Mother of two Sam Smithson faced all those questions and more when she was diagnosed with stage 4, terminal cervical cancer in 2018. Initially, treatment saw her cancer disappear, only to see it return again in August last year, with Sam starting a new immunotherapy treatment trial in November 2019.
Faced with all the uncertainties a cancer diagnosis can bring, she reached out to 13 11 20 for information and support.
This is her story…
I visited my doctor after feeling run down, tired and weak, having accepted that what I was feeling was ‘unhealthy’—I knew something was not right, but I never in my wildest imaginations thought it would be cancer. After undergoing a routine Pap smear I was sent for testing on other areas of my reproductive system—including blood tests. It was during a specialist appointment that I was told everything was NOT fine. They had found a tumour.
The first day of June in 2018 was the day I will never forget. A day that changed my life forever and brought complete fear into my life. A day of darkness, disbelief and sadness.
My head spun as the doctors said, “You have cancer,” followed by, “It is terminal and you have about a year to live”. My first thought was “I’m not going to see my boys grow up—my boys are going to grow up without their Mummy”. It was that thought—the thought of my boys living a life without me in it—which changed my thinking.
It was during this time that I first turned to Cancer Council 13 11 20. I didn’t know how to tell my boys. Because of the nurses at the other end of the line, I was able to tell my kids that yes, I had cancer, but I was going to do everything I could to stay here and be with them.
I started radiotherapy immediately—10 rounds in total. This treatment was followed with chemotherapy. After six months of treatment my follow up scan had ‘significantly’ good results—the tumour had shrunk beyond expectations and the cancer that had spread could no longer be detected.
However that wasn’t the end of my story. On 19 May 2019, I received the news, with tears, that my cancer had decided to grow again. Like a weed. After, my oncologist asked if I wanted to hear about my future and I said, no thank you’. I don’t ever want to hear the words ‘you have a year to live’ ever again. Instead, I can’t wait to let my oncologist know on 1 June 2021 that I am still here and give her a big hug.
After meeting with my new oncologist, I have learnt that my new journey is to resume chemotherapy. My determination for my children is to live, but my determination is also to help them live if I don’t… this is the scariest time of my life, but the time I need to live to my fullest and that is what I am going to do for my beautiful boys.
Throughout my entire experience, the Cancer Council 13 11 20 Nurses have been my lifeline. Their support, together with family and friends will help me overcome yet another challenge, another obstacle, another hurdle in my path.
I know that I can always rely on these supports to answer my calls for help and be there for me when I need it most.
Right now, I am so grateful to know that I don’t have to go through this alone. I have my boys, my family, friends and, of course the incredible 13 11 20 nurses who continue to support people like me through cancer every day.