Rachael, 44, has been diagnosed with terminal bowel cancer. This is her story.
My name is Rachael. I'm a wife to Aaron, a mum to Riordan and Adele who are 13 and 11 and an English teacher. I also love theatre, ballet, travel, reading and good food and wine. I'm very social and love a party, especially with my family and friends. In fact, I would say I've lived quite a charmed life. Until now.
Adele, Riordan and I before my diagnosis
It was Friday July 15th when I went to have an MRI to investigate the back and hip pain that had been bothering me for 10 weeks. When the MRI took almost an hour, I became a little concerned. When I went to pay, I was told that the doctors wanted to speak to me and wanted me to have further scans on my abdomen and chest. It was then that I started to worry.
After the scans, I was asked if there was anyone I could call to be with me. It felt like an eternity until Aaron arrived and it was then that we were given the news.
I had a litre of fluid around my heart and lesions in my chest, lungs, liver, hip, spine and shoulder.
We were told to go straight to the Alfred Hospital. I walked into Emergency in high heels and refused a wheelchair. In my head I had a sore back, I wasn’t sick.
Once I was admitted, I was surrounded by doctors and nurses and was hooked up to a myriad of monitors and machines. It was not until a bit later that I learned the severity of my situation. Through my tears and confusion I asked a lovely young doctor what was happening. I asked her to tell me what lesions were as I really didn’t understand.
The doctor told me: “It’s cancer. It’s treatable, but it’s not curable.”
It felt like I had been punched in the stomach. I could barely breathe with the news. A guttural cry came from deep within me as I cried out for my babies.
Aaron held me and he too cried out for me, for our children and the injustice of it all. Our life together had changed in that moment of truth.
I made the decision straight away that I did not want to be given a timeframe. I don’t want a number stuck in my head. With Aaron, I made the decision that we will focus on the here and now and our goals are now short term goals. I genuinely love life and I don’t want that to change.
I decided that I’m not dying of cancer. I’m living with it.
My philosophy is that I could have been hit by a bus on July the 15th, but I wasn’t. I have time to create more memories with my family and friends and that is what I intend to do.
The primary cancer is still technically unknown. It hasn’t shown up on any of my scans, but the pathology indicates that it is almost definitely bowel cancer.
Through this diagnosis I have discovered that I have the most wonderful support team around me. My family, friends, work colleagues and people from the most unexpected quarters have been so incredible in showering me with love, help and care. Aaron and I have been genuinely humbled by the kindness and generosity of others.
It is this support that gives me the energy to fight this insidious disease.
And I am fighting back.
In the last 12 months, I’ve raised over $22,000 for Cancer Council Victoria with the help of family and friends . I held an Australia’s Biggest Morning Tea and twice walked over 50kms in a week for the Walk Over Cancer Challenge.