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Perinatal Anxiety & Depression Australia

October 18, 2018

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When the choice to have more babies, is taken away from you.

February 15, 2018

Courtney connected with me on social media last year,

after I shared a blog about a mum choosing between her

health and her baby, and told me her story.

I later met Court and was blown away by the fact that,

if you did not know her story, you would not know what was going on with her.

  She just gets on with life, and will not let her cancer define her.

She is an important reminder that everyone is fighting their

own battles, and we should never assume that everyone has it 'all together'.

Enjoy x 

Tell us about your family

My Husband Jason and I have been together for 5 and a 1/2 years, and married for 1 and a 1/2.  We have a gorgeous 2 year old girl, Kennedy. She is a gorgeous kid with a really lovely nature, but keeps me very busy. 

 

You were diagnosed with cancer when Kennedy was only young, can you tell us about that time?

I went into hospital the day my daughter turned 20months old. I can't remember the exact day I was diagnosed, but it was within the month following. It was so hard being in hospital and being away from my baby. They flew me to Melbourne so either hubby or our parents would have to drive her down to see me. It was really upsetting for me, because she saw me with tubes hooked up and I wasn’t able to pick her up. As she was only so young, I really don't think she took much notice of it and most likely won't remember it, which is good.

 

What happened when you first went to hospital? 

Initially I went to emergency as I had been feeling really unwell for 2 weeks. They diagnosed me with a gall bladder blockage. After spending a whole day and night waiting for surgery they moved me to another hospital and put a stent in my gall duct to drain the muck in my gall bladder.

While having this surgery my bowel was punctured and I had internal bleeding. I was put into ICU and sent for a scan to confirm the puncture.

This scan revealed 'spots' on my bones.

I spent 2 and a half days in ICU in Bendigo, before they flew me to Melbourne.

I lost half my blood and received 9 bags of blood over my ICU stays. I spent 3 days in ICU at St. Vincent’s Private, before being moved onto the ward.

They attempted to do a biopsy of my lungs that was unsuccessful, so I then had a bone biopsy done on my sacrum. It took about a week for the results to come back.

Once I received my diagnosis I then had 5 days of radiation treatment on 2 spots on my back to alleviate pain and to remove tumours that were getting too close to my spinal cord.

All up I came out of hospital 26 days after I went in. Being stuck in hospital in a city i didn't live in was really hard. Being away from my daughter was the worst feeling, as I was use to being with her all day, everyday. I had plenty of visitors as my husband or parents would come down most days, my brother who lives in Melbourne would visit or a friend would call in, but I was so happy to go home. 

 

What is your diagnosis? And what treatment do you need?

I have stage 4 ALK positive lung cancer, with multiple metastases, which means that it has spread to multiple sites. Mine are Liver, Bones and a Lymph Node near my Gall Bladder (hence the gall issue, which still requires ongoing surgeries).

I am currently taking part in a clinical trial and I am on a brand new drug that isn't yet available to the public. It is a targeted drug therapy, which means I take a pill (well 4) every day. It is not chemo.

What the drug does is switches off the cancer cells. It is called an ALK inhibitor.  Unfortunately it is not a cure, I hope they find one very soon. 

 

Were there any other treatment options?

The other treatment options were the 3 other ALK inhibitors that came before the one I am on. Chemo is a last resort.

 

There was a pretty huge implication with your treatment, can you tell us more about being told you wouldn’t be able to have any more kids?

While I was still in hospital and had just been diagnosed, they mentioned a treatment I could go on.  I was so happy that there was something they could hopefully do, however it is a treatment I need to continue to stay on. They don't know what sort of effects this treatment would have on an unborn baby, so they say you can't get pregnant while being treated.  

This meant I was told I would not be having any more children.

This devastated me as we were about to start trying for a second baby. I have saved all the little baby things from Kennedy in the hopes to use them again.

My husband was so good about us only being able to have one child. He said it's more important for our daughter to have her mum, than having 2 kids with no mum. 

 

When will your treatment finish? Is there a chance after this you could try for more kids or is it something that you won’t know until you get there?

The treatment will not finish, I am on this for the rest of my life. I don't see that I will be off this drug in the near future, but I challenge medical science to come up with a cure and prove me wrong. 

 

If it’s ok to ask, before all of this, how many kids did you imagine you would have?

I always only wanted 2 kids, hubby always wanted 3 which I was against. I had just started to come around to his thinking when I got sick.

 

What has the process been like coming to terms with this? Where have you got your support from?

I still don't think I have totally come to terms with it. I have always wanted 2 kids and would love for our daughter to have a sibling to play with. I just don't feel like I'm done with babies. We may have to look at some other ways of expanding our family. My friends and family have been amazing over this whole period, most people remind me that she will be fine as an only child, and I'm sure she will be if that is how things go.

 

My best support would have to be my husband Jason. He has been my rock through this whole thing. No matter what needs to be done, he just does it. He had to drop everything at work to look after Kennedy and me.

He takes me to appointments, he sits with me in hospital, he is the one who is my shoulder to cry on - and trust me it has been very well used of late.

My parents also have been the most amazing support, they're Jason's tag team. What he can't do, they step in and get done.  They drive me to appointments at Peter Mac very early in the morning, they sit with me in waiting rooms and they very, very often look after our daughter.

My brother, in-laws and a few close friends have also been a big source of help and love.

I don't really get a lot of time to just do anything for myself, as I have a toddler that thinks the world revolves around her. So I spend my days running around after her, but I wouldn't want to be doing anything else. 

 

People always ask women with one child, when they’re having their next one.  How do you think you will cope with this question?

It hasn't been very long since I was diagnosed so I guess I haven't really had anyone ask yet. My mother in law did say something one day, and I just told her that our daughter would be the only grandchild. I'm sure I will have more people saying it and will probably just tell them we aren't having anymore. If they pry, I will tell them why. 

 

Anything you’d like to share to help other mums in your position?

All I do is do what the doctors tell me to, you just have to keep going and live your life. My little one needs her Mum and I try to be the best one I can be for her. I am determined that I will be here for her, for a long time yet. 

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