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In the summer of 2008 I gave birth to my beautiful baby boy, Hadley-Ray. Everything was perfect. Approximately 6 weeks after Hadley was born I started to get severe stomach pains and sickness. Over the following 10 weeks I got steadily worse, lost over 3 stone in weight (rapidly) and started to pass out on a daily basis until I was eventually taken to hospital in an emergency. That day, they found something hidden in my intestine so I was sent immediately for scans and tests. The fateful consultant’s follow up appointment was just a week before my baby boys first Christmas. The consultant sat me down and said those devastating words that nobody ever wants to hear “I’m really sorry to have to tell you this, but you have cancerous tumours in you small bowel and unfortunately it has spread to your liver.” He went on to tell me that I had something called Carcinoid tumours, a rare form of slow growing neuroendocrine cancer, where tumours arise from cells that are part of both the nervous and endocrine system – the system which produces hormones (and the same cancer that Steve Jobs of ‘Apple’ had). For a week I was in a daze and feared the worst but as I watched my son, I knew from the beginning that I had everything to fight for….and by all accounts it has been a fight and a half!
I met my Consultant Surgeon for the first time at Southampton Hospital on 23rd December after being referred. He spent invaluable time with me going over the disease in general, the treatments available and his plan ahead (I still have his scribbled explanation diagrams to this day!) On Christmas Eve I started twice daily Octreotide injections to help with the Carcinoid symptoms thus helping to prepare myself for the forthcoming treatments. Between January and May of 2012 I had five rounds of surgery which included:
Liver embolisation (Hepatic segment of 7th Artery).
Removal of the primary tumour, my Appendix, 6ft of bowel and 4 stomach glands.
Laparoscopic Liver resection including approximately 10cm of diaphragmatic and peritoneal tumour deposits.
Neck dissection for removal of a tumour in the left clavicle.
Gallbladder removed along with two stomach tumours, 2 liver tumours and 5 stomach glands.
Thank heaven for self administering morphine and pink fluffy bunny rabbits dancing round the end of your hospital bed! Although I felt, at times, like I had been hit by a small bus, the surgery in each intervention went well and after clocking up over 30 hours in theatre, I recovered well each time. Today as it stands, although my Carcinoid is not curable, it is very manageable and my quality of life is fairly unaffected. I am of course, one of the lucky ones. Back in February 2009, at the lowest point of my illness, sat in my hospital bed after a day long bout of major surgery, feeling like my life had truly fallen apart, I promised myself two things:
I would see my sons first day at school
As soon as I was physically able, I would do everything I could to raise money and promote awareness of Carcinoid / NETs.
Since then I have managed to raise money and awareness by taking part in the 12 Mile Moonlit walk, the Race for Life, the Great South Run and helped to organise Charity Gala Dinners and numerous events for ‘PLANETS’ a charity that I have set up with my surgeon and radiologist at Southampton General Hospital, and now manage, dedicated to defeating Pancreatic, Liver and Neuroendocrine Tumours (NET’s).
My 6th operation took place on 14th August 2013 for a tumour on my aorta (the largest artery in the human body) and although I had post operative complications the amazing PLANETS medical team got me swiftly back on track and I am back fighting fit again! Although I feel that have been on a roller-coaster of extreme highs and devastating lows in the last 5 years, my perspective of life has undoubtedly changed for the better. When I look at my scrap book of all the Get Well Cards, Emails and letters, I am still overwhelmed with the love and support that has been given by my wonderful family, friends and colleagues, which I have no doubt contributed to my recovery during some very hard times and helped to keep me fighting on. Furthermore, I am, and always will be, eternally grateful for the guidance and support of my surgeon, my radiologist and their world class team and all the amazing and unconditional nurses and medical staff that I am truly privileged to have met. I am hell bent on seeing a cure for this cancer in my lifetime, as I feel deeply for those people who are today walking into a consultant’s room only to be told the devastating news that they have this horrible disease. I want to see a day when this no longer happens. So for now, in whatever capacity possible, I am still fighting, still winning and still smiling.
Diseases we treat
How the money raised is spent
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