A NEW mum told how she battled cancer alongside BOTH her parents – after they were all diagnosed within months of one another.
Emily Locking, now 36, from Buckinghamshire, was diagnosed with stage four bowel cancer which had spread to her liver in December 2015 – when her daughter Evelyn was just 10 weeks old.
In February 2016 her dad John, then 60, was diagnosed with the same type of cancer – but thankfully it was caught a lot earlier than his daughter.
He had surgery and a temporary stoma bag and is now in remission.
Her mum Linda was diagnosed in April 2016 with stage four stomach cancer and sadly died in January 2017.
Emily told Fabulous Digital: “Mum and I had very similar treatment regimes. We were both going through palliative chemo at the same time.
"We could support each other. In a way it was funny as we knew what the other was dealing with.”
Emily was given the shock diagnosis when a stomach ache she developed after giving birth to Evelyn didn’t disappear.
At her six week post-birth check-up she had a blood test which led to doctors realising she had bowel cancer, something very unusual in someone so young.
“My husband Matthew, 30, and I knew something was up but didn’t imagine the worst case scenario,” she said.
“Doctors told us left untreated I could be dead within eight weeks. With treatment I could have up to five years.”
Emily referred herself to Guy’s Hospital in central London where virtually straight away she started chemotherapy.
“I would have 11-hour chemo infusions but still wanted to care for Evelyn,” she said.
“I would come home with a ‘chemo pump’ which would feed chemo into me overnight.
“It was really tough and rotten but I fought on as I didn’t want to be ‘the mum with cancer’. I didn’t actually tell people unless I got to know them really well.”
After 11 months she went onto have radiotherapy which was also successful, allowing her to have surgery.
In March 2017 she had a section of bowel removed and in June that year 75 percent of her liver was cut out.
“By this point I was left with just one tumour and this was in the left lobe of my liver, sitting right on an artery,” she explained.
I really want to live. I don’t want this cancer in me
“I went back onto chemo for six months to try to shrink this down, but I was told it was inoperable.”
In December 2017 Emily unexpectedly received the news they would operate on the remaining tumour.
In January 2018 it was cut out but she developed a bile leak which became infected, leaving her very ill.
Emily was an in-patient at Kings College Hospital in London for four months.
“I missed so much of Evelyn learning to talk and growing from a baby into a toddler, not to mention I couldn’t lift her, carry her or cuddle her properly,” she said.
But it was worth it because the tumour had gone.
But recently, following scans, she has learnt a cancerous nodule has returned in her lung, which this week she had removed.
But the real worry is the cancer will return in her liver – which is why she wants a transplant.
WHAT IS BOWEL CANCER AND WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS?
Bowel cancer, also known as colon cancer or colorectal cancer, is the fourth most common form of the disease in the UK, after breast, prostate and lung cancers.
It's the UK's 2nd deadliest cancer – after lung – claiming 16,000 lives a year, but it CAN be cured – if it's caught early enough.
Fewer than one in ten people survive bowel cancer if it's picked up at stage 4, but detected quickly, more than nine in ten patients will live five years or longer.
The five red-flag symptoms of bowel cancer include:
- bleeding from the back passage, or blood in your poo
- a change in your normal toilet habits – going more frequently for example
- pain or a lump in your tummy
- extreme tiredness
- losing weight
Tumours in the bowel typically bleed, which can cause a shortage of red blood cells, known as anaemia. It can cause tiredness and sometimes breathlessness.
In some cases bowel cancer can block the bowel, this is known as a bowel obstruction.
You're at greater risk of bowel cancer if you have one or more of the following risk factors:
- you're aged over 50
- you have a strong family history of the disease – eg. a parent, sibling or child diagnosed with bowel cancer before the age of 50, or two or more relatives diagnosed at any age or one or more relative with a known genetic condition linked to bowel cancer
- a history of non-cancerous growths, known as polyps, in your bowel
- long-term inflammatory bowel disease, such as Crohn's disease or ulcerative colitis
- type 2 diabetes
- an unhealthy lifestyle – you smoke, are overweight or obese and do not get enough exercise
Bowel cancer is treatable and can be cured, particularly if it is diagnosed early enough.
For more information visit Bowel Cancer UK.
However, while her consultant supports her decision to have one, they aren’t available on the NHS and cost in the region of £150,000.
“I have been told that if the cancer returns to my liver – and it is likely to – treating it becomes more of a problem because of everything my liver has already gone through,” Emily said.
“It probably wouldn’t be strong enough to cope with another operation and has already been flooded with chemotherapy and radiotherapy.
“So my only option and chance of surviving if this happens would be to have a liver transplant. This isn’t however an option in the UK, so I would need to travel and self-fund the operation in Norway, something my oncologist and surgeon have said they’ll support me doing.
“I want to see Evelyn grow up and start school,” she said. “I really want to live. I don’t want this cancer in me.”
Emily has launched a GoFundMe page which people can donate to.
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