Anita Cole

21 Anita Cole Photo

On the 6th June 2014, I was diagnosed with stomach cancer after having an endoscopy where the doctor discovered an ulcer that had turned cancerous. I remember sitting there at my GP’s when he said “I am sorry to tell you, but you have cancer”.

OMG CANCER, CANCER, CANCER ringing through my ears. I didn’t talk, I didn’t cry, I just sat there in disbelief. No one on both sides of my family ever had cancer, and there I was being told I had this monster “CANCER”. I was referred that afternoon for a scan to see how bad it was.

I walked outside the surgery and just broke down. My partner was with me and just held me as I cried like a baby. My first thought was I have to tell my sons. The oldest had moved out of home, so I went straight to his house and gave him the terrifying news. He was very strong and just held me as I cried. Then I told my youngest son and we just cried together. What mother wants to tell their kids they have CANCER? I thought to myself I am only going to cry for one day, so today will be the day that I tell my family and close friends because after this day I do not want to cry anymore.

As we left the GP my partner asked if we wanted to see his sister Trish who works in the radiation area at The Canberra Hospital. I said “no” at first, but then thought she could maybe shed some light on my situation. Trish had set up appointments for me to see an oncologist who dealt with stomach cancer. Then I was referred to one of the best surgeons, and then later on, to one of the best radiation doctors. I am so glad that we did, as Trish was my Guardian Angel throughout this ordeal of numerous hospital visits to appointments, tests and scans. She was there with my partner at every appointment and I believe to this day she saved my life.

The following week I was told by my oncologist that I would commence chemotherapy for 3 months to try and reduce the tumour, and if my cancer has not spread, I would then have a total gastrectomy (whole stomach removal) in the coming months.

I received a lot of information from the hospital about Cancer Council ACT and other support groups to help families and patients with cancer. I attended a “Look Good, Feel Better” presentation, which was very helpful for dealing with your appearance and your general wellbeing.

On 14th October 2014 (my sons 22nd birthday), I was booked in to have the surgery. It was meant to take 4-5 hours, but instead took over 9 hours due to some complications along the way. I recovered well and went home after 8 days.

Then 8 weeks later I commenced chemotherapy again and radiation which made me quite sick. I had to stop the chemotherapy and soon after, the radiation. By that stage I had lost over 36kgs.

I am now in remission, and for the next 4 years I will visit my oncologist, surgeon and my radiation doctor for regular check-ups.

My life has totally changed now in so many different ways. I find it very hard to stay hydrated in the warmer weather, and every day is a challenge with eating and drinking. But I wake up each morning and I “Thank God” that I am alive and so very lucky that the cancer was caught in time. I try to stay positive, but I am aware that the cancer can always return. In the meantime I look at life at a very different way, and live each day at a time.

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