A word from Joey

Hi all,         

I am a mother of two gorgeous angels (a mother is biased of course), a wife, a sister, a daughter, an aunt, a university student, a pre-service teacher, a friend and now a cancer patient. For those that know me, I played softball for many years, too many to record I think. During those years, I made many special friendships that I treasure immensely.  I thank you all for the love and support you gave me in the past and thank you again now for your prayers over the last 18 months. For those who don’t know me, welcome to this site and thank you for your support towards this important cause. A special thank you to my two beautiful friends, Marty and Grossy who are the founders of Play for a Cure Foundation, with the help of Brooke, you are all angels.

My Story

Most of us live our lives with uncertainties, a mixture of events, accomplishments and failures. A progressive journey of living, loving, laughing, sometimes not even thinking what would be or might be. When you come face to face with a life threatening disease all questions, needs, wants, and emotions become entwined in a web that embeds your daily thoughts, feelings and way of living – every minute of every day.

This is the story of my journey so far, after learning I had bowel cancer and inoperable secondary cancer of my liver.  Living with cancer for the past 18 months has been the hardest challenge I’ve had to face. However, I am a fighter, a strong competitor who thrives on competition and will give it my all to defeat this opponent. I am moving forward with the tremendous help of my wonderful family and friends who walk beside me, with me, and around me to a destination unknown.

Although I have wonderful people to surround me ….. living with this disease is a lonely trail. It is difficult when you have been a team player all your life and fiercely independent to accept help from others and allow them to do things for you.

It is not the fear of losing your life, or the uncertainty or even struggling with the lack of physical strength and stamina to fight that is difficult….for me….the worst is knowing there is a possibility I may not be around for my children as they grow. The thought of my children not having a Mum to talk to during difficult times or share the happy times is distressing. People say, “You can’t think like that”, but it’s reality!

I’m not being pessimistic….in fact far from it. I remain optimistic but retain a sense of reality… it keeps me grounded. My optimism arises from knowing that I’m young (youngish anyway) to have contracted this disease (though not the youngest), was physically fit, ate healthy all of my life and therefore have all the right mechanisms to win this fight… right?  Right!

The Beginning

Bowel cancer is not the easiest of Cancers to talk about for obvious reasons and many people shy away rather than discuss its implications. However, I’ve decided to be as honest and up front as possible.

I’d been training hard to get my body into shape for my wedding November 29, 2008. After the wedding, I kept training to enter the 2 km beach run at the Australian Surf Life Saving Championships, when I couldn’t find a surf boat crew to compete with. I also planned to enter the Gold Coast Marathon in July 2009. I became excited about competing again – needing and wanting that fire in my belly once more after letting competition go. It was time to put aside the excuses of lack of time due to kids and uni.

Around January, I looked at my stools one day because my motions were a little irregular something I put down to diet and tough exercise regime. I saw what I know now was blood but at the time it looked like food fragments, so I wasn’t concerned.

 On April 19th 2009 I went for a particularly long run, almost 2hrs. I came home cleaned up the dishes from breakfast and walked into the laundry to strip off the soaking, sweaty clothes that clung to me. I noticed quite a lot of blood in my underwear. Initially, I thought it was my period as it was the same colouring and a decent amount. A second look (mainly because my period was not due for another 2 weeks) revealed the origin of the blood dispersion. I knew something was not right, but I had no idea of the repercussions.

I went to the Medical Centre at Uni the following day. Have to say I was quite embarrassed, talking about my backside and faeces to a young, handsome doctor. Thank goodness he was only a student and brought in a much older doctor to discuss it further. They referred me to my usual GP for the following day, opting not to do an internal of my rectum…..I’m afraid I was much too embarrassed with doctors I didn’t know.

My GP arranged for a colonoscopy – Phew!! No Internal at this time ….. how relieved was I. I could think of nothing worse than someone looking up my rectum.  A Colonoscopy takes the embarrassment away. Under anaesthetic, you don’t know or feel a thing – the best option I believe! He assured me, knowing my background, lifestyle etc for many years, that I was too young for cancer and there were many reasons why I could be bleeding from the bowel…….an internal haemorrhoid, or slight tear in bowel wall, were a couple of suggestions. Even when you Google it – there are literally hundreds of reasons one can bleed from the bowel.

With this assurance and knowing that I had to wait a month anyway for an appointment, I decided to delay further so I could complete my teaching practicum throughout May, 2009. Besides I was busy supporting my father who had been diagnosed with Lung cancer and was undergoing chemotherapy before having his right lung removed.

Toward the third week and into the fourth, I developed painful cramping around my lower abdomen. It was like a band of pain or tightness wrapped around my hips and into my lower back and lower abdomen. The pain in my hips I blamed on all the running I had been doing…..after all I was not a spring chicken doing about 50km of running a week.  It was then I decided to book in for the colonoscopy.

Strangely enough I was not concerned, I was fit (fittest I’d been for about 2yrs), I ate well, had not been in severe pain or pain for a considerable length of time. I was thinking this was going to be a waste of time and money………..how wrong was I?

June 19, 2009 – I spent the night drinking litres of fluid until I had diarrhoea to clean out my bowels completely in preparation of the camera tube being inserted into my rectum to search throughout my colon/ large bowel.

June 20, 2009 – The scariest day of my life and a day that changed my life forever! I entered the doctor’s surgery confidently, chatting casually to nurses and doctors. Suddenly I found myself waking in recovery to one of the doctors asking had I been in pain for some time. Confusingly I responded “Well, not really!”

“Mm….well you have a rather large growth in your bowel”. I don’t remember too much after that. I remember receiving plenty of attention from the nurse, which seemed a little odd at the time. My head was spinning with questions while trying to recover from the anaesthetic. Then quietly I asked the nurse “Is there a difference between a large growth and a tumour?”

The week that followed was a whirlwind. Back to the GP on Monday to confirm the Tumour was there and confirmation it was a Cancer growth. He quickly referred me to a colorectal surgeon and an appointment the following day. This was all so surreal and moving extremely fast.

I can’t have cancer; my grandparents lived to their 80’s and 90’s. I’m too young and fit to have this disease…….this sort of thing doesn’t happen to me, it happens to other people……… like a friend of a friend……….REALITY CHECK.

So Doc x told me all about it. Where it was, the need for surgery and what function I would likely have afterwards (I was lucky and didn’t have to endure a colonoscopy bag/stoma). Interestingly he informed me I could have had this disease for about 2 years ……without a single symptom.   My advice to you all, any bowel changes at all (diarrhoea to constipation) turning 35-40, get a colonoscopy …. it doesn’t hurt, but it does check your whole bowel.  People who are contracting this horrible life threatening disease are getting younger and younger.

It is one of the most successfully treated cancers WHEN DETECTED EARLY. The problem is, if you are fit, healthy and happy like I was….there are no symptoms to detect.  Unfortunately by the time I did, it had already passed through my bowel wall, entered my lymph nodes and made its way to my liver. The metastases tumours settled in 12 little places throughout liver and unfortunately were not satisfied to clump in one area. Due to the positions of the tumours and the instability of the cancer itself, I am unable to have them removed or have a liver transplant……doesn’t that suck!!!

I endured two different lines (meaning two different types) of Chemotherapy over 14 months every fortnight. During this time, there were many highs and lows. The side effects were minimal to begin with, so much so, that I was still able to play indoor netball. Scan results displayed positive results with the tumours shrinking. Then the side effects got worse and I became quite debilitated. I was in and out of hospital with heart palpitations, shortness of breath and extreme fatigue. Doctors ceased that treatment regime when the tumours began growing again. They encouraged me to trial another chemo formula and drug.

The side effects began immediately and were horrendous compared to the previous regime. I required 24-hour care for a while and was in and out of hospital with massive headaches and severe facial pain. This put tremendous pressure on my husband, my children, my parents and parent-in-laws not to mention the worry for them, my family and friends. The doctors decreased the medication twice before it became bearable, however, I still required support and care and was unable to drive or look after my children for several months. It was important for me though that the children understood it was the chemo making me sick, not the cancer.

We finally received some good news. The tumours had shrunk 23.5%  – a great reduction. The trial had been a nightmare but receiving these results made it all worthwhile, until the next lot of scan results in October 2010. The tumours had grown significantly which made me ineligible for the drugs anymore.

What next?

The doctors did not have any other chemo drugs to treat me, but told me I was eligible for another drug providing it was compatible with my tumour – one that will not diminish the tumours but hopefully keep it contained. My tumour is compatible and they have now applied to the drug company for approval.  This drug is not on PBS so it is likely to be costly if the company doesn’t subsidise.  

What do I do in the mean time?

I’ve gone back to my roots…..literally! I now drink freshly made juices, eat herbs renowned for decreasing tumours, cleansing the blood and eliminating toxic wastes. I also drink organic herbal teas, visit the chiropractor regularly, practice yoga and guided meditation, say lots of prayers and affirmations, have fun with my family, rest, eat loads of asparagus and do anything else I hear that is natural and kills cancer.

I am still open to the medical options but now that I am feeling so well I hope it will not be necessary as my tumours will have shrunk….fingers, toes and anything crossed.

Some little things to share from my babes:

It breaks my heart but at the same time gives me great joy and warmth when my little ones bring home a picture they’ve drawn at school like Cody did. A drawing of me standing in the sunset looking at the mountains, smiling, grass all around and he says ”that’s not you now, that’s you all better, with no tumours!”

Abby came home particularly emotional one day, I think I’d been away for over a week and quite innocently says “This Mums had enough of chemo, no more chemo for this Mum, another mum can have it”. Which leads me to another thought…I have never felt angry enough to say “why me, why not someone else?” I could never wish this on anyone…friend, family or enemy.

Now, I am thankful for every day and aim to live each day with love, joy and happiness. I am thankful for my partner who has supported me immensely, for my beautiful children, for my family who have turned their lives upside down to help and to my wide circle of amazing friends. The love, prayers and constant support has been overwhelming. I truly feel blessed to have so many wonderful people around me through this difficult time.

 Some words I live by:

Look towards Faith…….find spirituality which is about developing a sense of hope and faith to give us strength and power.

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Think big thoughts but relish small pleasures.  ~H. Jackson Brown, Jr., Life’s Little Instruction Book

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Life’s vision is one through a kaleidoscope,

Every image of light results in a new direction.

It is easy to follow the brightest light without acknowledging the path,

Whereas it’s the journey and ones milestones that create a person’s true self.

~Brett McCullagh (07/12/10)

God Bless you all and may you and your family live with caring hearts, good health, happy times and treasured moments.

Love and Blessings

Jo

 

5/5/11

It is with the heaviest heart that I update Joey’s words, with the news of her passing.  Joey peacefully passed on last night, finally losing her battle with cancer.  But we implore you not to give up hope – Joey never did and she kept that beautiful smile on her face right up until the end. Keep believing – we can find a cure.

One Response to “A word from Joey”

  1. Tracie Kemp says:

    This is a beautiful story Jo, and your strength is an inspiration.
    take care xxx
    TEK

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