Victoria’s Bowel Cancer Journey
Victoria was cared for on our Ward at St Wilfrid’s Hospice in 2022, and her family have kindly and bravely shared her journey story with us.
“Victoria, Vicks, Vicki, Tee Di, Titch, Sticks…”
“She was so much to so many; a boundless force, a bright spark, a beloved wife, sister and daughter, devoted friend, ally – always so generous with her high spirits and mood-lifting humour.
Victoria’s bowel cancer story started in August 2021 when she took herself to A&E with some persistently acute stomach pains. She had felt some irregular stomach grumblings and had lost some weight but at the time they felt like they could easily be explained away by the demands and pressures of life as a social, high-achieving and conscientious woman in her early thirties.
The next 12 months was a tortuous time for Victoria and everyone close to her. After a scan revealed a sizable growth in her lower intestine they operated immediately to remove it. The operation went well, she wasn’t going to need a stoma or colostomy bag.”
“She was then advised to undergo fertility treatment which meant freezing her eggs before starting rounds of chemo, a decision full of emotions and anticipation even in the best scenarios. Once recovered from this procedure she worked hard on her mental and physical health, seeing therapists and a physiotherapist / PT regularly in order to be in the best possible shape for whatever lay ahead.
For the rest of 2021, Victoria made the most of every day. For a few months there was a real rhythm; her chemo treatment was followed by recovery time and then some travelling or special events with loved ones. It seemed at this point like things were stable and her focus and efforts to look after herself physically and psychologically were paying off.”
“However, in December came the blow of her biopsy which confirmed the cancer was a particularly aggressive type – BRAF. This meant continuing her chemo treatment rather than having a break. It wasn’t good news. Then from December to January the cancer markers just kept creeping up, and by early March 2022 a decision was made to bring forward a scan. The scan revealed metastases in her peritoneum and the diagnosis was now terminal.
The remaining months of Victoria’s life were full of love, surprises, trips of a lifetime, a proposal and wedding of her dreams, but also extreme physical pain and deterioration since she became unable to ingest food in the summer of 2022, gaining nutrition only by TPN drip. In this time, she avidly kept up with her newly found online cancer community and was always providing support to her friends.”
“It was Victoria’s wish to spend two weeks in West Wittering with her new husband, mother and two sisters after her wedding. That meant registering with a local hospice in order to receive the necessary pain relief. It turned out Victoria would spend most of these nights at St Wilfrid’s Hospice in Bosham as her pain became worse and her tumour grew.
At St Wilfrid’s Victoria was cared for like she was a saint (and she was) – the doctors and nurses did everything they could to make her and us (her family and friends) comfortable. Every night she had a different family member sleepover with her and we lived in and out of the hospice by her side. Unlike in the hospital system, Victoria felt at ease and comforted. Being close to the beautiful garden of the Hospice and the water at Chichester Harbour where she had grown up was also so very special.
She died surrounded by her loved ones just four weeks after her wedding day on 2nd September 2022 at St Wilfrid’s Hospice.”
“You don’t ever imagine you will take your 33-year-old wife, daughter, younger sister, best friend, or niece to a hospice, and it’s a scenario we wouldn’t wish upon anyone. St Wilfrid’s Hospice was for Victoria, as young as she was, and for her family and friends, a haven – quiet and beautiful, where the care is personalised and full of love.
When you have spent months in and out of hospital waiting for the check-up rounds and kept awake by loud beeping, we found the hospice experience completely different. From a sister’s perspective, I always wanted to delay discussions about the hospice for as long as possible as I knew that meant that it would be the end… The reality is that many benefit from a relationship with hospices like St Wilfrid’s over many years for at-home treatments including like reflexology and counselling alongside their traditional palliative care.”
“It may be a cliché to say, but Victoria’s cancer journey was a real emotional rollercoaster for her and those around her. How she coped and stayed afloat, understanding her prospects, facing it all with strength and being able to adjust and replan her expectations, was truly admirable. She remained positive through it all, kept in close contact with her large circle of friends (connecting us together in order for us to be a tribe of support for her and each other) and laid the foundations for some remarkable fundraising events (The Big Bathe and The Big Sing), which her friends and family picked up alongside her.”
“Fast-forward to today and we are all so proud of Victoria, what she was able to achieve in her brave and short life, and how she faced this remarkably short cancer journey. We have decided to organise another Big Bathe in her honour this year on September 10th.“