Sandy Adams – A Beautiful Life

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The year was 2011. I was living the dream, married to the most beautiful, wonderful, caring person in the World. She was my soul mate and we had been married for 29 years. Every day of my life was incredible and even if I didn’t tell her every day I knew in my heart and I am sure she knew. I know that she felt the same way. We had two wonderful daughters, Rebecca who was working at Cockatoo Island as an Environment Adviser and Samantha who was doing her ‘Prac’ in her final year of University training as a Primary School Teacher. Sandy worked as the Business Manager at Comet Bay Primary School and loved her job. She was very good at it as she had a caring, nurturing nature that fitted perfectly in the school environment. She had never been sick a day in her life and was very fit and healthy. She never smoked and was very conscious of what she ate and drank; making sure that what we always had was good for us as well whether we liked it or not.

I had been away fishing with a few mates to Coral Bay and I phoned home one day and she said that she was getting funny flashes in front of her eyes. She had been to the doctor and he had referred her to an ophthalmologist as they thought she may have had a detached retina. I was worried and drove for 14 hours to get home in time to take her to the appointment. We went to the specialist and he checked her out and said that she didn’t have a detached retina. We were relieved and left the surgery not knowing what it was that was causing the symptoms. The Doctor never referred her for more tests and didn’t seem at all concerned so we didn’t think too much more about it.

In August 2011 we went to Bali for a holiday with our very best friends and had a fantastic time although Sandy was getting bad headaches. We thought that she had a bad dose of sinus and we got some medication from the local chemist but it didn’t seem to be helping. Despite her bad headaches Sandy did everything. We went on a 40k mountain bike ride and she stood in the tower of a ride at Waterbom Park that dropped you straight down a 30metre water slide. She got in and out a few times and although she wanted to do it chickened out at the last minute and walked back down the ladder. She was such a strong personality who wasn’t afraid to try anything and was always having fun.

She was the strength of our family and raised the girls the way she had been raised to be loving and caring. She was always the first to hold up her hand to help out anyone in need. We came home from Bali and she was still getting the bad headaches so she went to the local doctor. He confirmed that she had a bad dose of sinus and gave her some medication to dry it up. She was feeling bad but got up the next morning to go to work. She got there but was sent home soon after as she was in a terrible state with bad headaches. I phoned to see how she was and found out that she had come home. This was very unusual and I was concerned so I left work and came home. I got home to find her in bed with a terrible headache so I drove her up to the local hospital emergency department. The triage nurse checked her out and said that we would have a 5 hour wait to see a doctor and suggested we go to the local GP clinic. We went and waited several hours to see a doctor who told us that she had a bad dose of sinus and told her to just keep taking the medication that she had been given. We went home and overnight the pain got worse. By the morning she was in terrible pain and was vomiting. I realized that this was a lot more serious than a bad dose of sinus so took her to Murdoch Private Hospital. She was in terrible pain and vomiting all the way to the hospital. The triage nurse also must have realized how serious it was as she rushed her through in front of everyone to see the Doctor. They sent her straight in for a CT scan and we waited in the emergency for the results.

Damn how I wish it was a bad dose of sinus or even a detached retina. The Doctor came back and told us that they had found a Brain Tumour and they needed to operate straight away. I don’t think it sunk in with me. I was just numb. My brother had died from a Brain Tumour a few years before so I did know what it meant. I just couldn’t imagine that anything like this would strike our family again. The only thing Sandy said was how are we going to tell the girls. I phoned Sam who was working at a school close to the hospital and told her that mum wasn’t well and she needed to come to the hospital. I phone Rebecca who was at work at Cockatoo Island and told her that her mum was in hospital and they had found a lump in her head and she needed to come home. It sounded stupid but Sandy didn’t want me to tell her that they had found a Brain Tumour because she didn’t want her to worry. They put her on steroids to reduce the pressure and the neurosurgeon came in and made arrangements to open the operating theatre on the Saturday morning. They don’t normally operate on a Saturday but he said that this was urgent and it needed to come out. At that stage we were still hopeful and positive that it would be benign. A friend of ours had just had a similar thing and his was benign and they removed it without any problems. Sandy was so healthy and strong and I was sure that she would get through this. This wasn’t real and it seemed to me that it was someone else’s life as these things didn’t happen to us.

I slept at the hospital for the next two nights whilst waiting for surgery and we were so positive that everything was going to be okay. The day of her operation came around quickly and it was the longest day of my life. The surgeon phoned me after the operation and told me that the operation had been a success. He said that the tumour was sitting above the lining of the brain and he was fairly confident that he had got it all. He said that he needed to send it off to identify what type of tumour it was but said that it didn’t look good. He told me that he thought that it was a malignant tumour and when I asked him what that meant he said take her home and get her affairs in order. He said that the tumour would come back and he thought she had about six months.

After the girls picked me up off the floor and after pulling ourselves together we made an agreement that this was not going to happen to her and that we would do whatever it took to make sure she would get through this. We made an agreement that we would go into the room absolutely positive and we would do whatever we could to beat this. At that stage nothing had been confirmed and not knowing too much about these things we were holding onto the hope that he was wrong and that the tumour was benign. We walked into the recovery room and the first thing Sandy said was, ‘How did the Eagles go?’ The second thing she said was, ‘How many goals did Mark kick?’ You may have guessed that she was a mad Eagles fan and loved Mark LeCras. She had pulled through the operation without any side effects and we remained absolutely positive that she would beat this. Even when the results came back that it was a GBM grade 4 we remained absolutely positive and committed to beating this.

She commenced chemo and radiation and took everything that was thrown at her in her stride with just one goal in mind, get through the treatment so she could go back to work. She started back at work at the start of the New Year in 2012. She loved every minute of being back at work and was just so positive that she would beat this thing. She would take her chemo every morning before getting up and going to work. She never complained once, even through the pain of the terrible headaches, the surgery, the radiation and chemo. Not once did she complain. She was just so positive and focused on beating this. I was too afraid to look at anything on the internet although I knew only too well what the prognosis was. We were all just so positive that we would beat this and that she could hold out long enough for a cure.

We went back every three months for another MRI and each time it came back clear. It was the worst time in the lead up to getting the results. It was terrifying and I would be in a state of shear panic by the time we got to the appointment, although I tried to keep that to myself. Then in 2013 we got some bad news. The tumour had returned. It was a shock but she sucked it up and remained positive. Her comment when she found out was okay what next. Our Oncologist said that we could try a new drug called Avastin but it was expensive and we would have to pay for the first 4 treatments ourselves as it wasn’t covered by our health benefits. No question, I would sell the house if I had too. That’s when you find out the generosity of people and those good people that work for the Police Family. The cost of the treatment was covered without a question. We remained totally positive and Sandy was doing everything that she could to assist with making sure her treatment was working. No sugar, no alcohol and eating healthy. Our shopping trolley was only ever full of green leafy vegetables and no processed foods. She took a traditional Aboriginal medicine that a friend of ours made up for her which was supposed to have cancer fighting properties. She called it her mud and although it tasted terrible she took it every day just in case it worked. She was the strongest most positive person that I will ever know and through the whole experience she never once complained. She continued to work taking just half a day off every two weeks to get her injection of Avastin and it was working. The tumour had shrunk. This helped cement our positive thoughts and the idea that we would beat this no matter what we had to do.

She was so proud of our two girls and especially loved having Sam commence working at Comet Bay Primary School as a teacher. They would spend every night going through the events of the day and laughing when I complained. She was so happy when Rebecca’s boyfriend asked us if he could marry our daughter. She was so looking forward to the wedding and was looking forward to being a grandma. She was flat out helping planning the engagement party and making plans for the wedding. She wanted to break with tradition and walk her daughter down the aisle with me. She was so happy and excited and if you didn’t know it you wouldn’t have known that she was sick. She was so focused on beating this that whatever we were told she would have a plan for the next step. Even when we went in and were told that the tumour had spread and was now inoperable she was focused on winning. She said that she wasn’t going anywhere as she had too many things to do. She helped and comforted a friend who died from breast cancer and walked 12k in the run for a reason for another friend who was also suffering from a Brain Tumour only a week after getting the news that her tumour had come back. She walked for 24 hours in the Relay for Life and was wrapped that we won the best decorated tent site and raised a lot of money for the Cancer Council. Her whole life was devoted to helping people and usually dragged me along to help out in some way. She had two friends die from motor neuron disease and did a lot of fund raising to help out and supported them both and their families throughout.

We went back for another round of radiation treatment and this one seemed to knock her around badly. She was struggling to stay awake and got to the stage that she couldn’t walk unaided. It had only been three weeks and she went downhill very quickly. We were sure that it was the swelling from the radiation that was causing the symptoms and the Doctors thought so too. I was offered a redundancy from my work and that was the first time that Sandy had considered retirement and not going back to work. The plan was that she would get through the radiation clear her sick leave and then retire from the job that she loved so much. We had worked out that with the redundancy we could afford to do it and we would just concentrate on her beating this damn thing. That was a few days before her last radiation treatment and she was then due to commence Avastin again.

We were sitting in the lounge getting ready to go for her injections and she had a mild seizure. I saw it and all she said was, ‘I’m Okay.’ That was what she would always say to me when I asked her how she was going. Never once did she complain no matter how bad things got. I called an ambulance and they took her to the hospital. We were all still sure that it was the swelling from the radiation that was causing her symptoms but how wrong we were. After a few days in hospital they decided to do another MRI to see what was going on and that is when we were given the devastating news that the tumour had spread down her spinal cord and it was that which was causing the symptoms. Sandy was in a lot of pain and had been for a few weeks so was quite heavily medicated.

Friends of Sandy’s were doing a fund raiser for the Cancer Council by shaving their heads and Sandy insisted on being let out of hospital for the afternoon so she could go. She was in enormous pain but refused to remain in the hospital. We bundled her into a wheel chair and drove her down to the function. There were hundreds present and as she got out of the car she was overwhelmed that these people had all turned out for her. She was so special to so many people and she didn’t understand why. When we got back to the hospital they told us that she needed to go to the hospice so they could get her medication right. At that point I was in total denial of what was happening and told the Doctors that they needed to get her medication sorted out quickly as she was coming home. That’s when they told me that she wasn’t going to be able to go home. I said that’s not what’s happening. That’s not what I want and not what Sandy wants. I told them in no uncertain terms that they needed to sort her medication out as she was coming home. The Doctor said okay we’ll see what we can do.

We had a couple of days at the hospice when Sandy was quite alert. We had fun watching the Sound of Music which she had always said that Fraser (Rebecca’s Fiancé) had to do before he was allowed to marry her daughter. He did it and at the end she turned to him and said, ‘Okay now you can marry my daughter.’ That afternoon she was going to have a shower and had a massive seizure. She only regained consciousness a couple of times after that and the last thing she said to me was I love you too. We had the opportunity to tell her how much we all loved her and say goodbye but it is so unreal. She died exactly 2 years after her operation and it has been 8 months since she has been gone.

My redundancy came through but it is bitter sweet as she is not here to share it with me. I miss her every minute of every day and she is never out of my mind. I think of all the plans that we had and how hard she worked all her life for our future together and she was robbed of this. She was only 55 when she passed away and she had so much life to live and so many things to look forward to. She deserved a cure. Her family deserved to have their mum. Her grandchildren deserved to know her. She was a fantastic mum and would have made the best grandmother and she deserved to experience these things. She is my soul mate and I will always love her and will never recover from what we have been through.

Brain Cancer is devastating not only to the person who is suffering from it but the families that have to endure the loss. It is wrong and we need a cure now so no more families have to suffer what we have been through.