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  • Helping people like Amy navigate the loss of a loved one

    Helping people like Amy navigate the loss of a loved one
    19 October 2018

    For Amy Sampson, not knowing how to offer support was the hardest part of watching her mother suffer through advanced-stage cancer. She called 13 11 20 and spoke to a trained cancer nurse, who helped her navigate the support services available to ease the burden.

    This is Amy’s story…

    When mum was first diagnosed with cholangiocarcinoma (bile duct cancer) back in August of 2016, we knew virtually nothing about the disease—she didn’t ask a lot of questions. All we knew was that it was advanced.

    A few weeks later, she was undergoing the Whipple procedure—an operation which removes the gallbladder, bile duct, and parts of the pancreas and small intestine. It was a success, and we were told that they had got it all. She would be going on six months of chemo as a precaution, just to make sure all of the cancer cells were gone.

    It was really difficult to watch mum deteriorate through her treatment that was meant to be helping her get healthy. At first we had assumed that this was an expected side effect of the drug, but a month after her treatment finished, she was
    still getting sicker. There’s always the niggling thought in the back of your mind that the cancer might have come back, but you tell yourself to stay positive. She eventually went in for tests, and we were faced with the news that the cancer had indeed returned— Stage 4 this time.

    Mum was told that she would have 12 months to live if she had treatment, and only half of that without it. Of course she went for the treatment. It wasn’t long into her course that doctors told us it wasn’t working. At that stage, her best case scenario dropped to just three months. She’d lost so much weight, and it had turned life upside down for all of us.

    It was during this time that I first reached out to Cancer Council SA. I spoke with a nurse about how I didn’t know what to say to mum, and I wanted to be able to help her in any way that I could. I was just finding it really hard to cope, and having
    that support over the phone helped immensely. One of the most valuable takeaways for me were the tips for making the most of these last days together. I found ways to make her smile. I was encouraged to do legacy work, running through the questions that you would ask to write a eulogy.

    It was so special to have those memories, and to hear her express her life story. They gave me pointers on questions that would jog her memory. This was information that I would have otherwise never known. It also helped her to reflect, and
    she even told me, “Amy, I’ve had a pretty good life”. If I hadn’t connected with Cancer Council SA, these are the little things that I would have missed.

    I found ways to make her smile…it was so special to have those memories, and to hear her express her life story.

    I’ve actually since signed up to take part in the Marilyn Jetty Swim—partly to feel like I’m actively doing something to help, and partly to give back to Cancer Council SA for the support I received at such a trying time. Any help that I can give is important, whether it’s funding a cab fare for someone to get to an appointment, or paying for someone to have their house cleaned while they’re going through chemo. When you think about the people on the receiving end of the money, and when you know yourself how much of a difference it makes, it motivates you to work harder.

    Amy Sampson
    Cancer Council SA
    13 11 20 caller

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