Statistically, most of us know someone who has ‘survived’ cancer or is currently going through treatment. We also know people who died from it. Which is why so many of us feel the need to do our bit to help the fight against cancer.
For InXpress, this has led to action – with a donation of £2,000 to help fund a key piece of equipment. The decision was very much a personal one. We’ve already highlighted the inspirational story of InXpress Liverpool co-owner, Debbie Simpkins. But, there’s a second woman within the InXpress network who is also truly inspiring, having ‘rung the bell’ on her treatment in May.
Accounts assistant, Samantha Keiley, has worked at InXpress’ Head Office for 13 years. Her joy of life, and can-do attitude means she is liked by anyone who meets her. Last Autumn, Samantha was sent for a number of tests, as she had been experiencing intense abdominal pain. Tests led to scans. Scans led to biopsies. Which led to the news every single one of us dreads. “In November, it was confirmed I had clear cell carcinoma endometrium – a womb cancer. The possibility of the diagnosis had already been discussed so to have it confirmed wasn’t really a shock, and because I’d been so ill leading upto it, the diagnosis actually came as a relief. I decided there and then I could either feel sorry for myself or accept it and get on with it, so my response was practical – OK, what happens next? My husband, Mike, was upset for the both of us. It’s the first time I’ve ever seen him cry.”
Clear cell carcinoma is a very rare form of a type 2 cancer and grows quickly. “I’d been sent for a number of abdominal drains, each time they drained about 15 litres of fluid. Four days after the third drain, I was in hospital for a major six-hour operation to remove the tumour. Basically, I had a radical hysterectomy, and the bottom-part of my bowel was removed, leaving me with a stoma.”
During the operation, surgeons encountered a few complications and Samantha needed two blood transfusions. They also discovered she had two blocked arteries, so she had an angiogram to add four stents into her heart. Can you imagine how traumatic this would have been – not just physically, but emotionally as Samantha has to come to terms with what she is dealing with, as a 48 year old mum of two? “Our daughter is 21, so had a better understanding of what I was dealing with but sitting down with our 13-year-old son and telling him I had cancer wasn’t pleasant; especially when he asked why. Cancer doesn’t just affect the individual; it affects everyone around them.”
And yet, Samantha “smiled her way through it”, in the words of one of her friends. And, as Jon White, InXpress UK’s country manager says, “Samantha’s attitude throughout the whole thing, has been unbelievable, and so inspiring.”
But as anyone knows… there’s more to fighting cancer than surgery. “After two weeks in hospital, I was discharged to recuperate at home over Christmas, before starting six rounds of chemotherapy in January: Six hours of treatment, every three weeks. Actually, I think I’m one of the lucky ones. I had no side effects from the chemo, other than losing my hair. Many others on the treatment ward with me, were experiencing so much worse – sickness, tiredness and added complications with infections.”
Despite all this, Samantha continued to work. “Only the staff at the Support Centre knew about the illness, and road I was on. I was still doing bits and pieces of work, like responding to emails, and helping out when I could. It’s surprising what you can do on your laptop when you’re hooked-up to a chemo machine for six hours with nothing else to do.”
Every year, in Samantha’s hometown of Whitworth, the local Cancer Research fundraising committee decide on a piece of equipment they want to raise money for, then organise various events throughout the year, including a brass band concert in December. “My daughter has played with the brass band for 12 years, so, we attend the concert every year. This year will be so much more poignant. I approached Jon to ask if InXpress could donate to this year’s fundraising campaign, and was blown away when both Head Office, and InXpress Gives Back donated £1,000 each. Fundraising means research and more research means more cures, so hopefully we will live in a world where nobody has to tell their children/family they have cancer.”
Just over six months after switching on her out of office message, Samantha was able to switch it off again. “On May 18th I rang the bell after my last round of chemo and could finally return to the office full time on Monday 4th July. My prognosis is good, and I’m on a maintenance drug for the next two years, to reduce the chances of the cancer returning. This drug has only been used in the treatment of cancer since 2017, which further highlights the importance of fundraising and research! I don’t take lightly the fact I am one of the lucky ones. When you go through something like this, it puts everything in life into perspective. What we once thought was important, suddenly became less significant, and I think we, as a family, definitely appreciate the little things much more than perhaps we used to.”