My cancer journey began in 1990 when I noticed a lump in my throat that was visible sometimes and not at other times. My mother paid for me and my children to have a family portrait taken and it was this photo that picked up the lump visibly.
I'd felt unwell for a long time and had tried to make my doctor listen to me, but instead, my symptoms were mistreated with unnecessary medications and I was fobbed off as being 'a little on the psychotic side' and left to cope.
During one of the swells of hormone that caused massive migraine headaches that took me to my bed, I found the courage to demand that I be sent to a specialist. By doing this, I saved my own life.
During this period, I had been dealing with my then husband's testicular cancer diagnosis and our marriage was flailing. Two weeks after moving back to my hometown with my children, I was in hospital having major thyroid surgery. The diagnosis wasn't good... papillary carcinoma of the thyroid. I had been told that I had six months to live and I should 'get my house in order' to prepare for the worst.
At 26 and with 5 young children, I wasn't ready to die. So the fight began. After 2 major surgeries just days apart and having to be revived several times on the operating table during the second operation, I chose to be a survivor, not a victim.
During this time, my estranged husband took it upon himself to take me to court for custody of our children, and, due to my health issues, 2 of my children were removed from my care... this tore me apart emotionally and the next 2 years of treatment and many hospital visits took their toll both physically and emotionally.
After massive doses of radiotherapy and isolation during treatment, and due to losing my parathyroid glands during the surgery, I was running a gambit of paralysis due to lack of calcium and much continuing pain and discomfort... all the while raising 3 of my 5 children alone.
This was a very lonely time in my battle to beat my cancer. Getting secondary cancer lesions in my uterus just 7 years later was devastating... I was about to lose what I saw as my femininity and the very thing that defined me as a woman. I'd had many tests and was constantly bloated. I'd put on my jeans first thing in the morning and by lunchtime, they didn't fit any more and out would come the maternity clothing.
It was a huge embarrassment when people kept asking me when I was 'due' and then having to explain why I looked pregnant. I refused to allow my specialist to remove my ovaries if they looked healthy... I wasn't ready at 33 to be forced into early menopause although Id already had symptoms of menopause during the secondary phase.
Emotionally, I went through hell after the hysterectomy... so I decided to rally around my friends and have an 'Angie's Been to the Vet' party and we farewelled my uterus in style with lots of giggles and red wine. It was the best thing I could have done to start my emotional healing process yet again.
Being told at 26 you are going to die and then surviving a second bout of cancer at 33, taught me how to appreciate every second life gives you. I'm now 47 years old, have all my children back in my life, I have been blessed with 8 grandchildren and I work for myself... still experiencing ongoing health issues all this time later has made it impossible for me to hold down a regular job.
Being told I would regain 70% quality of life after surgery and treatment I didn't really understand at the time. My cancers took away a lot from my life physically and emotionally... I developed bipolar disorder directly due to the loss of my thyroid and I live on a constant regime of hormone pills and doctors visits... but I'm alive... and for that, I am very grateful.