The thought of not being around to raise your children is terrifying for parents who have just been diagnosed with a deadly disease. The only thing worse for a parent is finding out that their child is the one who is gravely ill.
In 2016, a mother of two found out she had a rare disease and that she would have to fight to stay alive if she wanted to be there to see her kids grow up. She thought that moment was the worst moment of her life until everything changed…
A Time Of Change
Pregnancy and the postpartum period is a time of great change for a mother’s body. During those months, many women experience changes in their bodies that they have never experienced before, and those changes become the new normal for a while.
An Expecting Couple
After becoming pregnant for the first time in her life, Vici Rigby was thrilled that she and her husband Jamie were about to become parents and start a new chapter in their lives together. The pregnancy brought on countless changes to Rigby’s body and not all of them were pleasant.
An Unpleasant Problem
Around the same time as the pregnancy, Rigby noticed she started having bowel issues. She had never experienced those issues before and heard that it can be fairly common for pregnant women to experience issues going to the bathroom. For those reasons, Rigby just assumed the bowel problems she started to experience were because of her pregnancy. After giving birth to her first son, George, Rigby explained that the bowel issues persisted. However, they never did. In fact, over the years, they only got worse.
The Second Pregnancy
“I’d had bowel problems for years,” Rigby told The Sun about her unpleasant pregnancy side-effect. Less than two years later, Rigby became pregnant for the second time and gave birth to another son, Jack. During that pregnancy, she continued to have trouble going to the bathroom and passing bowel movements.
A Pregnancy Symptom
“I’d bleed when I went to the loo but I didn’t think much of it,” said Rigby, who believed she had developed ‘piles’ or hemorrhoids. “Jack had been a big baby – 9lb 4oz – so when I started to bleed I wondered if it was piles a result of my pregnancies.”
The Symptoms Worsen
After that second pregnancy and birth, Rigby’s bowel problems progressively worsened. She also started feeling extremely exhausted more often than not, and tired way more quickly than she did in the past. In general, Rigby explained she just didn’t feel great.
‘Normal’ Postpartum Symptoms
At the time, Rigby thought it was all because of the pregnancies and raising two young boys. She figured all new moms felt the way she did and that it was normal. “I had a 14-month-old, Jack, and a three-year-old, George, so I thought I was just run down and exhausted,” Rigby explained.
A New Symptom
Then Rigby started experiencing a new symptom. The mother of two from England started losing weight, which she was happy about and thought it meant she was getting healthier. I was doing Slimming World, so I was delighted to be losing a pound or two a week,” Rigby said.
A Welcomed Change
“I thought it must be because of that and the fact that I was so busy with the children and working part-time,” the mom said. “I remember saying to my husband, Jamie (now 41), ‘It’s working!’” But over time, Rigby started to worry that something wasn’t right.
Too Painful To Ignore
As all of the symptoms continued to get worse, Rigby began thinking that what she was experiencing wasn’t normal postpartum changes. The bowel issues were worse than ever and she felt more run down than she ever had. “I couldn’t avoid the symptoms anymore,” she said.
The Initial Tests
“So I visited my GP who, suspecting I had polyps which are abnormal tissue growths referred me to hospital in Worcestershire,” Rigby explained. “There I had scans and an examination.” Doctors were worried when they heard Rigby explain her symptoms and ordered a biopsy.
The Truth Is Revealed
That test revealed the real reason why Rigby had felt so unwell over the previous years. After the results came back, doctors told Rigby that she had rectal cancer, which they told her was extremely rare for anyone under the age of 60 years old.
A Shocking Diagnosis
Rigby was completely shocked. She knew she hadn’t been feeling her best, but she never thought at any moment that it was because she had cancer. “When the doctors sat me down and said to me, ‘You have cancer’, I was shell-shocked. I didn’t actually cry or get emotional. I just went into shock – pure shock,” Rigby said.
‘Anything But Cancer’
“I thought it was anything but cancer,” Rigby said. “Even when I was losing weight, which I now know is a symptom of cancer, I wasn’t concerned – on the contrary, I was pleased!” Because of how long Rigby had been experiencing her symptoms, doctors decided to run some more tests.
The Treatment Begins
They wanted to check if the cancer had spread to other areas of the body. Unfortunately, their fears were confirmed when the results came back. According to Rigby, her doctors explained that the cancer cells had spread to her liver and that they wanted to start treatment right away.
Fighting For Her Life
During the fall of 2016, Rigby started six rounds of chemotherapy and then had surgery on both her liver and her bowel. After that, doctors started her on a course of radiotherapy and 12 more rounds of chemotherapy to kill the cancer cells. “It was grueling. During the chemotherapy, I was exhausted. My hair thinned so much I opted to shave it,” Rigby said.
Five Months Later
Rigby and her husband tried to keep everything cancer-related a secret from their kids. Yet at the beginning of 2017, just five months after Rigby was diagnosed, their 3-year-old son George started feeling sick. When she and Jamie noticed a rash on George’s stomach, they brought him straight to the doctor. “We took him to the GP again who immediately referred him to hospital for blood tests. From there things moved very quickly,” Rigby said.
At the Worcester Royal Hospital, the couple found out that George had acute lymphoblastic leukemia. “It was like Groundhog Day. Five months earlier I had been sat in a virtually identical room hearing the same devastating news – ‘It’s cancer.’ All I could think was, ‘Not again, not again.’”
Fighting Cancer Together
Because of how aggressive the type of cancer is, George started chemotherapy immediately. “George had six months of quite intensive chemotherapy at hospital and home, while I underwent radiotherapy. We were actually treated in the same hospital in Worcester at points.”
The Fight Continues
“He dealt with it all so bravely but it was still heartbreaking to see him go through it,” Rigby said. Now, Rigby has finished treatment and is officially cancer-free. George is in remission but will continue with treatment until 2020 to make sure the disease doesn’t return. “It’s amazing that we’ve both got through this,” she added. “I thought it was the worst news ever when I had cancer. But actually, the worst was yet to come and hearing my baby had the disease was so much worse.”