Amber’s Story

We had moved to Hong Kong in 2016. My husband Darren was opening the new Shangri-la Hotel. Everything was going well, and we had settled into life in HK with our 2 kids (aged 6 and 9) in tow. I started feeling unwell in early 2017, with stomach pain, loss of appetite and changes in my bathroom habits. I went and saw my GP and they put it down to a virus. A few weeks passed and I began to feel a bit worse and very lethargic. Off to the GP again and I almost collapsed in the waiting room. They called an ambulance, and I was rushed to emergency and admitted to hospital straight away. After a few tests they concluded I was anaemic. My GP then started to treat me for anaemia with further tests including an endoscopy and coloscopy. There were some polyps in my colon which were burnt off but everything else seems ok.

A few months passed and I still didn’t feel great, and my abdominal area was quite bloated. I knew something was not right, but my GP kept telling me everything was ok; in hindsight this should have been my point to seek a second opinion. I went on a family trip back to Australia and I could barely eat and felt so ill, my dad, and brothers knew I wasn’t myself and something was not right. I returned and had no energy at all.

I woke up on the morning of 30th June 2017 and had a severe pain in my abdomen, I was doubled over in pain. I managed to get myself to the GP, by the time I got there I was in agony, and screaming something is not right, help me!! They called a surgeon, and I was sent for CT scans immediately in the next building.  There was a massive blockage in my small bowel. I was in disbelief, why was this wasn’t picked up earlier. I was sent straight to hospital in an ambulance and was having surgery 2 hours later.

The next day the doctor came to see my husband and me. He said they had removed a 12cm tumour from my small bowel and the surgery had gone well, however the tumour had come back with as positive to be cancerous. Our hearts sank!

The doctor said they believed that they had removed it all, but I would still have to undergo 6 months of chemotherapy. I was too unwell to return to Australia so had to complete the chemo in HK away from the support of my family and friends.

Chemo is shit!! There is a saying amongst some cancer patients “if the cancer doesn’t kill you, chemo will give it a good go!” These 6 months were probably the worst of my life, I did not react well to the chemo and ended up in hospital at less twice a month on IVs as I couldn’t eat or drink anything. I got to my last round of chemo, and I was not well at all and down to 40kgs. My body couldn’t take any more, so my oncologist decided to cease my treatment immediately, hoping it had done its job. Then it was time to recover and put the weight back on. Which surprisingly happened quickly now I could consume anything, and my oncologist had given me free reign to eat as many calories as I could. If a doctor tells a 30+ year old woman she can eat a tub of chocolate ice cream a day, that is exactly what she is going to do!

Finally, I was myself again, feeling great and just getting regular scans and blood tests. Then 12th March 2018 I got the amazing words that every cancer patient loves to hear “YOU ARE CANCER FREE.”

After going through all this and my husband’s contract been up in HK we decided to move back to OZ and be around our loved ones again and end our expat journey. Life was good… for a while….

Then in Feb 2022 I was in the shower doing my monthly boob check and felt a lump, my heart sank again. My mother and grandmother had both passed away from breast cancer. I had genetic testing done years ago and found out I was negative to have BRACA. I went straight to the GP and luckily with my history got an appointment that week. Biopsy was done and the lump was put down as laymen’s term “pre-cancerous”. The doctors and I decided it was best to remove it. So, I went in for another surgery and all was removed.

In mid-2022 I completed my remission period for my small cancer.

I am under constant surveillance with a great team of doctors and part of a research program for young women with bowel cancer run by the Queen Elizabeth Hospital.

Hopefully that is the end of my cancer story, and now just be able to help and encourage others to be careful, do their checks and tests and not have their own story to tell.