Billie’s story

It was 2012 I was living in London and I was excited to see my mum in a few weeks time for our first European adventure with my older sister. I assumed mum was busy because she wasn’t getting back to me, even when I suggested we Skype so I can help her pack for the summer.  

My partner at the time had gone home for a couple of weeks to attend his grandmas funeral, he planned to come back so we could keep travelling and work in London. The morning he came back he woke me up and the first thing he said was, “your mum has cancer”.  

She had told me her FOBT test had come back positive but she wasn’t worried as she assumed it was hemorrhoids, or anything other than cancer. However, it was stage IV bowel cancer that had already spread to her liver and she was due for surgery the following week, the first of many. She was 54 when she was first diagnosed and because of the placement of the tumor, she wasn’t experiencing any blood in her stool or changes to her regular toilet habits. She also delayed her home screening test by 4 years.  

My mums’ journey started with removal of a part of her large intestine and then two rounds of chemo. I had images of her vomiting and bed ridden but apart from her sleeping longer hours during her chemo weeks, she was pretty much herself, if anything, more positive. Not long after another 2 surgeries to get rid of up to 60% of her left liver, the hardest surgery yet. This was the most painful one to be put through and to watch. Her next diagnosis showed signs that the cancer had spread to her lung, hopefully to be shrunken by radiotherapy however surgery was the best-case scenario.  

It was a rough couple of years but she made it the easiest experience possible. Often her friends had congratulated her by how well she looked saying she was the healthiest “sick” person they’d seen. Finally, we were able to take the family vacation we had been waiting for. At this stage, she had only just quit work and was starting to enjoy life’s pleasures, to the point where she decided to move to Serbia to be with her mum. A few months in to her stay I got a call that I didn’t see coming. Mum had a seizure and collapsed on the kitchen floor. We found out the cancer had reached to her brain.   

On November 17th, 2017 my mum passed away. Overall, I really admire how positive and strong she was throughout the last 4 years. Now with a family history, my sister and I have been tested. The rule of thumb is to be tested 10 years prior to your parents first diagnosis. Personally, if you have a family history of cancer, get tested immediately as my older sister found several polyps at the age of 31.  

During her time, mum became such an advocate for testing and the importance of not delaying a test. What I’ve learnt going through this experience with my family is that life IS too short. Look after yourself, be aware and don’t delay – it may just save your life. 

Today mum would have turned 62, happy birthday mum. I love you and miss you every day.