From being given two months to live in June 2014, to ‘dying’ twice during surgery and ending up in an induced coma – Leighton Buzzard’s Anna Conquest knows more than most how precious life is.
The 49-year-old has beaten the odds to battle back from the brink after initially receiving the shocking ‘death sentence’ of being diagnosed with terminal cancer.
Anna, of Warneford Road, Billington Park, noticed her eyes had began turning yellow so went to her GP where a viral infection was suspected. She had blood tests and was referred to a consultant.
She said: “I was going about my daily business and a few days later I was told that I had an 11cm tumour on my liver that the consultant believed had been there a very long time, and my worst case senario was that I had 2-3 months to live and at the best 6-9. Not the best news I have ever been given!”
A few days later Anna was admitted to the Churchill Hospital in Oxford which specialises in trauma surgery and cancer care and was given a glimmer of hope.
“They informed me that I did not have liver cancer, but a very rare form of bile duct cancer,” she said.
“They explained that I might have some hope. If they operated on me they needed a 1mm gap between the tumour and a major artery. If they had the gap they would go for a cure, if not I was back to my original timescale. After a series of CT and MRI scans they decided that there was just about enough room and they were going to give it a go.”
Anna described the day of her operation as “terrifying”. She was due to be taken to theatre at 11.30am but the schedule changed to 9am.
She said: “My husband and brother hadn’t arrived as they were not expecting me to go down early so I couldn’t say goodbye. I sat on the theatre bed waiting for the anaesthetic to be administrated knowing that there was a chance I would never see anyone again.
“During my operation which was 9.5 hours, I died twice – they had to stop the operation and restart my heart. They removed 75% of my liver and my gallbladder. I was then put into an induced coma and admitted to the Churchill Oxford ICU.”
A week later Anna regained consciouness and was admitted to the Churchill Oxford Upper GI ward. Consultants confirmed they had removed all of the tumour that they could see, but she needed six months of chemotherapy to mop any stray cells. Fast forward to today and the cancer remains banished.
She said: “I am a different person post cancer to pre and I certainly live life to its fullest, nobody ever knows if tomorrow will come.
“Not all patients die of cancer and I hope this gives hope to anyone starting their dreadful cancer journey. I know that it could come back, but if it does I will fight again.
“I had my treatment through the NHS despite having private health care. It was purely due to circumstances of my GP admitting me to hospital that this happened. I can honestly say that the NHS saved my life and I am not so sure that would have happened privately. I had the most amazing team of surgeons, doctors and nurses.
“Cancer treatment is very expensive and I would like every patient to have the same treatment and care that I received. A bed in the ICU unit costs £1,200 a day alone. I feel that now I am fully recovered its time to give back.”
Anna plans to do that through a 24-mile fancy dressed sponsored walk on Saturday, April 30 along the Grand Union Canal from the Blisworth Tunnel in Northamptonshire to Linslade’s Globe Inn. A total of 50 people have already pledging to be part of it help her hit her £7,500 target and they have been doing training walks three times a week.
She said: “I would like to thank Jim Snee of Top Trophies Leighton Buzzard for kindly donating medals, Roger Mott & Rachel Thomson of Motts Travel Aylesbury for donating a coach to get us to the starting point and Melissa and her team at the Globe Inn Leighton Buzzard for allowing us to use their facilities and finish our walk there. Well done to all the walkers in their training so far.”
To support Anna visit http:www.justgiving.com and enter CONQUEST2 in the search field.