Amanda's story: my baby saved my life!
On what supposed to be the happiest day of her life, mum of 3 Amanda was delivering baby Frankie when her doctor said she needed a biopsy. 4 weeks later, Amanda was diagnosed with stage 2b cervical cancer with an 8cm tumour, 6 weeks of chemo and radiotherapy and 3 brachytherapy. Today, the 31 years old celebrates one year cancer-free and shares 8 best-kept secrets on how to listen to your body and live well with cancer.
As she recovered from her emergency c-section - before she even got the chance to hold her newborn baby - Amanda heard the horrible news that they found a growth on her cervix and she needed a biopsy in 2 weeks.
Devastated is an understatement! I remember my husband Marcus crying (he never cries). I knew it was serious. He asked, "is it cancer?" They replied, "we don’t know, come back for a biopsy." I knew something was wrong. I knew it all through my pregnancy!
Amanda started bleeding at 6 weeks. She immediately thought she was miscarrying. Despite 20 ultrasounds and doctor visits, the doctors reassured her that baby is fine and she'll most likely bleed throughout her pregnancy. Besides baby Frankie, Amanda had 2 small children at home aged 4 and 2.
In my gut, I knew it was cancer. We went for results 4 weeks after. Marcus was holding Frankie when the doctor said, “I’m sorry it came back as cancer and it’s aggressive.” I lost it! All I could think was I’m going to die. I’m not going to see my kids grow up. It was the worst time of our lives.
Despite all the side effects of treatment, one of the hardest things for Amanda was being away from her children after pet scans for 24 hours. But her kids were also what got her through it all.
Brachytherapy was horrible. After the first one I cried so much I really didn’t think I had the strength to go through that again! But I did. My children got me through it! I would look at the pics on my phone while in hospital.
After surgery and treatment, Amanda and her husband thought it was over and they could all go back home to get back to normality; but life after cancer can take some adjustment at home. Amanda admits it wasn't all smooth sailing as she ended up in hospital a month after she got home with an inflamed bowel from radiation therapy.
Still on strong pain relief, I had my difficulties at home going back to being a full-time mum but it was good. I had no time to dwell on it. It was the best thing for me!
In October 2018, Amanda got the awesome news that her pet scan was all clear! Today, the women's heath advocate shares her story in the hope that anyone who has put off getting checked, do so because early detection is key.
How to listen to your body
People often say listen to your body but what does that mean? For most of us it's something we just have to learn. Amanda shares her insights on where to start.
I had to deal with my new normal and also going through early menopause but at least I’m here to tell the story.
1. It's ok to ask for help
After her diagnosis, Amanda and her kids moved in with her family closer to the city. While her husband stayed home for work, her parents looked after the kids and her sister drove her to treatment everyday.
I kept thinking it’s ok I’ll come home and go straight back into mum mode but I just couldn’t it took its toll on me. I lost 15kgs in 2 months, was in a lot of pain and had absolutely no energy! I felt so bad for my family but like they said that’s what we’re here for!
2. You know your body better than you think
Listen to your gut instincts. Anyone, especially mums, often put everyone before themselves and we come last. "She’ll be right", or "I’ll get it checked next week" that turns into months or not at all. I know we all live busy lives but sometimes we need to put ourselves first.
3. Ask questions to your doctor
Don’t be scared to ask your doctor questions or get a second opinion. Your health is more important than offending anyone. Also don’t ignore the small changes in your body. If it doesn’t feel right just get it checked out.
If you've just been diagnosed, don’t think too far in the future. Have faith in the doctor treating you as they see this everyday and definitely do not google!
5. Know the bad days won't last
To those who have gone through treatment enjoy the good days and know the bad ones won’t last forever. Everyone handles it differently, run your own race!
6. Support groups or no support groups?
Support groups are great but I was getting anxious when reading similar stories to mine when the cancer came back. That would really affect me mentally so I decided to get off Facebook but that’s my own experience. The choice is yours.
7. Give yourself time to adjust to your new normal
1.5 years after finishing treatment, I’m still dealing with side effects and adjusting to my new normal body that also had 3 kiddies! With early menopause playing a new role in my life I can handle the hot flushes, mood swings but it’s the mental side of it I’m still coming to grips with.
Everyone thinks "she got the all clear, she’s all good" but that’s not the case. I’ve always had body image issues but it’s heightened to a whole new level. I don’t feel sexy anymore. I feel like a 30 years old in a 50 years old body, I’ve lost my groove!
8. Find what makes you happy
Music is a great healer for me and the kids and I love to dance around! I’m slowly starting to put things into place to make myself feel better, eating healthier, exercising (I’m even trying yoga). I will get to self love but I’m not there just yet. You don’t have to have it altogether just enjoy the moments that make you feel happy! I’m alive and I can watch my babies grow up.
Thank you Amanda for sharing your experience and insights.
Amanda and Mel