A mum-of-three who was told her bowel cancer was terminal has now been given the all clear after seeking a second opinion.
Amy Talbot was just 34 when she was diagnosed and after undergoing surgery followed by gruelling chemotherapy and radiotherapy she was given the devastating news that there was nothing more doctors could do.
The 37-year-old businesswoman from Essendon, near Hertford, Hertfordhsire, has now had the all-clear for over a year now, but still has regular check-ups every three months.
Amy, who is a mum to five-year-old twins Georgie and Ollie and seven-year-old Archie, had been back and forth with her GP over the previous three months before she was given the bombshell news in December 2017.
She had three young children, was happily married to husband Darren, 46, and was fit and healthy when she learnt she had bowel cancer.
All the tests were pointing towards a cancer diagnosis and, while it wasn’t necessarily a shock Amy says nothing can prepare you for that devastating moment.
Now 38 Amy told HertsLive : “Your world does come crashing down when you hear that it was confirmed cancer.
“I was 34 and I didn’t know anybody in the same situation.
“I was relatively fit and healthy, had three small children. At the time, the twins weren’t even two yet.”
The pain started off as a lump in her stomach before turning into “unbearable” pain.
“I thought it was a hernia or something and then the pain kept getting worse and then each morning the pain would be unbearable,” she explained.
“It gradually got worse and worse but by that point I was with the doctor and they were running tests on me.
“It was confirmed [as cancer] when they did a colonoscopy and that’s when I came face-to-face, I literally saw it with my own eyes, I saw the tumour.”
Amy had her first operation at the beginning of January 2018 when a 11.5cm tumour was removed.
She stayed in hospital for five days but was discharged in time for the twins’ second birthday.
The “aggressive” cancer had started to spread through the bowel wall, and in March that year she began chemotherapy.
“The recovery was pretty long and hard, so I had to rely on people,” she said.
“My kids were all really young at the time so they still needed me to get them in and out of bed and things like that.
“From when I knew I was having the surgery I had to teach the twins to get up and down stairs on their own, we had to take them out of cots and put them into bed because I knew I wouldn’t be able to lift them in and out.
“At the time, my husband was working and he was going to work at about 3am, so I was basically on my own once he went back to work two weeks after the surgery.
“It was all bearable, it was the chemo that absolutely floored me.”
The first round, she says, was tolerable, but after that she became worse.
“I was hospitalised for a week because I’d lost so much weight, I wasn’t eating or drinking, I couldn’t keep anything down,” she added.
“They had to load me up with fluids. I only found out after I was released that the chemo was so toxic that it was doing more harm than good.”
Doctors were forced to cut short Amy’s chemotherapy cycle and she feared she could die.
Amy continued to have routine checks and in early 2019 it showed the cancer had returned
She was forced to have gruelling chemotherapy and radiotherapy every day for five weeks before Amy was told that there was nothing more they could do apart from put her on palliative chemotherapy.
Amy’s cancer was so aggressive that there were fears she would have no longer than a year left to live.
Determined not to take death as an option, Amy got a second opinion which saved her life.
Amy was referred to the Basingstoke and North Hampshire Hospital and in order to be seen quicker, she had an invasive form of surgery at the privater BMI the Hampshire Clinic.
The eight-hour surgery was funded by the NHS and Amy went under the knife in October 2019.
Doctors couldn’t guarantee that she would wake up from it, but Amy says it was a risk she was willing to take.
“Technically, I’m classed as disabled now because they’ve done something to the nerve endings in my leg,” she said.
“There’s all sorts of lasting effects from the surgery, but ultimately I’m still alive.
“I didn’t start feeling normal for about six months, it was a huge recovery.
“I needed a lot of help with everything. The mums and everyone in the village rallied around.
“We had people we don’t even know from the village making dinners. The village literally pulled together to make sure that I got through it.”
Amy said she pulled through one of the toughest stages of her life so far thanks to her husband, the local community and online groups.
But she suffers from PTSD as a result of her exhausting ordeal.
There is also a very high risk of the cancer returning because it had been at stage four.
Amy has advice to anyone going through the same thing – You’re not on your own.
She added: “Keep going. I would say trust your gut.
“You know your body better than your GP does. If you’re not happy with an answer, go and see someone else. Trust your instinct.”
She added: “I’ve always looked on the positive side of it. I do have therapy now as I’ve got PTSD because of it.
“But I honestly believe my positive outlook on it made a huge difference to my outcome as well.
“I’ve never been one to sit and cry about it. I’m like, ‘Okay, I’ve got this, let’s deal with it’ and I’ve never really let it get me down.
“Typically, cancer is an old person’s disease. Most people don’t know anyone my age who’s been through something similar but there are thousands of us out there.
“That’s where social media really does come good because through people’s social media accounts you can see their experiences, see that you’re not alone, you can talk to people, because no one really understands it, unless you’ve been through it.”
Amy, who also runs and owns Crystal Cove, a natural wellness website, and Mood Voodo, which specialises in handmade crystal candles and gifts, says herbal remedies have also helped her on her road to recovery.
“My outlook on life is different now,” she said.
“I live for the day, I do what makes me happy. I’ve got more involved in the spiritual side of things.
“With my two businesses, I’m there to help other people as well, I want to be able to help people.”