and had tummy prob­lems my whole life.

So even­tu­ally, I made an ap­point­ment with my GP.

‘It’s prob­a­bly just IBS,’ my GP told me. ‘But we will do some tests.’

It was Septem­ber 2016, and I was sent for a transvagi­nal ul­tra­sound to ex­am­ine my pelvis.

Two weeks later, I went back and was given some shock­ing news. ‘Your liver, in­testines and bowel are on the wrong side of your body,’ the doc­tor ex­plained to me.

They were all on my left side, which meant that I could have block­ages later down the line.

I was given an ap­point­ment for cor­rec­tive surgery for the fol­low­ing April. Now I just had to wait. So I car­ried on with my re­la­tion­ship man­age­ment job in Bas­ingstoke as nor­mal and took painkillers when the cramps got too much.

But, by Jan­uary last year, the

I had suf­fered my whole life

agony was un­bear­able.

A la­paroscopy at Frim­ley Park Hos­pi­tal re­vealed some strange nod­ules on my bowel, in­testines and just be­hind my womb.

Tak­ing biop­sies, they called me back the fol­low­ing month to see a bowel con­sul­tant.

‘I’ve got a very bad feel­ing about this,’ I told Jack.

He was hold­ing my hand when the doc­tor told me the news.

‘You’ve got a can­cer known as mesothe­lioma,’ he said. ‘More com­monly known as as­bestos can­cer.’ ‘What’s that?’ I stam­mered. The doc­tor ex­plained as­bestos was a build­ing ma­te­rial, out­lawed in the UK back in 1999, be­cause it caused can­cer.

Mesothe­lioma nor­mally af­fected male builders over 75. ‘So why

me?’ I gasped. Turns out, the type of mesothe­lioma I had meant that I would have in­gested it. Nei­ther of my par­ents – Amanda, 47, or Si­mon, 51 – had ever worked with as­bestos. We looked up my pri­mary school, too, but couldn’t find any­thing. It can take 20 to 50 years to have an ef­fect, so I’d have been two or three years old when I came into contact with it. I could have eaten some­thing at a friend’s house, or in­gested some­thing from an old shed at the park I used to go to. ‘So for all these years, it’s been in­side me,’ I shud­dered. I’d been a tick­ing time bomb for two decades… Hor­ri­fy­ing. I was then re­ferred to a spe­cial­ist in as­bestos can­cer in Septem­ber last year. Fur­ther biop­sies re­vealed the can­cer was mainly in the tis­sue that cov­ers the uterus, blad­der and rec­tum. Then, last Novem­ber, I was back in hos­pi­tal to have ma­jor surgery to re­move it. Warn­ing me of the risks, the doc­tors said there was a one in 50 chance of dy­ing dur­ing the op­er­a­tion. It was

so ter­ri­fy­ing that it was hard to ac­tu­ally take in. I was in theatre for 13 hours. When I woke in In­ten­sive Care, doc­tors ex­plained that the can­cer had spread to my di­aphragm, liver and bowel.

Orig­i­nally, they were go­ing to do an op­er­a­tion where they would strip the can­cer­ous tis­sue from my bowel, stom­ach and in­testines.

But they had to strip it from ev­ery­thing and take out ev­ery or­gan I didn’t need – like my gall­blad­der and ap­pen­dix.

Be­fore they sewed me up, my or­gans were also washed, us­ing special chemo­ther­apy drugs.

When they stitched me up, there

were 56 sta­ples go­ing all the way from my breast bone right down to my vagina.

But, luck­ily, they’d saved my ovaries, so I’d still be able to have chil­dren one day.

Stay­ing in hos­pi­tal, I had more chemo­ther­apy.

I didn’t lose my hair, but my skin be­came very dry and the pain was al­most un­bear­able.

But now, nine months later, I’m in re­mis­sion, but need to have check-ups ev­ery three months.

I can’t be­lieve I’ve been through all this be­cause of a child­hood brush with as­bestos.

I’ll never re­ally know for sure what hap­pened.

But, rather than look­ing back, I’m look­ing to the fu­ture.

I’m just glad I still have one!

Some­how I’d in­gested as­bestos

It had given me can­cer

I’m look­ing to the fu­ture

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