F** I love beer! Well, not only for its tasty taste, bubbly bubbles and the amazing dance moves created by its after effects – I love beer because it saved my life. Yep! My favourite beverage, the golden ale of the world gave me a second chance and it all began one summers day.
December 3rd, 2016. It was freakin’ hot and I was away on holidays with my family. My husband Anthony had turned 40 the month before and as a gift, my parents had given us a babysitting-included holiday at the Sunshine Coast (they were the babysitters).
Our little girl was eight-weeks-old and our little boy was two. So after six hours of packing the car for a two-day trip, numerous arguments with the pint-sized terror we call our son Kai, and three exploded nappies from the little princess pud Indiana, we were finally on our way.
We spent the next morning at the beach swimming and chatting about what we were going to do for the next couple of days.
It was hot, there were teenagers everywhere with music and drinks and it was pretty relaxing. At lunchtime, I successfully looked like a lobster through my spray tan so we headed up to the apartment to put the kids down.
We decided to crack open a few bevs, because, well, life… I was breastfeeding at the time so I hadn’t had a drink since before I was pregnant and I was looking forward to a bit of normality. Anthony made me a shandy (I feel your judgment) and I took a few sips.
After about two minutes, I was in excruciating pain in my chest, my arms, and my back and it felt like a sledgehammer had hit me in the boobs.
I could hardly breathe and I was walking around the apartment looking for Panadol. I’m well known for my hypochondria, but after I'd been screaming for a while my husband noticed that I really wasn’t okay.
As he was trying to ask all the questions you can't answer when you are in that much pain, he noticed I had a lump protruding out my chest.
At this stage, the Panadol had started to kick in and we decided as Mum and Dad were there to stay with my son, Indie could come with me, and I would just go to the doctor to have a checkup. I figured it was probably a muscular thing as I had been having physio for the last few weeks.
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After several phone calls, no one could fit us in and the Home Doctors wouldn't come out for chest pain. FML, now I'm off to the bloody hospital – and I just thought well, this should be embarrassing! The sunburned chick with the leaking boobs cant handle her shandies.
When we arrive I go to the triage nurse and try to explain what happened to me. They seem a bit evasive at the start and I’m feeling a bit stupid because, by this stage, I am feeling perfectly fine.
I showed them my chest lump like a freak, they all come over for a look and I feel like I'm in the Smurf village with all the OOOOHHHHs and AAAHHHHHs. We all discuss how weird I am and then after an ECG, there are still no answers.
An hour later, I’m in with one of the doctors and I’m still joking and laughing with the nurses. He gives me a poke, a stretch and then some reflux medication to see if that helps.
No one has a clue what’s wrong and at this point, I ask to go home and see my GP the following week (but probs not). The doc isn’t convinced, and two hours later he tells me that in the UK, there were two cases where a reaction to alcohol was caused by Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. Hog whaaat???
While I’m trying to figure out why I have never heard of that band, he’s writing up a CT scan request. Even the nurse thinks he’s a bit off the mark but hey, I have a one in four million chance that this is it, so let's do this shit for a bit of fun. The sooner we do this, the sooner I’m home!
By 9 pm I’m freakin’ starving. I hope he hurries up, I want to go home and finish my Shandy and have dinner with my family. Finally, the doctor comes back and I’m excited to get going back to our holiday! …He enters the room… with a chair… (because that always ends well) and won't make eye contact.
He closes the paper thin curtain. "We have found what we didn’t want to find…you have cancer, and it's not good" he says.
F**K! And the world goes silent.
(Well to be really honest, I farted.) Yep, probably not the most complex of responses but hey, it happened.
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Pure. Unimaginable. Fear. It's a funny thing. It's instant and life-altering, but it always takes you by surprise. Not as in the timing of it, because that is all part of its beauty but more so the reaction you have.
It's so different to what you would expect, you think you know yourself so well but in those vulnerable, twisted moments your response is just so raw.
After the air escaped me involuntarily I asked the question that none ever wants the answer to – am I going to die? There was not an ounce of emotion in my voice. The doctor said: “I can’t answer that”.
Seriously? Don’t try and sugar coat it or anything mate. Okay, so, how long do I have? Are we talking months? Again he says: “I'm sorry, I can’t answer that".
At this point I have lost my hearing, there is this ringing in my ears. I feel numb. I can feel every fibre of everything I’m touching and I need to poo.
The whole room looks different, I feel really strange and then I look over and the nurse is crying. She snaps at the doctor to give me something, anything because, in all honesty, she is just as shocked as we are.
I then look over at Anthony, which I have been avoiding at all costs, and see the colour has run out of his face. He is pacing the room and he’s still holding eight-week-old baby Indie, who has been sleeping through the whole thing.
No one is saying anything so the doc takes his opportunity to retreat from the paper curtain room of hell and sends my results to someone who can get me out of his hospital before I can depress any more of his staff.
After 100 toilet trips, I feel cold all over and I still haven’t shed a tear. I’m literally in an internal panic. I just want him to come back into the room and tell me I’m going to be okay, that he got it all wrong.
I make some horrible heartbreaking phone calls in those few hours, to my sister, my family, to Anthony’s family and to my best friend Gemma. To this day telling my parents was the worst thing I have ever had to do.
The ward is silent and all I want is to hug my little boy, he is probably sleeping back at the unit and the last time I saw him he was kissing my chest trying to make it better because I was in so much pain.
I’m so lost and at this stage, I’m convinced I’m going to die because no one has told me any different.
It's now midnight and it's still raining outside. The doctor returns. He's sent my file to an Oncologist in Brisbane. “Amy you need to go because you need to start chemo tomorrow, you need to drive to Brisbane right now, they are expecting you," he said. “CHEMO! WHO THE F**K SAID ANYTHING ABOUT CHEMO!" I scream internally.
And it all came crashing down as I feel the warmth of my husband’s hand on my shoulder, he passes me my baby girl and I realise sh*t is about to get real.
It was the longest trip of our lives back to Brisbane. It was 1am on a Saturday night, I should have been drunk in a gutter somewhere but nooooo.
On the way, even though I know we need to get to the hospital, I just want to go home and have a shower in my own house. I just want life to be normal for a second before whatever it is that’s going to happen to me, begins. It's now 2am and we walk into the house, nothing feels the same anymore and I just want to empty the dishwasher, which is weird because I never really did it before anyway.
As I mentally start to write a pilot for 'The Housewives of Hodgkin’s', Anthony and I lay on the bed hugging each other so tight it hurts. This is the first time we cry.
What is happening to me? What’s happening to us?
After a while, I just get this urge to get this sh*t happening. I have a shower and say goodbye to my house because at this point, I have no idea if I’ll ever be back and I’m really, really scared.
We arrive at the hospital and a couple of hours later I meet my doctor. He mumbles through a few things I don’t recall and it all begins. CT, PET Scan, X-rays, blood tests, bone marrow, and biopsies.
A week later I’m still sitting around and I now have three different doctors and a lactation consultant as the milk in my boobs is causing my cancer to attack me.
You realise as a cancer patient, waiting is something you get very good at, and I truly believe that this is one of the worst parts. That is something I could never explain to you in words.
Through this time, there were many moments when my faith in the medical system was tested, that I planned my funeral. Your entire being rests in the hands of a stranger.
I am diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, Stage 4B. Which translates to "YOU’RE SCREWED BITCH". Cancer has consumed my chest, breastbone, collar bones, heart sack and some of my lung. It has also entered into my bone marrow, there is a chance of breast cancer and I’m a few months from death. WINNING AT LIFE!
As my two-year-old enters the room with my parents and I see him for the first time in two weeks, I’m tired from getting up to my newborn every four hours to breastfeed, she’s hungry again and its time to change nappies, my boobs hurt, my head hurts, my heart hurts. And I wonder how the f**k are we going to do this?
Amy Kinnane is a 37-year-old mother of two and wife of one. She was diagnosed in December 2016 with Stage 4B Hodgkin’s Lymphoma at aged 36, just after her son's 2nd birthday and eight weeks after her daughter was born. She finished chemotherapy in June this year.
You can read more about Amy's uncut and uncensored thoughts on life, encounters, her world with kids, cancer, and life after the Big C on her blog.