My husband and I were both diagnosed with cancer during the pandemic

Cancer has changed us forever, but I truly believe we’re getting the most out of life now (Image: Credit)

2020 wasn’t a good year for anyone, but for my family it felt like the world was conspiring against us.

One day in late September, my husband Matt said he was having stomach upset. At first he thought it was indigestion, but it got worse as the days went by.

When I got home from putting the kids to bed that night, I found her calling 111. After a miserable 24 hours in A&E, she was sent home on painkillers.

He has work and private insurance, so for peace of mind we agreed to go see a specialist. At no point did we think it could be cancer.

About a week later, he was diagnosed with neuroendocrine cancer of the small intestine, and – although he wasn’t told about it at the time – an ultrasound showed spots on his liver.

This meant it was stage 4. It means stage 4 cancer has spread from its original site to other parts of the body, or metastasized. Such were the spots on his liver.

When I heard this news, I knew that the future of Stage 4 was not looking good.

However, neuroendocrine cancer is generally slow-growing and there are many options, meaning people can live with it for a long time.

The next few months were a blur of scans, treatment plans and bowel surgery. I think I’ve always been in “fight or flight” mode. He didn’t need chemotherapy, but he had monthly injections and pancreatic enzyme replacement pills with meals.

Matt handled it all well; he just put his head down and got on with it. She had to change her diet to reduce the chance of another obstruction, so there was a lot of soup, yogurt, and low-fiber foods.

He lost a lot of weight, but at the same time continued to train to be as ready as possible for the operation.

Matt and his two children

I couldn’t believe I had cancer because my husband had cancer and we had two young children who needed us (Image: Credit)

He had surgery in early December 2020 and it went well, but the recovery was tough, especially in the first few weeks. However, by mid-December, he was back home, able to walk around, and seemed to be getting some stability.

How wrong we were.

A few weeks later, while in the shower, I developed a very large and obvious lump on my right breast. How had I not noticed this before?

I felt strangely calm when I went to show Matt. It’s funny how we both remember knowing deep down that it was cancer. We knew it was possible. Life has been turned upside down before, so it can do it again.

I went to the doctor and got a referral to a breast clinic. I felt the atmosphere in the room change during the ultrasound.

The consultant came in to do a biopsy and I tearfully explained that I couldn’t have cancer as my husband also had cancer and we had two young children who needed us.

I think they would all know if I finally took a deep breath and asked openly if it was cancer, but the consultant said it was difficult to say because of my condition. He tried to comfort me but his body language did the opposite. He couldn’t look me straight in the eye.

Photo by Lucy Sims

Lucy treated him during the pandemic (Image: Credited to her)

I can’t remember much of the next few days. I just went through the motions. A week later, I returned to the hospital to confirm my worst fears.

I was diagnosed with breast cancer.

Matt and I were both shocked. I didn’t cry, I wanted to know what I should do to get rid of it. I think we both felt a certain inevitability about it.

After a bone scan and a full body CT – fortunately clear – I started chemotherapy.

It was the hardest four months of my life, I cried lot oflost all my hair and a lot of myself but I did it and I’m proud of myself for getting through it.

Matt, I would not have made it through chemotherapy without my mom and his parents. From making the children happy, to cooking for me, to organizing my medicines, everyone played their part.

Photo by Lucy Sims

Before Lucy started chemotherapy (Image: Provided)

Photo by Lucy Sims

I went through chemotherapy and lost all my hair, but I did it and I’m proud of myself for getting through it (Image: Credit)

A month later, I had surgery to remove the shrunk tumor and a biopsy to see if it was successful or not.

Unfortunately, they found an active cancer in the tissue.

So I went back to theatre, this time to have all my lymph nodes removed. Good luck this time!

I then started four weeks of radiotherapy and targeted chemotherapy, which will finish next month.

In addition, I started hormone treatment, which consisted of an injection to kill my ovaries and a daily pill to stop my body from producing estrogen. This led me to medically induced menopause, which at 37 is not ideal. happened lot of

Photo by Lucy Sims

Since my cancer diagnosis, I don’t sweat the small stuff. It’s so liberating! (Photo: Provided)

Nevertheless, there have been many moments of light and happiness in between, especially provided by my two wonderful sons, who were six and three when I was diagnosed, and who greeted me with smiles and cuddles every day.

We tried to be open and honest about what was going on with them, while being age-appropriate.

We told them they needed to remove the tumor from Matt’s stomach, but since his cancer hasn’t physically affected his life much since then, we’ve avoided talking about it.

This is something we will discuss when we feel the time is right.

As for me, we told my elder that I have a “naughty tumor” in my chest, and I need to take medicine for it. I explained that it would make me feel bad and cause my hair to fall out, but that it would make me feel better.

As time went on, I introduced the idea that the tumor was cancer because I needed treatment. I think my oldest has taken it in his stride, but I know they will both have questions in the future.

My younger daughter has had a hard time making me available like she used to, but she accepts Matt for nighttime cuddles, and sometimes I can’t play.

Photo by Lucy Sims

Despite needing treatment, Lucy is looking forward to walking 100km across the Sahara desert to raise funds for breast cancer charity CoppaFeel (Image: Provided)

Cancer has changed us forever, but I truly believe we are getting the most out of life now. It’s not like life is fundamentally different in a practical sense, it’s just that I don’t sweat the small stuff. It’s so liberating!

It has also given me the opportunity to meet inspiring women who have been through similar things and have wonderful new experiences, the most amazing of which are yet to come.

This November I will be walking 100km across the Sahara desert for CoppaFeel to raise money for an amazing charity that educates and warns people about their breasts so they can catch breast cancer early.

After all the time we’ve spent together as a family, I know more than anyone how important this is.

To donate visit justgiving.com/fundraising/lucyscoppatrek or visit my Instagram @my_bothersome_boob to hear more.

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Have a story to share? Get in touch by emailing jess.austin@metro.co.uk.

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