A mother whose trapped wind was later diagnosed as bowel cancer had to break lockdown to share the devastating news to her three children.
Heartbroken Emma Wright, from Wainfleet St Mary, Lincoln, couldn’t bear telling her kids over the phone that she had only 12 months to live.
The 37-year-old had been separated from children Jamie-Leigh, 19, Crystal-Jade, 18 and Boedi-Marc, 15 – as well as two-year-old grandson Lincoln – because of the coronavirus lockdown rules.
But having received the life-changing news, British Heart Foundation assistant manager Emma and husband Chris arranged to meet all the family at her daughter’s house.
It was there she told them she had numerous cancerous tumours in her large intestine, liver and lymph nodes.
Husband Chris, 47, said: “We actually broke the lockdown because we felt that it was something that you can’t do to someone over the phone.
“I said you can’t do that to the kids and tell them something like that and put the phone down. We all met up at my daughter’s house.
“The kids were just devastated. Our youngest daughter Crystal and our son Boe, they are the two that are struggling with it the most.
“I don’t think there has been a day gone by since April 17 that Boe hasn’t cried.”
Emma had initially gone to her GP doubled over in agony with stomach pains on and off for two years and was told she had an iron deficiency, IBS or trapped wind.
But after being rushed to hospital with suspected appendicitis after lockdown, consultants discovered she had numerous cancerous tumours in her large intestine, liver and lymph nodes.
They gave her between six to 12 months to live after diagnosing stage four metastatic bowel cancer.
She was told she could survive for 18 months if she had an operation to remove a large part of her intestine followed by gruelling chemotherapy.
Emma was due to have surgery but on the way to hospital for the operation, she had a meltdown, begging husband Chris to stop the car because she didn’t want to “be sliced in two”.
And after refusing to go under the knife, she has decided to make the most of the time she has left with her family instead of having life-extending chemotherapy.
Emma said: “I don’t want to die and would give anything to be fit and healthy. But doctors have told me I have between six and 12 months to live and that surgery would extend that to 18 months.
“But it would involve cutting me in two from my breastbone to my pelvis, spending two-thirds of that extra time recovering from surgery and then having chemo which would knock me for six.
“I’m only a size eight and just over 5ft – after chemotherapy there would be nothing of me and I wouldn’t be able to do anything.
“I’d rather be well for as long as possible and enjoy every moment I do have left being me rather than a five-stone, bald skeleton who can’t get out of bed and is a burden on my family.
“I don’t want to die – I don’t want to leave Chris or my kids. They are my life, but doctors have said I will be relatively pain-free until the end so I can enjoy my time with everyone rather than be in hospital or a wreck.”
Emma and Chris, who have been together since she was 17 now hope to buy a campervan and travel Britain once lockdown is over.
She said: “We’d always talked about travelling around Europe once we’re old and retired.
“But I don’t have that luxury of time now and so we’d like to explore Britain and see all the beautiful places on our doorstep.
“I’d like to go to Scotland as I’ve always thought that would be beautiful. It’s only been a month since I was told I didn’t have long left and every day in lockdown it’s been nothing but cancer, cancer, cancer.
“I can’t wait to get out of lockdown and start living and enjoying every moment, both with my children and Chris, who is very emotional at the moment.
“I want to see as much of the UK as I can while I’m well enough. This will be our home from home, so I can take all my supplements and everything I need with me.
“I’m trying to be healthy and have given up my favourite bacon rolls and egg and chips for a vegan non-dairy, healthy diet to keep me well for as long as possible. I also have juices so I need to take my juicer with me!”
Emma’s nightmare began when she began having a knife-like pain in her stomach which left her rocking in agony at least twice a week.
She begged her GP for tests and an ultra sound after the pain became worse and more frequent meaning she was missing up to seven days a month off work.
“I never saw the same GP twice and was told it was IBS, trapped wind, acid reflux and an iron deficiency. I took iron tablets but they didn’t make any difference,” she said.
“I became really worried when I noticed I had yellow marks on the whites of both my eyes and the pain was excruciating.”
Tests revealed Emma had polyps on her cervix, which were lasered off in May 2019, but the pain didn’t go – and she spent another year going to see her GP.
Finally, she received an appointment to have a camera put down her throat to see what the problem was for 28 March, 2020 – but it was postponed because of the lockdown.
She explained: “I tried to cope with the pain but it was so bad that I couldn’t move, and had to be carried by Chris to the toilet. Every part of me hurt and I didn’t have any energy. I rolled up in a ball, and couldn’t do anything else but rock.
“Eventually Chris rang 111 and was told to take me to hospital as they suspected I had a ruptured appendix. It was terrifying as everyone was in full PPE because of coronavirus and Chris wasn’t allowed to be with me.”
Chris said: “I was so worried as I’ve watched Emma give birth to our three children and she didn’t have any pain relief so I know she can tolerate a lot.
“But she couldn’t do anything as she was overwhelmed with pain but tried to carry on at home as she didn’t want to be a burden to anyone.’
At Pilgrim Hospital, in Boston, Lincs, Emma underwent tests, and a CT scan where blue dye was injected into her body to show up any abnormalities.
She said: “A specialist came to see me and told me they suspected I had cancer.
“I was all alone and couldn’t take it in. It was horrendous. Afterwards I rang Chris who was crying so much our son thought I had died.
“I was confused and angry. I’d been going to our GP for two years saying I was in pain and now I was being told I probably had cancer. It was too much to take in.”
Further tests showed she had stage four bowel cancer which had already spread to her liver and lymph nodes.
“The specialist had a piece of paper and started putting marks on it where the cancer was and the paper was soon covered with black blobs – it was everywhere,” she said.
“I had eight tumours in my liver. I couldn’t believe it hadn’t been picked up before.”
Medics at the hospital arranged for Emma to have surgery to remove two thirds of her large intestine and possibly give her a stoma if they couldn’t attach it to her small intestine.
“I agreed but on the day, I woke up with a feeling of dread and doom. I didn’t feel right about the operation and kept making excuses to not get in the car, pretending I’d forgotten things.
“On the way there, I broke down saying I couldn’t go through with it. I didn’t want to be even more of a burden after the surgery, and be left with a bag to go to the toilet.
“I wanted to be me right to the end, even if I didn’t have as much time left. So, I told Chris to turn the car round and take me home. He and my children understood but the doctors and nurses weren’t very happy when we said we weren’t coming.”
Emma refused all further treatment and is now treating herself with cannabis oil, alternative therapies, a vegan diet and cold press juices made with vegetables, turmeric, garlic and ginger.
Chris has created a GoFundMe page to raise money for their longed-for campervan so they can explore the country while she is well enough.
“We’ve never had a lot,” said Chris, a maintenance man.
“We got married in July 2003 but couldn’t afford a honeymoon and we renewed our vows in July 2013 at the local pub.
“We’ve been to Spain and Portugal and had always wanted to go around Europe. Now we’d just like to spend time together in an RV, so I’m hoping to buy one of those. Any extra money would be for Emma’s funeral, which is not something I want to think about yet.
“She is incredibly brave, and I can’t imagine life without her, but we want to make happy memories while we’re still together.”
Emma says: “I’m taking every day as it comes and there have been lots of tears but I don’t regret not having the operation and chemotherapy.
“I was relieved when Chris turned the car round and we went home and this is the happiest I’ve been since. I am strong, and am determined to make the most of every moment I have left, living my last days the way I want to.”
To donate to Emma’s fund, click here.