‘It was really difficult for us all, going through this through covid’

Chris cycled 58kms a day, every day through the whole of Gynaecological Cancer Awareness Month (September)- that’s one km for each of the 58 women who die from one of the five gynaecological cancers every day in the UK. Chris blogs about his mum who passed away from womb cancer in August and his challenge.

Now looking back, I can see that there were signs of my mum having symptoms for around 18 months. At the time no one quite realised it.

The first time my mum went to the doctor to talk about her abnormal bleeding, they said it was likely she was just going through the menopause. She took that as a read and accepted her symptoms as just being part of the menopause. But my Mum I think ignored a lot of what was going on with her symptoms, or she would deflect and put it down to something else. For example, she had a back operation a few years ago, so her pelvic pain she was experiencing she put it down to the operation. It was probably a symptom of her cancer. Also, she was experiencing bloating but put this down to getting older and putting weight on. We were all uneducated about gynaecological cancers.

It took my mum a lot to go to the doctors, she was just one of those people who wouldn’t go for anything. I know the bleeding must have been really bad for her to go in the first place, and having an answer to explain it away from the doctor meant she just put up with it for a long time after that.

She went on a cruise in January this year and wasn’t very well. She was tired and would go to her room to rest more and go to bed early. Then her symptoms started getting worse, she got back pain and pelvic pain. She’d previously had surgery on her back, so she just put it down to that at the time.

Then covid happened.

She had really had enough by that point and went back to the doctors in May. They started to investigate it properly and referred her for scans. Covid kept getting in the way and she had several scans cancelled. After she finally had one they took a biopsy and it was then she was diagnosed with womb cancer.

At the end of June she was due to have a hysterectomy, and the week before they did a CT scan, which found cancer in her liver and lungs. The cancer was more advanced then they thought, she was stage four.

It was really difficult for her, for us all, going through this through covid. My mum begged and pleaded to have dad go in with her, but he wasn’t allowed. She struggled to keep up with and remember all of the information she was given, and really wanted him there to help her. She was told then and there that she was terminal, when she was on her own.

She was managing to live her life still as normal, walking and getting about (as much as anyone could in covid). She went to speak to her team about chemotherapy and that was off the cards. She had a kidney infection and was admitted to hospital for 4-5 days to sort it out. She was transferred to HTU on the 6th of August and only lived a few more days.

Chris is here at a restaurant with his mum, dad and brother in January.
Chris with his family in January this year

 

The last time I had seen her properly had been January, then we had a quick visit after the first lockdown, but covid kept us apart through everything.

We have been through so much this year as a family, and I hate the thought of any other families going through it too. That really spurred me on to fundraise and raise awareness during Gynaecological Cancer Awareness Month.

As a family we never spoke about anything sexual, or women’s or men’s bits. When my mum was ill, if my dad started to bring it up, she would change the subject and say ‘we don’t need to talk about that’. On reflection the signs had been there for a long time, and perhaps if we had been more open to these things as a close family, which we were/still are, then things might have happened a bit differently.

My eldest son is 13, and I have been educating him about gynae health, it is important and he needs to know. He has got embarrassed and squirmed, but I have kept it up and let him know it’s something we all need to feel comfortable talking about and educate ourselves on.

Chris is in his garden on a static exercise bike, cycling hard in the sun
Chris cycling his 58km for that day on his static bike

 

Since I decided to fundraise, I have had such an incredible response, around 8-10 women have been in touch after seeing my page and social media posts and told me that they have subsequently gone to see a doctor because of something that was troubling them- what more could you ask for with raising awareness? It isn’t a good thing so many women were having some symptoms, but the fact they are now going to a doctor is fantastic and will hopefully allow them to get treated if anything is wrong or put their minds at ease.

I used to play professional rugby, but cycling was new to me, I wasn’t used to exercising that much again every day and certainly not on a bike. The first three days were horrific, and I kept thinking ‘what am I doing?’. But your body adjusts, and it was just routine by day 10, it became quite natural and I enjoyed it. It gave me focus when I really needed it, and some time alone to process and heal, I was sad to reach the end of the challenge.

The challenge raised nearly £4000 which smashed my target, which is just incredible. A huge thank you to everyone who sponsored me or shared any information on womb cancer through September, your support really made all the difference!

You can still support Chris’ effort and donate at: justgiving.com/thewonderofyou-part1