The history of Lisa’s Army in Lisa’s words
I was diagnosed with stage four bowel cancer in December 2017.
For more about a year before my diagnosis, I felt like I had IBS. My toilet habits changes, I felt constantly constipated. I spoke to my family and friends and they’d say things like “this happens to me too” so I just thought it was completely normal to feel like this.
After the birth of my first child, I had five miscarriages. The sixth time I got pregnant I was trying not to get too excited but the first 20 weeks I felt fine. Although my symptoms carried on, I just thought it was down to being pregnant and no other health professional questioned whether it could be something else.
It was only when I got to 35 weeks pregnant, that I terrible back pain and had to sleep upright on the sofa for the remaining time that I was pregnant. I’m not even sure how I did it.
I later found out that the baby was pushing on the tumour. It felt like I constantly needed a poo, but nothing would come out. It’s a very odd feeling. We went on holiday for two weeks, and I didn’t have a poo once.
Whilst out for lunch, I had a poo and saw a massive amount of blood. At first I thought the worst that I was having another miscarriage, but it was coming out the wrong end so I knew my baby was fine.
I went to the GP again, I’d been a few times that year, and they said it could be a few things: IBS, Crohn’s, Cancer. I went for blood tests but nothing came up.
By this time, I was losing weight, I had no appetite and I was in a lot of pain. I was blocked that my appendix was very close to bursting. I needed emergency surgery but before this could happen. I had keyhole surgery to remove my appendix whilst still pregnant.
I never really recovered from the surgery. My infection markers were really high. I didn’t eat or drink, and I was sick up to 20 times a day. I was in hospital for three weeks.
Once I was back at home with my new born baby, I kept having to go to the GP as six water infections. In the end, I went to A&E and had a colonoscopy.
You know its bad news when a Macmillan Cancer Nurse is in the room with you.
They found an 11cm tumour.
It was full on after that. I had scans, tests and then 10 days later was on chemo. My oncologist told me that had spread to my liver. I was really shocked at this, because I only had symptoms for a year I thought we caught it quite early.
My oncologist was quite insistent that there were no treatment options for me and all he could offer was chemo for palliative care. He gave me between two – 12 months to live. I have a husband and two children (a five year old and a year old), I have everything to live for. My life was perfect before cancer.
In February, I had surgery to remove the cancer and a stoma, followed by chemo. I had an ice cap to encourage my hair not to fall out. I set up Lisa’s Army to raise money for my kids’ future. I thought it would raise around £5,000 to help with their driving lessons, or going to university but in fact it’s raised nearly £100,000.
When you get a cancer diagnosis, people want to help but they don’t know how. Lisa’s Army gave them an outlet for this.
I was lucky to go on ITV’s This Morning to talk about bowel cancer and the fundraising. Loads of people got in touch with me after, but one woman said to me that after watching me on the programme she went to her GP after noticing symptoms and was diagnosed with stage four bowel cancer.
Telling my eldest child was really difficult, especially as she’s so young. I looked at books for advice but didn’t really find what I was looking for. Throughout my treatment, I wrote two books aimed at telling children about cancer, one from the mum’s side and the other from the dad’s.
I really wasn’t happy with the palliative care option. As I mentioned, I had everything to live for. I kept going on forums and reading about other treatment options, but my oncologist just said no to everything. I just knew that I had to try something, but he was so unwilling. I felt really let down by him.
In the end we sought advice from a retired private oncologist, and he gave us treatment options. But my original oncologist just said that they’ll tell you anything just to have to your money.
In October, we made the decision to go against my oncologist and sought a new one at Guy’s Hospital for treatment that wasn’t offered at my local hospital. Since then I’ve been making the two hour trip to London every two weeks for chemo often with my mum, so my husband can be at home with the kids. We don’t want to disrupt their routine too much.
I’m a nail technician, and before cancer I had around ten clients per day coming to my house to get their nails done. I can’t do this now as every day is so different. Cancer makes you lose your identity.
Unfortunately Lisa lost her battle with cancer on 17th August 2019 surrounded by her loved ones.
Lisa went on after her diagnosis to organise events in order to raise funds for the local hospice Dorothy House. Lisa’s vision was to create a charity that would then help terminal cancer patients to create ever lasting memories. Lisa’s dream became a reality on 6th April 2020 when Lisa’s Army UK become a registered charity. The charity will continue to fulfil Lisa’s vision and raise much needed funds to help create memories.
Lisa’s Army UK has received incredible support over the past few years from the local community and further afield. Please see a video below from some of our supporters.