A young woman who raced out of her hospital bed after colon cancer surgery to see her mother slip off an incurable brain tumor is now bravely using her own experiences to address the stigma of living with a stoma.
Laila Hudson’s family was already wavering from the terrible news that her mother Ros, 64, had glioblastoma – the most aggressive form of brain tumor – when she suffered excruciating abdominal pain that resulted in cancer being found first on her left ovary and then on their bowels.
28-year-old Laila, a clinical support worker in speech and language therapy, had just retired from Glasgow to be with her parents in a village outside Inverness in the Scottish Highlands in March 2020. also.
And when the first ban on Covid-19 was put in place, Laila’s father, the potter Robert, 69, and brothers George, 32, a lawyer, and Charlie, 26, a cook, were very concerned about both women.
She said, “Mom was told she would live weeks or months and I moved back there to look after her.
“But I had this pain in my stomach and wondered if it could be the emotional stress.”
She continued, “The doctors thought it might be a urinary tract infection or irritable bowel syndrome, and tried different drugs.
“It just got worse and worse, until I felt like I had a bowling ball in my stomach.”
When she saw a doctor in May 2020, he immediately felt the mass in her stomach and referred her to Raigmore Hospital in Inverness for further examination.
She was worried about herself, but tried to focus her energies on caring for her mother, a great lover of nature who was particularly fond of horses. She was horrified when an emergency ultrasound discovered a “really quite humorous mass” on her left ovary just a day later.
Held in the hospital overnight before having surgery the next morning, the doctors removed a 20 x 20 x 19 cm tumor that had compressed everything around it, along with her left ovary and fallopian tube and appendix.
She said, “It was so massive it crushed all of my organs.”
Back at her parents’ home after recovering from major surgery, there was little she could do to help her increasingly frail mother.
When the mass was a very slow growing growth known as a semi-malignant or borderline ovarian tumor, doctors also assured Laila that everything had been removed and she needed no further treatment.
Still, her stomach ache persisted.
She said, “It just got worse and worse and I was really pretty desperate. The pain was so severe that I was hospitalized again four weeks after my operation. “
While doctors in and out of the hospital were trying to pinpoint the cause of her pain, at one point they thought her bowel had been compromised because her ovarian tumor had crushed everything around her.
During a CT scan to examine her intestines, the doctors brought the alarming news that they had found another tumor.
“It was on my bowels and they were almost sure it was going to be cancer, but I was on so many pain medications that I barely opened an eyelid,” she said.
“I just wanted the pain to go away.”
Laila had a second operation on June 15 and had most of her colon and lymph nodes removed before she spent five days in the high addiction department.
Laila rushed back to surgery for the third time on June 21st after a scan revealed that her bowel was leaking after the operation: “I felt like slaughtered meat at this point.
“And I was very aware of the time I was wasting in the hospital when I should have been with my mother.”
Tragically, while she was recovering from her surgery, Laila received a call from her mother’s doctor who spread the news that she had turned for the worse.
Luckily driven home by her brother George, she managed in time to say goodbye to Ros, who died on July 3, 2020, just an hour and a half after her daughter’s arrival and 15 weeks after her diagnosis.
“If I miss the last three weeks of your life, I’ll be up at night,” said Laila.
“The last year has been really tough and the worst part of being sick was losing time with my mother.”
Laila continued, “She was an incredibly warm and loving person and the most wonderful mother.
“On the anniversary of her death, we will be spreading her ashes on a beach where she rode her horse, Dougal.”
Unfortunately, when Laila said goodbye to her mother, her own journey was far from over.
It was said that the cancer on her ovary was actually colon cancer that had spread. This meant it was stage four.
After her mother’s funeral on July 13th at the Inverness Crematorium, she returned to Glasgow, where she began chemotherapy at the Beecham Cancer Center in August 2020.
Laila, one of just a few hundred people in their twenties diagnosed with colon cancer every year in the UK, said: “It was a terrible time and I felt like the news was getting worse and worse.”
According to Bowel Cancer UK, only 198 people between the ages of 20 and 29 were diagnosed with the disease from 2015 to 2017.
Then, after eight rounds of chemotherapy, Laila’s scheduled 12 sessions were canceled when she developed an infection in her Hickman line in her chest that caused an abscess in her brain.
She is now doing regular scans to monitor her progress after being officially notified in January 2021 that she had no signs of illness and even returned to work in March.
But one of the worst parts of her ordeal was dealing with her ostomy pouch, which allows her stools and debris to keep her body in a pouch attached to her side.
On the heels of artist Tracey Emin, diagnosed with aggressive bladder cancer in late 2020 and undergoing drastic surgery that she boldly discussed about her own ostomy pouch on BBC Newsnight, she’s now keen to talk about it Addressing the stigma of bearing one.
Installed after her third surgery, Laila said, “On my first colon scan, they warned me that I might have to have one, but it all happened so quickly that I didn’t have time to process it.”
She added, “I was really disgusted when I started.”
Laila had to empty the bag several times a day and change it completely every other day. First, she had to switch her diet – originally high in fiber, fruits and vegetables to boost her immunity – to a low-fiber regime, which she called “standing,” to avoid bag blockage.
Fortunately, she has since managed to reintroduce more fibrous foods in moderation.
She said, “When I got my ostomy, I didn’t want any of my friends to know, and I was really upset when people found out when I got out of the hospital. The first month was really tough and I was determined to undo it.
“I really struggled to accept that this is now part of my body. It’s really important to talk about – and if I had known more about other people who have them, it wouldn’t have been such a big shock.
“But now I’m just thinking, what’s the alternative? I think the more people know about them, the less likely they are to be stigmatized.”
In the meantime, she is determined to raise funds to advance cancer research and help other people in the future avoid the hell she and her family experienced.
She and her roommate Hannah Spreckley, 27, raised £ 4,000 for The Brain Tumor Charity in October 2020 by taking a sponsored 10km walk in honor of Ros.
And as she gets stronger, Laila plans to take on an even bigger challenge to raise funds for Bowel Cancer UK and thank them for their support.
“Reading about other young people with colon cancer on their website really helped me,” she said.
“If sharing my story can only help one other person, it would be amazing.”
Genevieve Edwards, Managing Director of Bowel Cancer UK, said: “Unfortunately, we often hear from younger patients like Laila that they have experienced severe delays in diagnosing colon cancer because of their age. Although the disease is far more common in those over 50, more than 2,500 people under the age of 50 are diagnosed with the disease each year in the UK. “
She continued, “Bowel Cancer UK launched its Never Too Young campaign in 2013 in response to more and more younger colorectal cancer patients being told that they were too young to develop the disease and that it would be diagnosed at a later date harder to deal with.
“Raising awareness of the symptoms of colon cancer is vital as it is treatable and curable, especially if diagnosed early.
“We urge everyone, regardless of their age, to familiarize themselves with the symptoms of colon cancer and to contact their GP as soon as possible if they have bleeding from below, blood in their feces, a persistent and unexplained change the intestinal habits. unexplained weight loss, extreme tiredness for no apparent reason, and pain or lump in the abdomen to give the best possible chance of an early diagnosis. “
Visit Laila’s fundraising page thetwilightwalk.com.