Tracey and Shaun's story
Tracey lives in Blackwood with her husband Shaun, and two children, Connor and Maddie. When Shaun was diagnosed with Mantel Cell Lymphoma in 2014 and Melanoma in 2018, they received support through our Cancer Support Advisors and our free Support Line. They're now fundraisers, and the whole family are getting involved.
This is Tracey and Shaun's story:
“In March 2014 Shaun noticed a lump in his neck and was told that it was an abscess. Our doctor provided antibiotics for a possible infection but it was our dentist that suggested it was something more serious. An X-ray showed nothing but a few weeks later another lump appeared. By the end of June, Shaun had four lumps around his head and neck. Shaun was diagnosed with Mantle Cell Lymphoma.
As well as his head and neck, Shaun had tumours appearing in his groin and spleen.
It all happened so quickly and was particularly dreadful because the tumours in his throat were making it difficult for him to eat anything. He lost a significant amount of weight; about three stone in all.
Shaun had a bone marrow transplant followed by gene therapy in 2015. We were told that despite having other treatment, if he didn’t have the transplant his cancer would return within six months. There was also a chance that Shaun would get several other types of cancer from his chemotherapy and radiotherapy treatment but he needed to have it to put his cancer into remission. There were days where Shaun couldn’t walk; he’d climb the stairs on his hands and knees. He was just exhausted and collapsed during his third session of chemotherapy treatment.
Shaun spent a month in isolation at the Heath Hospital for the transplant. We’ve been together since we were teenagers. I felt more worried without him at home and I phoned Tenovus Cancer Cares Support Line all the time to ask questions about his treatment.
Following the bone marrow transplant and chemotherapy treatment Shaun went for regular follow-up appointments. In March 2018 we had an appointment at Tenovus Cancer Care’s Mobile Support Unit in Nantgarw. The nurse was the same one he had been seeing throughout his transplant. She was concerned about two moles that had appeared on his arms that had been itching and discoloured. Within two weeks he was having surgery to remove them and they were later confirmed as Melanoma.
I phoned the Support Line again when Shaun had his moles removed because I was so worried that his original cancer had spread. A lovely lady put my mind at ease by telling me what to expect. It’s wonderful to have someone to talk to; doctors and nurses just don’t have the time and I can’t talk to Shaun about it because he gets upset. I feel ill if I bottle things up where my husband likes to bury his head in the sand. The service is excellent and helped me when I was feeling most lost.
During and after his treatment there was a one and a half year period where Shaun couldn’t work. Shaun had been a welder and I was working part time at the local school. We went from having a good income and living quite comfortably to living on just £70 a week with two children. We spent all of our savings; it was a really crippling thing to go through. Tenovus Cancer Care helped us financially too. On two visits for treatment we spoke with a member of their team at the Royal Gwent Hospital in Newport. She showed us what we could claim and that was a big help. I could access tax credits, ESA and had information on reducing our energy bills with the providers.
We love to walk and we’re both members of our local walking club; it’s great therapy.
Shaun enjoys running; he, my daughter and son go at least twice a week. Shaun, myself and our daughter ran the Cardiff 10K for the first time to raise money for Tenovus Cancer Care in 2017. I’d only ever run 5K before that but thought to myself that if Shaun could do it after all that he’d been through then I can do it too. It was great fun and this year the whole family and several of our friends are taking part to raise money for the charity.
We want to raise money for Tenovus Cancer Care to say thank you. I want to thank them for keeping me sane; without their advice and support I’d have really struggled. We’ve set up a just giving page and had donations from our neighbours, friends and work colleagues. Family life has totally changed; Shaun isn’t as confident as he used to be and he gets paranoid about going out in the sun or becoming unwell, but I don’t care because we’ve still got him. He’s my hero.”
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