Karen’s Cancer Journey
It Didn’t come as a surprise as I was already numb.
In fact I was on Autopilot, just rolling with the punches that life was throwing me.
My Vivacious self-sufficient mother, the strongest lady I knew was already laying in ICU fighting for her life with her family by her side. We were told if she survived she be a vegetable, how ever over a space of a few days she fought the odds and started breathing without the machines.
At the time I was already amid my regular wheel of doctors appointments chasing why I was still in daily agony and constantly felt unwell.
Since the age of 19 I’d had endometriosis and had had a hysterectomy at 32 years of age, I was already under the care of an Oncology gynecologist not for cancer but one that specialized in micro surgery, on one visit he told me the pain was all in my head and to maybe leave things be and I had to insist that he opened me up and removed the Endo that was preventing me from walking properly and crippling my lifestyle, so after a 5 hour surgery he had to admit that I had a very severe case of Endometriosis.
After this, over the next few years I was still in a fair amount of pain and was regularly at the Gyno’s having hormones adjusted, pain killers increased and managed and finding strategies’ to survive daily and still be a mother and run my business.
One night the pain was so unbearable I only had 2 hours sleep, which then lead me to being in a very serious car accident where I was lucky to have walked away.
This time I made the Drs., take me seriously, how much more could I take. I was self medicating to eased the pain I was going to a personal trainer 2 times a week as everything just hurt inside and out. At this time the retirement age was also being changed and an announcement came onto the news that we would be working well into our 70’s. I sat there that day and had a tear roll down my cheek thinking I can hardly work today, but like always I painted on my Mask of wellness and dragged my tail into my Beauty salon and made the ladies feel lovely.
After the Gyno was the Endocrinologist that suggested that going by my bloods every thing was ok to him, only slightly elevated levels and that despite my family history for graves disease and thyroid problems my diagnosis was more likely to be bi polar! I left feeling furios how can he say that so I was straight on the phone to a very close friend of mine whom is also a client and a Psycologist to ask what she thought. NO WAY get a new Dr was her opinion. So off I went again this time to a professor of endocrinology who sent me to a Rheumatologist, as she could definitely see some underlying soft tissue problems which was looking more like arthritis. Well now that make sense I thought finally I was getting close to an answer, so I had the usual waiting period as with all these appointment of 3 months, almost a year had passed since my car accident and I was still in agony It felt like I had a few broken ribs that the GP kept dismissing and at the time of my accident an X ray had given me the all clear of any breaks.
I finally had my appointment with the Rheumatologist and within minutes of reviewing my previous history and scans etc he diagnosed me with Psoriatic arthritis and placed me on the right meds to manage the disease. Psoriatic Arthritis is an Auto immune disease that slowly destroys the joints and doesn’t just sit in one spot it will visit what seems like a new joint almost every day making you believe you are a hypo condriact, But hey I was so glad that I had a name and a treatment plan now and could get on with life, But to make certain we will run another set of bloods for confirmation and send you for a FULL BONE SCAN. This appointment took a full 4 hours of laying absolutely still and as I did with most appointments I drove myself it was easier I have so many it becomes a drag and some one needs to pay the bills. So I drove myself from Parramatta to Richmond and caught up with a friend and My Dad for Coffee.
We were sitting there it was only two hours after my scan when the phone rang and it was my Referring Dr. I started to get confused as to why he was calling, he said that something very suspicious had come up on the scan and that he was 99 % sure that I had metastatic bone Cancer!!!!
In my head I heard blackness then I said isn’t that BAD??? The rest was white noise.
I WAS NUMB
Cancer doesn’t announce itself as coming soon to a theatre near you or next year when your Mum is on her feet we will pop by for a visit so you can deal with The “C” WORD. It doesn’t wait until your BAS is done or all of your staff have enjoyed there annual leave so they can travel to romantic distant locations either. “BANG” the news comes when The Dr’s Finally listen and collaborate their results and finish sending bull shit letters to each other to massage each others professional ego’s, or that’s what is seemed like to me.
My Name Is Karen Mclean
I am 39 years old
I a small business operator with several employees
I am a mother of one.
I am a Resident of the Hawkesbury
I was a Colo high student.
I was in the middle of completing my diploma of remedial massage.
My son goes to Bede Polding.
I have the best group of girlfriends any one could ask for.
I am like you as you can see I have normal stuff going on, I have ironically no history of cancer in my family.
I shower Like you and feel for LUMPS..NOPE NONE.
I ride motorbikes, I Ski, wake board, shoot, read, love snorkeling, go to the Gym, I am you.
Did I say no history of Cancer?
At 38 years of age I have just received a call from my ARTHRITIS DR in a shopping center saying I have BONE CANCER and that its incurable and my husband is 7 hours away for work.
Enter MORE Drs, Breast surgeons and Oncologist Now Doug is by my side and I’m not sure what he is thinking but like always he’s joking about to try and lighten the mood.
Dis belief sets in and by this stage I’m on Auto pilot visiting mum Twice daily to give her Breaky and Dinner in Hospital as she can hardly feed herself at 62 yrs. of age due to the brain bleed and I’m in and out of Dr’s appointments and still trying to operate the Salon in the busiest time of year, November 2014.
WOW……… I message my Friends as I cant bear to say it face to face or talk over the phone.
I receive messages back asking if this is a joke or phone calls of dis belief. Messages back to me reading it’s OK we can beat this… I wish we could but Bone Mets is a death sentence is all I can get through my head, so I instinctively employ the help of DR GOOGLE, who gives me 3 months.
I am a daughter to a mother with a Brain injury Fighting for her life still in ICU I’ve been told mum will need 2 years worth of rehab and can no longer live alone. Further appointments with the Oncologist confuse me as I soon learn that there are so many different kinds of Breast Cancer, suddenly I feel selfish and ignorant I never knew the complexity nor did my friends as the questions and their concerns and messages with advice keep rolling in.
Amongst those calls and messages came a call from an Angel although I didn’t know it at the time and I put it to the side I was very overwhelmed by the attention and calls that I was getting offering help. Amongst the help I received from family and friends were many beautiful meals and knocks in the door to help with housework and attend Drs. appointments.
Very soon the attention Dies Down and although you are still in the front of peoples mind their lives go on as usual, some even getting devastating news of their own.
Again I get another knock on the door from the Angels, this time a beautiful bunch of flowers from Pink Finss and shortly after that a request once again to attend the group meetings.
I am not alone any more, I have this wonderful network of ladies who have traveled the rocky road and paved the way giving me wonderful advice and support, they check in on me most days. Pink Finns have made it possible to still have a nearly normal Christmas amongst all the madness and treatment and not being able to work. Pink Finns has made it possible to afford the alternative medications to support my immune system and afford the never ending and always changing scripts that the Dr’s hand out like jelly beans.
Pink Finns has helped keep the house in order as living with a terminal illness and having a myriad of other health problems makes it impossible to stay on top of.
Life has taken a huge spin and nothing is normal and will ever be again, I spend my days living the DASH. As most Mets survivors do. If you haven’t head what that is it’s the time between when you are born to the day you pass. As scientists work away Bone Mets has no cure but the management is getting much better and hopefully my Dash gets to see My son get his license, be at his wedding and enjoy Grandkids.
I am grateful of one thing though I grateful that Jodie our Beautiful, Bubbly and selfless earth Angel is by my side as she is many others and has created this Charity and support group that can give MY DASH a taste of normality.
I always knew I was a lucky guy
I was blessed with a beautiful daughter and an amazing wife, we were a great team of three.
Nothing can prepare you for the news that a loved one has terminal cancer, with doctors suggesting my wife Vicki would be doing well to be around in 12 months.
I was absolutely determined to be her rock. I would be with her every inch of the way and to make the most of the time we had left together as a family.
But the task that I was taking on was much larger than I could ever have imagined.
- Hospital stays and visits,
- Regular doctors’ appointments for blood tests, chemo and radio therapy,
- Taking our daughter Laura to and from school,
- Cooking , cleaning and washing,
- Taking care of the horses and animals,
- Looking after the running of Vicki’s business,
- Paying the bills and the general running of the house,
- Keeping relatives and friends up to speed on Vicki’s condition,
- Still work my own full time job to keep my boss happy,
- And enjoy some happy times while we still could!
Our dear friend Sharon had told me in her no nonsense way that I needed help. And I am so happy that I let Pink Finss into our lives.
Jodie Amor is Amazing!
She listened to the things that we were overwhelmed with, had huge compassion for our situation, and was aware of what we were experiencing.
Lisa came weekly and did a great job of cleaning our house. It was so nice to come home to find the house perfectly clean and smelling fresh and Vicki so happy after having Lisa’s company during the day.
The Pink Finss team were always in touch asking how they could help.
Just several weeks before Vicki’s final outing Pink Finss gave the three of us a fantastic weekend staying at the Rocks, in the heart of Sydney. It included a high tea sitting, which Vicki had always very much wanted to do.
At the time we did not realise how important this weekend away would be. It is memories like this that we treasure so much.
Not all cancer stories end as ours has.
The great news is that treatments and survival rates of cancers is rapidly improving.
But a certainty is all of us affected by cancer will have our lives thrown into turmoil.
We are so lucky to have the incredible people from Pink Finss in our community…The Hawkesbury.
Laura and I will never forget the endless kindness that we were shown by Pink Finss, and we hope you will remember them too.
This is the speech Andrew Clayton gave at the Hawkesbury Ball which generously donated the money raised between the Starlight Foundation and the Pink Finss Charity.
Andrew and Laura still feel the whole left in their lives by Vicki’s passing, but they are a strong team of 2 and doing really well.