Layth Yousif tells the moving and affecting story of a relative struck down by illness. Please read, share around, and give what you can.
There are two pictures of a woman in her prime taken on the same day back in May 2011. She is on her way to a meeting with a Doctor. One photo is taken in the morning. One in the afternoon. This difference separates not just a matter of hours but of being told that she has cancer.
At the age of 32, Anne Aurousseau, a vivacious, loving mother of three beautiful children developed a mysterious hacking cough. She had always been healthy and didn’t think too much of it at first. It was only when she started to lose weight and become desperately tired that she sought medical advice.
“There are some absolutely wonderful professionals working in the NHS”, said Anne of Hitchin, North Herts, “but they are stretched”. She was initially told the only reason she was tired was because she had three young children.
After many different meetings and consultations she was eventually (and incorrectly) detected as having thyroid cancer. “They wanted to take out my voicebox. It was a terrible time. I just thought how can I ever talk to my children again”.
At one stage as well as the recommendation to remove her larynx, specialists advised removing a section of her oesophagus and part of her trachea. Anne was nothing if not a battler. She decided on a second opinion which involved a thyroidectomy (the complete removal of her thyroid) along with surgery to remove a tumour larger than a golf ball that was impacting on the thyroid and a nerve that supplied one side of her voicebox.
Unfortunately her cough remained and she continued to be very weak. “I just wanted to do the normal things a mother does like take the kids to school, run a home and enjoy simple times like trips to the seaside with the kids and my partner Jamie”.
Her children, Benjamin 9, Eleanor 7 and Olive 5 keep her grounded. “I remember Jamie and I taking the decision to tell our kids”, she says. “We briefly mentioned we had some sweets for them, before we explained to them in straightforward terms that mummy wasn’t very well. There was a short silence before little Olive – bless her – asked what sweets they were!” Anne stops and smiles at the memory.
She was eventually diagnosed with having an exceptionally unique and incurable form of cancer, Adenoid Cystic Carcinoma (ACC), originating in her trachea. ACC is an unusually race cancer, with a very high likelihood of reoccurrence. There is currently no cure.
Less than 25 people per year in the UK develop this cancer. There is also presently no funding for research undertaken in Britain by the large Cancer Charities to remedy the situation, or even a new drug therapy to manage the disease.
Remarkably she is free from bitterness about the crucial time missed in making a correct diagnosis. “I am lucky” she says. ”I have three wonderful children, a loving partner, and sister, and great friends and wider family who have helped me get through this”. Anne’s uplifting attitude is not only testament to the courage of her spirit but to the power of friendship. “Whether it’s just simply friends or family popping in to see me for a coffee when I’m a bit down, or Jamie’s sister Heather and her husband Shaun running the London Marathon to raise money for my chosen Charity “Get-A-Head”, I just feel blessed to have such people fighting alongside me” she said unselfishly.
Yet Anne’s cheerful nature was put to the test in Oct 2011. After a gruelling 6 week course of radiotherapy the ex-receptionist lay unconscious in intensive care, with Doctors admitting she was hours from dying. The mother of three fought heroically and her weak body rallied to the amazement of the medical staff. “I guess I just wasn’t ready to go then”, she says stoically.
Anne looks back to that fateful day in May 2011. “Cancer has changed my life and affected everyone close to me. I do get days when I feel so angry and think “why me” but mostly I try to be calm and be the best mum I can”. Her eyes well up briefly before she offers “I just feel so sorry that I have ruined people’s lives”. Her partner Jamie, naturally disagrees, “Anne is such a strong person. She always cares more about others.” As her mother Pauline said of her: “She is a fighter. We are all so proud of her”.
Despite coping with the magnitude of the concept that she currently has over 20 new growths in her lungs and all the dreadful uncertainty that fact entails, Anne has met the notion with remarkable bravery, determination and as much positivity as humanely possible. As her best friend and sister (the two women even share the same birthday, a year apart) Claire said, “We all love her so much. I just want her to be better”.
Anne, this inspiringly courageous mother and partner confides, “sometimes on a Saturday night we’ll have a few drinks and Jamie will put on “Never tear us Apart” by INXS”. Her voice catches briefly as she adds “it has always been our song – but it means even more now”.
“Cancer is a cruel and horrible thing”, she continues, “but the last thing I would want is for people to feel sorry for me. I know everyone has their own problems and battles. It’s hard sometimes, but I just want to savour every day”.
To help fund new work into understanding this disease so ACC doesn’t necessarily mean a life sentence, a 100 mile walk along the South Downs is being undertaken at the end of May.
Please click on the walk’s justgiving link below to donate to Anne’s chosen Charity “Get-a-Head”. An independent cancer charity based at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Birmingham whose mission is to raise money to help people suffering from head and neck cancer and other diseases of the head and neck.
Follow Layth on twitter @laythy29