couples

What I did for my kids when I found out I was dying.

On Sunday 25 May, 2014 at approximately 2.30am, Sophie Oudney passed away leaving her husband Hamish and their three beloved children Jack, Luke and Amy. Here is her story in her own words…

I remember it like it was yesterday, the day my world was turned upside down.

Friday 28 September 2012. The sun was shining. It was six days post my emergency appendicitis and my middle son Luke’s 6th birthday. I was lying outside soaking up the sun after having spent four days in hospital. The kids, Jack, 9, Luke, 6, and Amy, 4, were inside laughing and playing with Hamish (my husband and love of my life since I was 17). It was 1.30pm and the phone rang. I answered the phone not knowing how in the next 30 seconds my life would never ever be the same again.

It was one of the doctors who did my surgery for my appendix. He asked how I was feeling.”Good thanks,” I replied, “a little tender still but I’m okay.” The doctor then asked how far away from the hospital I lived. “About 20 minutes,” I replied. “Why?”

“We have some test results we need to speak with you about”, he said.

“Oh okay, well can you tell me over the phone?”

“Unfortunately not,” he answered.

“Okay, well is it bad news?”

The next few words were the beginning of a journey I never ever thought I would be taking. The doctor spoke again.

“I’m sorry it’s very bad news.”

I hesitated for a moment before I replied. “Oh, okay, I’ll be there as soon as I can.”

I hung up the phone. I was frozen as if someone had cast a spell on me. I walked inside the house and told Hamish that we needed to go back to the hospital right away. As expected he questioned me as to why. I then said, “I have cancer.” I was trembling with the shock of the words that were coming out of my mouth. I didn’t even know if I had cancer or not but for some reason I was so sure that’s all it could be. I knew my appendix was a bit complicated. It was not where it should have been, it was up and behind my liver and was the size of a sausage instead of a paper clip. I never thought it was something serious but obviously it was.

Sophie and Hamish renew their wedding vows

I dropped my three children at my mums house and headed to the hospital, trying to come up with reasons as to why we were getting called into the hospital. Could I be pregnant? Maybe they realised they left an instrument in me? But none of these were really bad news. OMG maybe it really was cancer. But really? Could I really have cancer?

ADVERTISEMENT

I was so scared. As I entered the hospital I spoke to the receptionist. She knew my name straight away and directed me to the next desk with tears in her eyes. My head was racing. Okay this must be bad news.

I announced my arrival at the next desk again to be greeted with teary eyes and knowing who I was. I went to sit down but the doctor called me in straight away, no eye contact and looking down at the floor. The doctor directed us into a little office down the hall to the left. He closed the door and without hesitation said, "I'm not going to beat around the bush. You have cancer."

Yes I heard that word cancer. I thought to myself, my goodness I really do have it, I have cancer? Hamish was devastated. I went into survival mode. Okay, I heard the word so now I needed to ask questions.

"How bad is it? What do we go next? Am I going to die?"

No answers were certain but I did have a physical once over and doctor confirmed they thought it was a medium cancer. I was instantly sent for blood tests, scans and ultrasounds. I cried and cried in disbelief but knowing I now had to fight harder then I have ever fought before. I mean, I have three young kids, a husband, a successful business and I'm only 30!!!

The next few days were scan after scan after PET (full body scan), then a colonoscopy, more ultra sounds and scans.

October 17, 2012 (my husband's birthday), we were called into the hospital to get all my results and talk about what was going to happen. We met with the head of surgery and his colleague. They were going to look after me. I was to have a right hemicoloctomy (the right side of my bowel removed) and also liver surgery - a resection, as the cancer had spread. I was to meet the liver surgeon that afternoon.

Sophie in hospital during her treatment

I met with liver surgeon who said I needed a right sided resection as metastisised cancer was only located on right side (three tumours). I was to have bowel surgery immediately and four weeks later have another scan of liver and work out when to get liver resection.

The following week I had my bowel surgery. All went well. They removed the right side of my bowel and seven lymph nodes that contained tumours plus my ceucum which also contained a tumour - possibly the primary source but not certain. The tumours were sent away for a histology report.

Four weeks later, I had another scan. It revealed that sadly my cancer had gotten worse. It was high-grade and the most aggressive form. In four weeks I developed 10 new tumors on my liver, therefore making my liver inoperable. I was informed I was to start doing chemo immediately and if the tumours could shrink by 50%, then I could look at surgery but unless this was the case, sadly I was to be classed as terminal .

ADVERTISEMENT

Emotionally I was a mess, not sleeping, not eating, crying for everything. A life that once was perfect was now upside down and we had no idea what was going to happen next...

I went into super-mum overdrive. I began to think of all the things I deal with that Hamy would have no idea about. First I had to change all the bills into Hamy's name. I phoned every service provider we dealt with, explained the situation and changed our details both verbally and in writing. I then made sure each service provider had their own section in a ring binder and at the front of each section is an A4 piece if paper with telephone numbers, amount payable, when its due, who to contact and who I actually spoke to.

This seemed to be the beginning of new world, a new life for us. I was the organiser, the mummy, the web that held our little family together... Now I had to try put everything I did into words and instructions and directions.

School organisation was going to be tough. Hamy has never had to buy a uniform or organise any stationary or school bits and pieces. I immediately wanted to buy all the kids school uniforms but I knew that would not be practical as kids grow so fast. I guess there were some things that I needed to let Hamy do.

I spoke to the school who had already been advised of the situation. They agreed to be in the background and wait until the time came to help Hamish to get what he needs for the kids. I then found myself thinking of all the special moments, the big important days of the kids lives and our lives that I was possibly not going to be around for.

No parent should ever have to know that they may not see their children grow up. We start this journey as parents thinking and hoping and planning. Together with love and hard work we create tiny little sparkles, those sparkles we polish and nurture and protect till they become diamonds.

I feel my diamonds are only just beginning to sparkle. I want nothing more then to be part of what I know would be the three most amazing diamonds sparkling for all to see.

Sophie and Hamish during a recent holiday

Hamish and I have always said one day we will sit together on a bench, watching our grandkids laugh and play while our children are talking and having lunch. We will smile and be proud of the family we have created, the family we began and the family that together we are proud if. Now I know that this dream will forever remain a dream and feeling it crumble every so slowly every tiny bit of my heart.

ADVERTISEMENT

Over the past year apart from enduring all of the above I have had a porta-cath inserted in November 2012, followed by the start of chemo a week later.

At first scan which was on 14 February, 2013 the treatment was Avastan, 5FU and Oxaliplatain. We found that the tumours had taken a slight shrinkage from 2cm to 17mm. This was wonderful news and although there was no decrease in the number of lesions on the liver it was a step in the right direction. This still meant no surgery as the liver was still very diseased, but as my oncologist reminded me, what's the point in removing a diseased organ to still have other diseases still hanging around?

The tumours had begun to grow and increase in number. It was not by a huge huge amount - 3mm growth and 3/4 new tumours. Paul looked at me and said it was about quality not quantity now. My heart sank a little. So back to chemo it was.

As the Oxaliplatain was not agreeing with me it was time to stop. Having this chemo took so much from me, not just making me vomit and constantly go to the toilet, but more long-term damage. The nerve endings in my brain that send messages to the spine were damaged. This meant that the feeling in my hands and feet were affected. Sometimes this lasts for months, sometimes years, but for me one of the worst things was losing my dignity. Having my husband, children and friends have bath me, feed me, dress me and toilet me.

A little bit more of me was taken away yet again.

Sophie and her son Jack. Image courtesy of Infinite Images.

We are now 11 months down the track. Sometimes it feels like the longest 11 months of my life, sometimes it feels like the fastest 11 months of my life but I certainly know all of this has been the hardest 11 months of my life.

To know my forever is shorter than expected breaks my heart. To know one day my husband, the man of my dreams, will wake to an empty bed. My children will not feel the warmth of my cuddles. To know my mum and dad will lose their first-born and my brothers and sister will not hear my constant lectures. All of this often brings too much heartache for me to even begin to think about but I do know that I have a choice on how I handle this journey.

I choose to smile and fight, I choose to live my life and be thankful for every day I get to spend with my family and friends. Life is not a given, it's a gift, it's not ours forever so don't take any second for granted.

You never know what  is waiting around the next corner for you. xxxx

To leave your messages of condolence, please visit Beautiful Sophie - Support Sophie Facebook page.

00:00 / ???