Home » Claire’s Light – a Must Read!

Claire’s Light – a Must Read!

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Claire was diagnosed with stage 4 colon cancer with extensive cancerous metastases in her liver earlier this year. She is a wife and mother and this is her story of strength, hope and a light that is shining brighter than ever.
I have no words. Thank you Claire for sharing your amazing story. This is a must read. I hereby create a call to action to all my readers and Carmien fans to join hands and help Claire in her journey.
Follow Claire on her Facebook – Claire’s Light – page for more detail ons how to donate or help.

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Claire’s Light

Please tell us your story. Where did your journey begin?

There are so many possible beginnings to my story as you don’t get cancer overnight, it’s a process of years! I thought I lived a relatively healthy lifestyle until I got my diagnosis of stage 4 colon cancer with extensive cancerous metastases in my liver and then really examined my life…so much of what we think is healthy is in fact so dangerous for us, it is really scary!
My husband, Justin, and I had tried for close to four years to have a baby and after struggling with infertility due to my having stage 4 endometriosis and undergoing fertility treatments, I finally fell pregnant in February 2014 with our precious baby girl, Laurienne. Looking back on it there were signs that something was wrong but was all explained away as common or part of pregnancy and having a new-born. For example, at the 12 week blood test and screening for Downs Syndrome we came back as a 1 in 5 risk for chromosomal abnormalities. We then did CVS to test her genetics and everything came back completely normal – I was so relieved and never thought that those elevated hormones were in fact also an indicator of Liver cancer (something I have since researched since my diagnosis). I also had very itchy legs during pregnancy, which is a sign of something being wrong with your liver but again we did more tests and everything came back normal with my liver function so we just monitored it and thought nothing else of it.
At about 7 months pregnant I started to pass a bit of blood and thought “Oh joy, now I have piles!” After giving birth I reacted very badly to the anaesthetic but have always not handled it well, so didn’t think any further…I then had a new-born, was breastfeeding so was tired all the time and very nauseous. I had terrible night sweats, battled to lose what I thought was just pregnancy weight and bloating in my abdomen and just general body sensitivity whilst also struggling with what I thought was postpartum depression as well as continuing to occasionally pass blood. I had a terrible pain in my abdomen in the middle of the night when my daughter was 5 months old in April this year, and called the doctor the next day and managed to get an early appointment. I went in for a colonoscopy the next week Wednesday and was called out of the recovery area, all very groggy from the procedure and told they had found a mass in my colon and needed to rush me into CT and MRI…at the time, I thought maybe it was endometriosis and was holding on to that as I am far too young to have colon cancer…something that the doctors echoed (and they still cannot explain it or understand why this happened to me)…then on the Friday morning I went to receive the results of my scans and biopsy from the specialist surgeon and he told me, with tears in his eyes, that it was not good news…that I had cancer in my colon and it had spread to my lymph and extensively into my liver…so much so that they couldn’t even count how many lesions there were. I actually think I laughed in disbelief and the started to cry, it was completely surreal! I saw the oncologist the following week Tuesday, went back to work for two days at the end of my maternity leave and then started chemo the following week Monday and everything has pretty much been a blur since then.

You are a wife and the mommy of a little girl (who very recently turned one – Congratulations!). How did this prognosis influence these roles?

When I was diagnosed I was told basically that they would “do everything they could to get me to my daughters first birthday”, so the fact that I was able to celebrate it with her was so important to me! My daughter is just the most beautiful and special little person in the world…we wanted her for so long and I clearly must have had cancer when I fell pregnant so she is a real miracle baby! I think she entered our lives for a reason, to give me hope and inspiration and a drive to not only just live, but to make the world a better place for her to grow up in. I always had an idea of what it would be like to be a mom and a lot of my dreams have had to change and shift over the past few months, I can’t really hold her because of how the chemo has affected my hands and nerve endings and I really battle to walk as well…every week I had my big dose of chemo I would not be able to do anything for her for about a week, it has been so difficult for me. I had to stop breastfeeding very suddenly and am now going through menopause at the age of 31 due to chemo, so will not be able to have more children which is devastating to me as I always wanted a big family…Thankfully I have the most wonderful husband who has been so incredibly supportive and really took over all the “mommy duties” and without so much as a complaint. Justin and Laurienne have such a special relationship and strong bond, so watching that has given me so much joy, peace and strength. My diagnosis definitely impacted my idea of what and who I wanted to be as a wife and mother. I knew this would happen when I received the news that fateful day in April and it broke my heart…but, we are all faced with challenges in life and things hardly ever conform to our vision of what they should be. I have come to terms with the fact that things have changed and will not be what I thought they should be, things just simply “are” and there is a lot of beauty in that too. I have a healthy daughter, a fantastic husband, an amazing family and great group of friends so I have a lot to be grateful for.

This must be in incredibly difficult journey. How do you stay positive?

Strangely enough the day I was diagnosed with cancer is the day I stopped taking anti-depressants…suddenly I felt like “post-partum what?!” What did I have to be depressed about?
Receiving my diagnosis was a huge reality check for me and most of all, what I have felt is this overwhelming sense of gratitude. It sounds strange to say I am grateful for my cancer, but that is exactly how I feel. After two days of crying when we got the news, I turned to my husband and said “At least I have a chance to fight, to love, to make a difference…so many people don’t get that chance” and I have hardly cried since that epiphany. I have my bad days, but I try to experience it fully and then move through and past it. So, I am grateful for the perspective it has given me and for the opportunity to do everything I can to live as full and happy a life as possible.
I believe in things happening for a reason, we are all here in this life to learn, grow and evolve and I take a lot out of my daily experiences as a cancer patient, but also as a wife, mother, sister, daughter and friend…I am more than my illness and I haven’t let it define me. It has however, made me so appreciative for what I do have and I am not sure I would have been able to have this perspective if I was cancer-free. It made me realise how much we take for granted and how our lives are so numbed by the rat race and daily drudgery of work and an unappreciated life. When you have this perspective it is quite easy to stay positive…I always look for the lessons and there is always something to take away from each experience, good or bad, you can always find the silver lining if you know where to look.

Why did you start the Facebook Page “Claire’s Light”?

I was getting a lot of questions from friends and family and friends of friends and their families and acquaintances that I found I was spending a lot of my time repeating the same story (which was quite emotionally draining at the time having to rehash everything), so I thought a Facebook page would be a great way to keep people up to date. I wanted to chronicle and diarise what I was going through so that people could understand what it means to go through chemo and the daily life of someone with advanced cancer. It has since grown into so much more than that…I have followers from all over the country and the globe, many are complete strangers. I have found the process hugely therapeutic and get so much strength from the messages of support I receive through my page. I also think it has become a great vehicle through which to raise awareness around metastatic cancer and am so proud of how it touches people’s lives…I have had other cancer patients get hold of me, oncologists read my page and refer patients to it, many others have gone for colonoscopies and since been diagnosed with cancer or other serious gastrointestinal illnesses that they would never have gone to check if it hadn’t been for my page and many people just going through life’s challenges have found inspiration in what I write, so it feels good to be making a positive impact on others and hopefully ensure that they will not have to go through the same thing as me.

Tell us a little about your dream to create a charity for young moms with cancer.

I have had the most wonderful support from my husband, family and friends and I know I would not have had the phenomenal response to treatment that I have had if I had to worry about every little thing, every chore or daily task. I have also had people ask me how I am coping with a small child, working and just being a wife and mother…at times I don’t even know how I cope, I just somehow get through each day, but it wouldn’t be possible without that support. It made me think, how do mothers who don’t have the support that I do get through this? There are single moms, working moms, moms who don’t have a good support network and I know that not all husbands are like mine (I am so blessed)…dealing with cancer and going through treatment is hard enough without having to worry about who looks after your kids or what to cook for dinner or a giant pile of unwashed dishes and dirty laundry.
My idea is start a charity for young mothers with small children to provide them with this kind of support – be it a nanny to look after babies, an aupair for older children, a cleaning or domestic service and other types of support, to just make the load a little lighter so they can focus on their healing. I know, as a mom (and even with all the support I have), you put on a brave face and do everything you can for your child, even when it is to your own detriment. So I am certain that those without this kind of support are putting a lot of energy into those brave “masks” of theirs, when behind the façade they are crying out for help, for a decent sleep in a clean bed with new sheets and comfy pj’s. I want to make things easier for them, to let them know they are not alone…cancer is such a ridiculously expensive industry, treatment costs are just insane so finding money for these kinds of services is very difficult and I would love it if I could start a foundation that provides this support to young moms.

How can we help/donate to this cause?

At the moment I have started a fundraiser account, particularly due to requests from my support network to donate towards my medical treatment (as things are so expensive and medical aids do not cover everything). Doctors are saying that they think I will need a liver transplant from a living donor and the costs for that are also insane and once again, not all covered by medical aid. I am of the opinion that I want to get rid of my cancer without surgery – the cancer in my colon and lymph has disappeared and my liver cancer has shrunk by nearly 75% (although still inoperable due to location of some of the lesions). I have done a lot of other alternative things (energy healing, radical diet and lifestyle changes, herbs and supplements as well as meditation) apart from chemo and there are a lot of other treatments out there that aren’t “conventional” that I want to try, so funds raised for now will go towards medical expenses and expenses related to treatment and unpaid leave – I have to get treatment every Monday and have exhausted all of my sick leave. Any excess funds raised will go towards starting this foundation, which I am just at the beginning of at the moment. The idea of starting it makes me really excited about the future and my purpose here in this life so is definitely something I am going to pursue and would like to pass on this legacy to my daughter and family. I also want to look at how to get awareness around living organ donation and ways to match potential donors with patients in desperate need of a kidney or liver- there is just too much red tape and people are losing their lives unnecessarily when there are people out there that want to help but don’t know how.

Please like and follow my Facebook page “Claire’s Light” as I will be posting all the details of my journey there, as well as all fundraising information. I also plan on starting a website soon where I can categorise my posts and information so people can find what they are looking for a bit easier.

Please contact Claire via Facebook for any information of if you have any questions.
“I hope that when going through this story it will inspire something in your readers…whether it is to get involved, be more aware of their own health and lifestyle or just to be more appreciative every day. Life is too short and fragile beyond what we can even begin to comprehend, so find your happiness and live it!” Claire

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