A devastated mum will have to endure regular chemotherapy sessions for the rest of her life after doctors said her early cancer symptoms were related to her pregnancy.
Victorian mum-of-two, Jolene Anderson, has fought through 40 rounds of chemotherapy in just 18 months – after being diagnosed with colorectal cancer after her second daughter, Layla, was born.
It took doctors a year to diagnose the mum, who first complained of crippling symptoms, including major bleeding when she was 16-weeks pregnant.
Jolene Anderson, pictured right, has one dream – to live long enough to see her kids grow up, by her husband Shane’s side
But instead the mum is looking at a base-line prognosis of five years which includes fortnightly chemotherapy sessions
Jolene Anderson fought cancer after the birth of her first daughter and assumed it was the same disease back again when she was diagnosed 18 months ago
‘I was terrified, at first I thought I was miscarrying but the doctors said it was probably hemorrhoids and not to worry about it,’ she told FEMAIL.
But the symptoms persisted first as crippling cramps which doctors put down to ‘too much magnesium’.
Then Jolene started to find blood in her stools, this became a regular thing but was dismissed again as a side effect of the pregnancy.
The mum, who had previously fought and beat breast cancer after the birth of her eldest daughter Chloe, now five, decided to trust her doctors.
‘I assumed they had taken her previous run-in with cancer into consideration,’ she said.
But after the birth of her baby girl the symptoms continued so Jolene went back for answers.
Jolene was diagnosed with her second cancer a year after she started going to doctors to complain about symptoms of the disease
‘I was in pain, bleeding and the said I probably had IBS. My doctor told me to take fiber supplements for two months and sent me home,’ she said.
When they didn’t work to alleviate symptoms Jolene went to another doctor who agreed to do a colonoscopy but told her she would have to wait six weeks as it wasn’t urgent.
Then Jolene found a lump under her sternum – she went to yet another doctor who ordered an ultrasound immediately.
The technician told her to head to emergency for a CT scan explaining the the lump was a legion in her liver.
‘This made my blood run cold, I thought of my last cancer and assumed it had somehow gone all the way through me,’ she said.
She said it is hard not to feel bitter about the late-stage diagnosis
But it wasn’t related to her last diagnosis. Instead it was a completely new primary cancer originating in her colon.
‘The thing I struggle with the most is knowing there’s a simple blood test out there that could have been done when I had that big bleed or in the months I was suffering with crippling pain. It would have shown cancer markers.’
‘It is hard not to feel bitter, I shouldn’t be Stage 4 but I am cos I just got palmed off.’
Jolene is now raising money for liver transplant surgery in the US, the operation its self will set her back $625,000 – a small price to pay for a lifetime with her kids, she explained.
She will also have to pay to stay near the hospital for a month while recovering as well as airfares for herself and her family.
‘This surgery has been done for decades overseas but is still considered experimental in Australia,’ she said.
‘It is my only chance.’
Being cancer free will also mean being chemo-free.
Now the mum is hoping to head to the US for a liver transplant which could cure her
‘A lifetime with chemo is a hard thing to consider because it just wears you out. I come home treatment night and just vomit,’ she said.
‘The girls want to play but I just want to lie on the couch because I am so sick.’
Endless rounds of chemo also mean Jolene can only work three days per week, and that her kids are with the babysitter every time she is at the hospital.
Jolene’s husband Shane is ‘very supportive’ and ‘very hands on’ when he is at home – but has a job which takes him away from his family a lot.
Jolene is afraid to leave her young daughters and husband and says she is willing to try anything to stay with them
She is looking forward to living without chemotherapy – because the fortnightly therapy wears her out and leaves her vomiting for hours
Jolene was having symptoms for a year before she was diagnosed. She want others, especially pregnant women, to push harder if they think there’s something wrong.
‘Free checks start at 50 and it just makes me wonder how many young family lives could be saved if they did it earlier.’
Since her diagnosis Jolene has met other mums in the same boat – and says its heartbreaking to see this silent killer ‘take down’ so many mum in their 30s.
You can help support Jolene using Go Fund Me or through Rare Cancers Australia.
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