Breast cancer survivor Jolene Anderson, 37, diagnosed with terminal colon cancer after the second child
After bravely overcoming breast cancer, Jolene Anderson was overjoyed to be pregnant with her and partner Shane’s second child.
It was a difficult journey for the 37-year-old real estate consultant in Melbourne, who underwent IVF, surgery and radiation in 2018, while working full-time and raising their then 18-month-old daughter, Chloe.
After sixteen weeks, a distraught Jolene feared she’d miscarried when she discovered a pool of blood in the toilet, but the doctors assured her the baby was safe and dismissed the clot as a cracked hemamorphosis, which is common during pregnancy.
She didn’t know it at the time, but that supposedly harmless bleeding was the first sign that a rare cancer was spreading from her colon to her liver.
When the bleeding continued after welcoming daughter Layla in January 2020, Jolene sought a second opinion and had a colonoscopy. While waiting for that appointment, she found a thick bump on her abdomen.
On May 29, just four months after Layla’s birth, Jolene received the damning news that a five-centimeter tumor was blocking her intestine, separate from her previous battle with breast cancer.
This time, the cancer is unusable and incurable.
Doctors have given Jolene a life expectancy of two to five years, meaning her beloved daughters may never remember their mother.
Jolene Anderson with husband Shane and their young daughters, three-year-old Chloe (center) and newborn Layla
Brave for a mistake, Jolene takes things “day by day” and does her best to leave her illness behind to focus on her number one priority: her family.
“I wish it was a nightmare, but we haven’t woken up from it, of course,” she told Daily Mail Australia.
Her shattered partner Shane finds things harder as he resists the thought of losing the woman he loves.
“He’s in denial, I guess. Thinking about it really upsets him, so it’s probably easier not to do that, ”she said.
Jolene (pictured with newborn Layla in February 2020) battles a rare colon cancer with an average survival rate of less than 12 months after diagnosis
Colon cancer is the second most common cancer in men and women in Australia, causing the death of 5,375 in 2016 alone, according to figures from the United States. Australian Cancer Council.
Symptoms are vague and easily confused with less sinister symptoms such as stress, indigestion and irritable bowel syndrome, often leading to long-term delays in diagnosis.
Early warning signs include stool blood and mucus, abdominal pain, bloating, sudden changes in bowel movements such as diarrhea and constipation, unexplained weight loss, and a lump in the anus or rectum.
Changes in Jolene’s gut habits were attributed to hormonal changes related to her pregnancy, and if there hadn’t been blood in her stool, she thinks she would never have pushed for further testing.
“I had no idea, I was absolutely fine except for the blood,” she said.
Her shattered partner Shane (right) could be left to raise two young girls who may never remember their mother
Today, Jolene is battling an exceptionally rare form of colon cancer related to a ‘BRAFV600E’ gene mutation that has spread (metastasized) to her liver, now littered with lesions and tumors.
Despite major improvements in life expectancy for many advanced cancers, patients with BRAF mutations remain poor forecasts with an average survival rate of less than 12 months after diagnosis, according to a study from 2018 about the disease.
This means that treatments beyond standard chemotherapy are crucial to achieving a longer life for Jolene and others like them.
She is currently undergoing chemo, but hope is in an expensive and experimental clinical trial for patients with BRAF, expected to start in October.
The treatment does not receive government funding and costs $ 8,000 per month straight from the participants’ wallets.
Her beautiful baby girl: six-month-old Layla, Jolene’s youngest daughter
Jolene’s eldest daughter Chloe, who was not yet a toddler when her mother first battled cancer
Early symptoms of colon cancer
– Change in bowel movements with diarrhea, constipation or the feeling of incomplete emptying
– Thin or loose bowel movements
– Blood or mucus in the stool
– Abdominal pain, bloating and cramps
– Anal or rectal pain
– Lump in the anus or rectum
– Unexplained weight loss
– Unexplained anemia
Source: Cancer Council Australia
A crowdfunding campaign created by Jolene’s sister Naomi on July 5 has already exceeded the $ 100,000 goal and was at $ 122,177 at the time of writing.
The money will go to experimental treatment and Jolene said she will throw “all I can at this stupid cancer.”
“It just shows you how generous and wonderful people can be in such difficult times,” she said.
“We were just completely crazy. However, we have such beautiful people in our lives, so in a way we were not surprised. ‘
Jolene beams with eldest daughter Chloe in December 2016, two years before her battle against breast cancer and four years before receiving the most devastating diagnosis
Jolene hopes her story will send a message to young mothers to learn about sudden changes in their health and to encourage doctors to take their concerns seriously.
If you’re considering having children, have your cancer marks checked completely. Pregnancy hormones can let God know what’s in your body, so just go for it, “she said.
“It could mean the difference between catching something early and being at my stage.”
For more information about breast and colon cancer, visit the Cancer Council Australia website here.