Jenn Andrews, 34, was having her nails done, when her life changed forever...
Here, Jenn Andrews, 34, tells the story in her own words.
R￼elaxing back in the plush salon chair, I rubbed my pregnant belly. With the pedicurist massaging my swollen feet, I was in momentary bliss.
My husband Miles and I were expecting a baby and I was due in a few weeks. Life felt perfect. But then the woman’s hands stopped kneading the top of my foot and she looked up at me.
‘Did you know you had this?’ she asked, pointing out a pea-sized lump on my right foot. ‘No, that’s weird,’ I replied.
When I left the nail salon, I asked a friend who’s a GP to take a look.
‘It’s probably just a benign cyst,’ he said. ‘Get it checked if it gets any bigger.’
Life was busy after our daughter Hannah arrived, then just a few months later, I fell pregnant again.
As my bump grew, so did the lump. Soon it was the size of a golf ball and I couldn’t wear normal shoes.
After our boy Ari was born, I went to the doctor. Then I was referred to a specialist and a surgeon removed the lump.
Ten days later, I returned to get the stitches removed, with my bubs, then 17 months and three months. It was only supposed to be a check-up, but my doctor had some sinister news. ‘It’s a low-grade myxoid sarcoma,’ he said. Cancer? I thought, my stomach doing a flip.
‘What are my options?’ I asked him. ‘Well, if you don’t ever want to worry about it again, you’ll have to amputate the foot,’ he told me gently.
As he continued, the words blurred and I only heard snippets. Because the lump was in such an awkward place, he couldn’t guarantee that they’d removed all the cancerous cells.
There was a chance that it would never spread – but if it did, it could reach my lungs. However, I couldn’t bear the thought of losing my mobility. I didn’t have to make a decision just yet, but time was ticking.
For the next year, I went in for scans every three months to check that the cancer hadn’t returned.
Almost three years after the pedicurist first spotted the lump, the cancer was back.
This time, it was a thin layer of cancerous cells on the top of my foot. Visiting a specialist for a second opinion, he summed it up bluntly.
‘If you want to be here to watch your kids graduate high school, you need to choose life over your foot,’ he said gravely.
By now, Hannah was four and Ari just three. It’s a no-brainer, I thought. Sitting them down, I explained what was going to happen.
‘Mummy’s foot is really sick and for it to get better, it needs to go away,’ I told them.
The doctor said that eventually I’d get a prosthetic and my brave kids kept asking when Mummy was going to get her ‘superhero foot’.
After the date of my amputation was scheduled for March 12, I felt myself sink into a deep depression. My leg would be amputated below the shin.
Being a health and wellness coach, exercise is such a big part of my life. And I worried about not being able to chase after my kids.
‘Our life will be no different,’ Miles reassured me. ‘Just minus one foot.’
To make myself feel better, I started an online hashtag called #moveforjenn, which encouraged people to get active when I couldn’t.
Amazingly, posts flooded in from all over the world and on the day of the surgery, I felt much calmer.
After two days, I was allowed to go home and a nurse brought over a wheelchair.
‘No, thank you,’ I smiled. ‘I walked in here and I’m going to walk out of here too.’
So, using crutches, I slowly hobbled out, feeling proud of myself. And four weeks later, I had a prosthetic fitted.
My kids were thrilled and immediately started asking when we could go on a walking trail with my new ‘superhero foot’. It will take some time to get used to, but one day soon, I want to be able to run and swim again. For that, I will need a blade and a waterproof prosthetic.
Now, it’s been five months and I’m still experiencing some numbness where the limb used to be. It has been hard, and I sometimes get mad and think ‘why me?’ But I need to be strong for my kids.
I’ve set myself little milestones and by September this year, I want to run a 5k race. Life without my foot won’t stop me from achieving my dreams. I’m lucky I stopped the sarcoma in its tracks before it spread to my lungs.
Now, I am living happily cancer-free. I want others to know they should never wait before seeing a doctor if something seems wrong. Don’t be afraid to get a second opinion and if you are going through something, there is no shame in asking others for help. If it hadn’t been for the pedicurist who first spotted the lump, I might not be here today.
Read more in this week's issue of that's life!, on sale now.