A mum whose heartburn turned out to be stage 4 bowel cancer like Dame Deborah James is fundraising for £2K-a-month treatment to buy her time to see her two children grow “even just a little.”
Amie Walton, 30, from Sutton Coldfield, Birmingham had never had any health issues before September 2020, when she began to suffer from heartburn.
While she didn’t think much of it initially, after speaking to her GP, who suspected she could have a blood clot, she was sent to hospital for tests.
The momentary relief when she was told there was no clot was quickly replaced with heartbreak, when medics revealed she had a tumour the size of a pea on the right side of her colon, which had spread to her liver.
“I wasn’t worried at all when I went into hospital,” she says. “No one in my family has ever had cancer.
“When I was diagnosed with stage 4, I just went completely blank. I was so distraught. It all happened so quickly.”
Read more: What is bowel cancer? Signs and and symptoms to be aware of
Her condition was so serious that within a week, Walton was put on aggressive chemotherapy treatment that made her hypersensitive to cold, meaning she could not even touch her children’s hands if they were not warm enough.
Watch: Prince William presents Deborah James with Damehood in a garden ceremony at her home
There was good news in April 2021 when she was told the chemotherapy had been successful and she was eligible for surgery to remove 60% of her liver.
Walton, who had six tumors on the left side of her liver and 15 on the right, says: “I was terrified, I thought I was going to die. I’m so young and I was fit and healthy, so it was a massive shock.
“But the chemo was miraculous. We were told I had a small chance for it to be successful, but it worked.
“My liver went from being like that of an alcoholic to being completely normal.”
In April 2021, Walton had surgery at Birmingham’s Queen Elizabeth Hospital, which shrank her tumours by 90%.
Sadly, however, after the five-hour procedure, doctors found two more tumours in the liver and the catering assistant had to fact the prospect of three additional months of chemotherapy, in a desperate bid to save her life.
“It broke my heart, but I still clung on to hope,” she says.
In November 2021, Walton was told the chemotherapy had not worked and her only option was selective internal radiotherapy treatment (SIRT), where tiny radioactive beads are injected into the artery which supplies the cancer.
Read more: Bowel cancer survivor credits Deborah James with helping her cope with diagnosis
Costing £35K privately and not available to her on the NHS, her best friend Jess Davies, 30, launched a fundraising drive which reached £50K in just eight days and gave Walton a fighting chance.
“It’s been a proper emotional rollercoaster,” she says.
“We’ve gone from bad news to good news, to having hope and then, within the week, having our optimism dashed and crashing back down to earth.
“The SIRT worked almost immediately. It gave me so much hope.
“But it only has a shelf life of about six months.”
Having now been given a terminal diagnosis, Walton, who also has more than 100 tumors in her lungs, is now desperate to raise enough money to fund palliative chemo to prolong her life so she can spend more time with her family, fiancé, Chris Mills , 43, and children Harry, eight, and Mia, six.
“I want to spend more time with my kids,” she adds. “I’ve learned to treasure everything, even just sitting in the living room with my family.
“Having palliative chemotherapy would mean the world to me. I used to be desperate for a cure, but now I just want to keep the cancer at bay and to give myself a few more years.
“As long as I can get more time with my children, even just a little more.”
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Palliative treatment is typically used to improve quality of life when no cure is available and Walton said having palliative chemo would prove to her little ones what she is always telling them that: “mummy will never give up.”
Walton says she didn’t have a huge awareness of bowel cancer until she followed Deborah James’ story on social media.
Despite the difficult circumstances Walton is trying to stay positive and is now determined to do all she can to prolong her life, so she can be a mum to her children for that bit longer.
She said: “All I care about is my children and my fiancé.
“I still want my children to see me as their mum, who was always there for them.
“The toughest days are when I miss important things for them, because I’m ill or having treatment. My daughter had her first play and I wasn’t able to be there, which was really sad.
“These are the moments as a parent when you need to be there, as it’s so important to your children.
“This palliative chemotherapy would mean I could be there for them for longer.”
You can donate to Walton’s fundraiser here: https://www.gofundme.com/f/prolong-amies-life?
Additional reporting PA Real Life.