Sudden Battle Against Cancer
Hi, my name is Cassy Morris I’m a 43-year-old mother of 3 gorgeous girls (Tahlia aged 9, Kiara aged 6 and Harper aged 4).
On the 19th of June, this year my whole world was turned upside down. I was diagnosed with Stage IV lung cancer.
What is stage IV lung cancer:
Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death and the fifth most common cancer diagnosed in Australia. It is responsible for almost one in five cancer deaths in Australia.
Stage IV non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) is the most advanced form of the disease. In stage IV, the cancer has metastasized, or spread, beyond the lungs into other areas of the body. The five-year survival rate for those diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer is less than 10 percent.
So how did this all come about?
It all started with simple back pain on the 5th of May. My extremely skilled and intuitive Osteopath suggested I get an X-ray and then an MRI on my thoracic spine after 2 treatments on my back showed no improvement.
I had the MRI on the 5th of June, and to my surprise, it showed a 2.3cm nodule in my left lung, which seemed totally unrelated to the back pain. I didn’t know what this meant, and the GP reassured me it could be scar tissue from a recent infection, but we needed to do further tests. I was sent for an URGENT CT scan, which I had the next day.
On Wednesday the 7th June, Kane (my adoring husband) and I went to get the results of the CT scan which showed that they found another nodule! This was not the news we were expecting and now things started to seem serious. I was scared but still hopeful. I was referred to a respiratory specialist for an URGENT appointment. I could meet with Dr Tesfai (respiratory specialist) on Friday the 9th of June. He confirmed that we needed to act fast and that this could potentially be quite serious. I immediately had a blood test and was scheduled for a lung function test on Tuesday the 13th of June and PET scan on Wednesday the 14th of June and then a bronchoscopy on Friday the 16th of June at the Epworth Hospital in Richmond.
It was at this appointment that I found out that they had taken a biopsy from my lymph nodes, this was this first time I had learned that it was not only my lungs they were concerned about. Suddenly the severity of the whole thing began to hit home, Kane was inconsolable, the thought of this being cancer was scary, but it seemed more of a possibility now. It was a tough drive home.
I was still trying to remain positive and hopeful that maybe what they found in my lymph nodes was unrelated to the possible benign nodules in my lungs, but I had the sinking feeling it was more than that.
That weekend we tried to make the most of our family time together.
Monday the 19th of June, the day I’ll never forget: We had an appointment at 5 pm with Dr Tesfai to find out the results of my biopsy. Nothing could prepare us for the news we were about to receive. He informed us that yes, it was lung cancer. I instantaneously felt my heart physically sink deep in my chest. I clenched Kane’s hand, he immediately started crying. We asked how? Why? How could this be? I’m a non-smoker. Did they know more? Was it anywhere else besides my lungs and lymph nodes? To which he replied “Yes, it’s stage IV lung cancer. It’s in your spine, which explains your back pain, in your liver, pelvis, lymph nodes and lungs”.
I was stunned and silent, I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. My first reaction was NO this is not going to be the end of me. I’ve got 3 young daughters who need me, they need me for a long time. I need to be here for them, I’m not going anywhere. I want to see them grow, I want to see Harper start school, I want to see them finish school, I want to see them get married and have their own kids. I need to be here! This is not going to beat me. It was an outer body experience, I felt as though the Dr. was talking about someone else. How could this be about me? I’m healthy, I don’t smoke, I’m young. How can I have lung cancer? And how can it be Stage IV? I have no symptoms!
Kane was understandably beside himself, he could not understand it and kept saying that I can’t leave him and that this was so unfair. He just couldn’t stop crying and shaking. He just kept grabbing me and telling me I can’t go, that he needs me! We couldn’t move, we couldn’t talk, we just didn’t know what was happening. I can’t imagine not being here….. I’ve got to be. My girls need me… Harper’s only 4! I have so much to do with them. They need their Mummy. This is not what I had planned for our family.
Dr Tesfai advised he had arranged an appointment with an Oncologist for the next day, and said I would need radiotherapy and another biopsy soon.
When we finally made our way out of the office we felt numb, we had numerous messages and missed calls from concerned family and friends. My mum, brother and sister were away in Thailand, I decided not to tell them anything tonight… I needed to think. I didn’t want to ruin their holiday and what could they do from so far away? They all deserved this break and I didn’t want to ruin it for them.
We called my youngest brother Sean and my mother in law who were both floored and couldn’t believe what we were telling them. We couldn’t believe the words coming out of our mouths. It definitely was not the news anyone was expecting!
That night we went home and tried to keep things normal for the kids. We ate dinner (well I couldn’t) and did the normal bedtime routine.
For the past couple of years each night I sing “Goodnight sweetheart” to my girls before they go to sleep, tonight the words meant so much more, and it was through tears that I sang “… I hate to leave you, but I really must go. So, goodnight sweetheart, goodnight.”
The next day I woke up and unfortunately it wasn’t all a bad dream… I have Stage IV lung cancer! I couldn’t imagine the thought of sending the girls to school today, I decided to spend a fun day with them at the Enchanted Maze in Ashcombe. I never wanted to let them go, how can they go to school ever again and not be with me? I needed every precious moment with them. Every minute apart is a time I’ll never have with them. I just want to enjoy every moment I have left with them. I guess they knew something was up but they enjoyed their time with us too.
Later that day we had our Oncology appointment at Cabrini Brighton. The mere act of walking through a door with signage reading “Oncology Clinics Victoria” for an appointment for ME made no sense. I’m in a waiting room with people in their 80’s or older, that looks sick, I’m young and don’t feel sick, I don’t belong here.
We met with Professor Gary Richardson from Oncology Clinics Victoria, he is a very well-regarded Oncologist and seems really positive. He did say that unfortunately, lung cancer is not curable, but they can treat it. We didn’t talk about prognosis, because to be honest, I don’t want to know. And when I did look up stage IV lung cancer on various cancer websites the story is grim. I was determined this was not going to be me. I’m young and I’m strong, I need to be here for a long time and he needs to make sure that I am. He said that he would arrange for me to get some radiation therapy and have another biopsy to determine the mutation of the cancer so they can treat it appropriately.
Wednesday 21st June. Met with Dr Ian Porter at the Alfred hospital who discussed the results of the PET scan which showed the cancer is widespread, in more places than I previously knew (thoracic spine, lumbar spine, ribs, shoulders, various spots on my pelvis, liver, lymph nodes, chest and lungs) far out it was everywhere, it also explained why I had increased pain in my chest and pelvis. He prescribed pain relief, which I took immediately. I was then mapped for radiation that I would have the following week.
Thursday 22nd of June had my bronchoscopy and mediastinoscopy where they did another biopsy of my lymph nodes. They had to cut through my windpipe to get the biopsy. I stayed overnight in the Cardio/Thoracic ward at Cabrini Malvern and couldn’t wait to get out of there fast enough and home to my family.
The next few days were tough, my voice was croaky and I was sore from the operation, but was keen to get underway and start to fight this thing.
Saturday 24th of June
Despite all of this, there is still so much to be grateful and appreciative for. I am so fortunate to have such loving and supportive family and friends. I had many gorgeous visitors today. My cousins (Jan and Steph) came over with a #kickitsass care pack, which included a Pandora bracelet with a high heel stiletto charm … because if I’m going to kick this cancers ass (which I will) it will be in a rhinestone encrusted stiletto!!! This made me smile and reminded me that I’m strong and I will kick its ass
Tuesday 27th of June
I had my first round of radiation therapy! Huge day!! It was the first time the cancer was being treated. Sean wrote a paragraph on Instagram a few days ago:
“It’s like I feel it in my body too
That’s how close I’m with you
So that’s means now it has to conquer me and you to get through
Good luck with that pussycat
We’re lions in this pet zoo
We’ll sneeze you out like we were never sick
No time for tissues #lions“
I love it and I believe it…this cancer doesn’t know who it’s messing with.
Then at my radiation appointment, to my absolute astonishment just as I got my first zap of radiation on my chest, the volume on the music in the room is pumped up and I hear: “Louder than a lion, and you’re gonna hear me roar” by Katy Perry, I smiled and I took this as a sign that I’m going to beat this and now “lion” as well as the “high heel stiletto… To kick its ass” have become symbols of this cancer!
Thursday 29th of June
WOW!!! The pain has been kicked up a few notches!! Really feeling it where I had the radiation therapy. Thank goodness for pain meds!
Today was the day that we had the tough conversation with the girls. Up until this point they knew I was sick and I had back pain, but today we told the girls that the doctors did know what was wrong with Mummy and that it is cancer. It is a conversation no parent should ever have to have with their young kiddies. I told them that I’m ok and that I’m strong and I’m not going anywhere.
Kiara asked if I was going to die soon? And would I be here when they were older? My heart sank, I had to hold it together because honestly, I don’t know how long I have, but I needed to reassure them that I would be here for a long time. Tahlia said she knew it was cancer (she’s a clever cookie) and wanted to know what type of cancer it is? She asked holding back tears. My poor dolls I hated having to tell them this and to see them hurting.
They are scared. I am scared. I didn’t want this for them. It’s so unfair. They should not have to deal with this. They should be certain that I’ll be there always. It was the toughest conversation we’ve ever had and my heart breaks to have to tell them this. My poor babies, I feel sorry that they have to endure this, that they will see their Mummy sick. I feel sad that their lives will never be the same.
Thursday 5th of July
Today I had my first treatment of Zometa intravenous at Brighton Cabrini, Oncology treatment rooms alongside people receiving chemotherapy. Zometa is a bone strengthening intravenous drug that I will need to have every 3-4weeks for the rest of my life. This drug helps bind the holes in my bones caused by the cancer and help prevent bone fractures. It has many side effects which I hope I don’t get. I was also given a chemotherapy card with my name on it, which I will need to present at each treatment as well information on wigs should I be interested, if and when my hair falls out. What is happening? Just a month ago I had back pain… now I’m getting treated for cancer!
Friday 6th of July.
I’m so sore and sick. Unfortunately, I did get some of those side effects from the Zometa. It has made me extremely fatigued, nauseous, sweaty and has caused flu-like symptoms. It has really knocked me around.
Today we also found out that the cancer is EGFR mutation which can be treated with targeted medication. The targeted medication is great, as it is in tablet form that I can take at home. However, it only has an average lifespan of 12 – 18months. We hope and pray it works longer for me before the cancer builds resistance against it and stops working. This is the best possible treatment for this type of cancer, we need it to work for as long as possible so I can be here for as long as possible.
Start of the targeted treatment.
Thursday 13th of July: day 1 of the targeted treatment (Iressa) and I’m excited and nervous at the same time. I can’t wait to start to kill this cancer. It all seems so real now. I’m scared and anxious as I don’t know how the side effects will affect me. I hope they are not too brutal and I can have a decent quality of life to make the most of my time with my loved ones. As well as taking this tablet each day for as long as it works, I will also continue to have radiation therapy and Zometa. There is a long road ahead and I need to be strong. Let’s go!!!
Why are we asking for your help?
This is the hardest thing we’ve ever had to do. Over the years we have raised tens of thousands of dollars for numerous charities (Royal Children’s hospital, Bonnie Babes, etc etc) but it’s so tough being on the receiving end. Kane said it perfectly “I don’t want money I just want you to be well” and that’s the truth, no amount of money is going to cure me of this cancer, no amount of money can take it away. No amount of money is going to take the hurt away from my kiddies. What it can do is provide us with time. Moreover, Kane’s contract was terminated early on the 9th of July after handing all his work over to colleagues, so that he could take care of me and our little family. He is a contractor, that means no payout. He can get a job and will do, but struggles with the idea of going to work and leaving me (every day, every hour, every minute is precious) he just wants to be with me. He wants to be there for me and our girls. They don’t deserve this. This is not the life we wanted for them. They are so young and they shouldn’t have to deal with this. They just need their mum to be there for them.
We had so many plans this year. We were weeks away from signing on the dotted line to build a new house, I was in the process of looking to returning to the workforce and we had planned and booked a trip of a lifetime to New York for a friend’s wedding. All this can no longer happen. Our lives have been turned upside down in an instant.
Your generous donations will buy us time, time to spend together as a family before Kane needs to return to work. It will help pay for the numerous doctors’ visits, dietician and physiotherapist appointments, hospital stays, radiation, Zometa treatments, targeted medications, alternative therapies and possible overseas travel (if required) to acquire the best available treatments, clinical trials and Oncologists. It will also help cover day to day costs while Kane is off work.
Also above all, instead of going to New York which would be too taxing on me physically (I’m not up for bar hopping and late nights), we would love nothing more than to be able to take our girls on a SURPRISE trip to Disneyland!!! It has been a lifelong dream of mine to go and I’d love to be able to take them while I’m at my best. I just want to make the most of my time with my family while I’m able to. This would be a dream come true and a memory I hope the girls will be able to look back on fondly in years to come. I’d love to SURPRISE them with this!
Where to from here?
The road ahead is long and uncertain. I am realistic and I know what Stage IV lung cancer means, but I am also strong, hopeful and positive that I will fight to be here as long as I can. I know that I am going to get sick, really sick and that I need to make the most of the time that I feel well and have the energy to spend with my kids. I know that there are times where I will need to be hospitalized and not have the luxury of being treated at home. I know that things are going to get tough but I am hoping for advances in medical science, that they find better treatments or even a cure for this disease. I have too many reasons to be here and to live, I’ll never give up! I have an amazing husband behind me, who wrote… ”I admire you so much, my gorgeous bride. You are such a powerful woman, I can see the resolve in your eyes, the fearlessness of your enemy. The lioness will protect her cubs and fight for her pride, not knowing the limits of pain or contemplating defeat. She knows no other option. You are full of courage, grace and dignity.
I will sacrifice anything to keep you strong, to keep you here. I love you, our girls love you. We need you so much. We must fight beside you and keep our story going. We need to keep fighting, keep winning battles, keep winning the war.
Every minute I spend with you I want to take you in my arms, I don’t want to be apart from you. I just want us together forever, you, our girls and me, just being our happy little family, making memories, treasuring the joys of life together. Never give up. ”
Please feel free to ask any questions you may have and please share this post with anyone you feel may be interested. Thank you all for taking the time to read this and for all the love and support we’ve already received. This journey would be so much tougher without all of you. We love you all, we are so grateful for you and are humbled and are truly overwhelmed with everyone’s willingness to help and be there for us. Thank you!