It was over 20 years ago after my first diagnosis, when the doctors discovered active cancer cells throughout my body, including my lymph nodes and lungs. I had an operation to try to remove cancer from my lungs, but it was too advanced and they couldn’t get it all.
The doctors told me that the cancer was terminal and I had six months left to live. But that was more than 10 years ago, and I’m still here. I feel like I have had cancer for a lifetime: 29 years.
I only found out about palliative care a few years ago. For me, this made such a positive difference – I now have equipment such as a walking frame, wheelchair, shower seat and toilet seat.
My palliative care nurses visit me at home twice a week and also call a lot to check on me.
I have been in hospital many times, but I have been able to stay at home as much as my health has allowed. Being near my family is the most important thing to me.
The love I have for my children, and the desire to see them grow up, marry and have kids of their own, has kept me going. I credit them as the reason I’ve lived with advanced cancer for so long.
My advice for someone with advanced cancer is to be strong. Don’t be afraid – what will be, will be. Have friends and family around to help provide the support you need. Get all the help you can from government and palliative care services.
You need the will, guts and knowledge to make the most of your time. To me, advanced cancer is just a sickness. I don’t feel that I’m going to die today. I just take each day as it is, and try to maintain a strong will to live.
My husband, Louis, and I were very anxious when he was diagnosed with cancer.
I took on the tasks at home that Louis was unable to do – such as lawn mowing and feeding the animals. I also arranged appointments and checked details with the treating team.
I was grateful I could contact the cancer care coordinator at the radiotherapy centre when I had questions or when I was finding it difficult to cope.
I joined a tai chi class organised through the Carers Association and also attended their support workshops and relaxation sessions. I found the encouragement from other carers gave me the confidence boost I needed.
The support of the hospital social worker was invaluable and reduced many of the day-to-day tasks and concerns I had, and allowed Louis and I to spend more quality time together.