A 30-year-old mother issued a death sentence after her heartburn turned out to be stage 4 bowel cancer like Bowelbabe Dame Deborah James is fundraising for £2k-a-month treatment that could buy her time to see her two children grow up “even just a little”.
When “fit and healthy” catering assistant Amie Walton suddenly felt a shooting pain in both shoulders in September 2020, she dismissed it as fatigue from playing with son Harry, eight, and daughter Mia, six.
But just 12 hours after arriving at Good Hope Hospital in Sutton Coldfield, Birmingham, where she lives with her fiancé, escalator engineer Chris Mills, 43, she was given the heart-breaking news that she had cancer which had spread to her liver and, despite braving eight rounds of chemotherapy, is now terminal.
Amie, who also has more than 100 tumours in her lungs, is now desperate to raise enough money to fund palliative chemo to prolong her life, adding: “I want to spend more time with my kids. I’ve learned to treasure everything, even just sitting in the living room with my family.”
She added: “Christmases, birthdays. I always have to question if it’s going to be my last one.
“I do everything to make sure my kids never see me cry. But when I do, it’s like they know because they’ll come and find me.
“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. It’s not fair on them. They shouldn’t have seen what they have seen.”
She added: “I don’t want to die. I want to be here for all their milestones.
“Whenever I hold my children, I feel so proud of them, I just want to cry.”
Palliative treatment is typically used to improve quality of life when no cure is available and Amie said having palliative chemo would prove to her little ones what she is always telling them that, “Mummy will never give up.”
I say I’ll keep fighting, 'Mummy will never give up.'
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She said: “Seeing me so unwell is tough. I’m only 30. I’m usually running around in the park with them and now I can’t even move out of bed.”
“I told them I’m ill, and I told them I go to hospital because of the nasty medicine, but it will help me.
“I’m just trying to be positive, as much as I can be.
“I say I’ll keep fighting, ‘Mummy will never give up.'”
Amie had never had any health issues before September 2020, when she began to suffer from heartburn, although she thought little of it at first.
But, after speaking to her GP, who suspected she could have a blood clot, she was rushed to hospital for tests.
Her momentary relief when she was told there was no clot quickly became a nightmare, 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.
She said: “I didn’t expect anything, I wasn’t worried at all when I went into hospital. Nothing clicked. No one in my family has ever had cancer.”
She added: “When I was diagnosed with stage 4, I just went completely blank. I was so distraught. It all happened so quickly.”
Her condition was so serious that within a week, Amie 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.
But 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 per cent of her liver.
Amie, who had six tumours on the left side of her liver and 15 on the right, said: “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.”
She added: “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, Amie had surgery at Birmingham’s Queen Elizabeth Hospital, which shrank her tumours by 90 per cent – reducing them from the size of oranges to that of grapes.
But, sadly, after the five-hour procedure, they found two more tumours in the liver and Amie was once again forced to have three additional months of chemotherapy in June 2021, in a desperate bid to save her life.
She added: “It broke my heart, but I still clung on to hope.”
In November, Amie 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.
Costing £35k privately and not available to her on the NHS, her best friend corporate security worker Jess Davies, 30, launched a fundraising drive which reached £50k in just eight days and gave her a fighting chance.
She said: “It’s been a proper emotional rollercoaster.”
She added: “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.”
In December, Amie’s partner of nine years Chris proposed, but she wants to get married to the love of her life on her own terms.
She said: “My partner proposed last Christmas, but in my mind it feels like it’s final and we’re getting married because I’m dying, which scares me.
“I want to do it on my own terms.”
While Amie was recovering from the treatment in March this year, she was dealt another cruel blow, as her hopes of having a liver resection – the removal of part of the liver during an operation – were crushed when tests revealed she had more than 50 tumours in each lung.
This has all happened from a tiny tumour in my bowel. It caused all of this.
Amie, who also battled deadly sepsis – a life threatening reaction to infection – last month, said: “This has all happened from a tiny tumour in my bowel. It caused all of this.
“And now there are too many to operate.
“I just wanted to curl into a ball. It feels like I’m living in a nightmare and I want to wake up.”
Amie still can’t believe what she has been forced to endure in the past 18 months.
She had no idea what bowel cancer really was until she followed Deborah James’ story on social media.
She said: “The unit where I receive treatment in the hospital is next to where the babies are and I always say that’s where I should be, not on the cancer ward.
“This has just been surreal. I can’t believe it at times, I’m so young.
“Especially the days I don’t feel so bad.”
She added: “I just don’t really understand how I have cancer.
“Even nurses have cried when they’ve seen me and they see the most horrible things every day.
“I’m a young mum with young children. I shouldn’t be in and out of hospital wondering how long I have left.”
But Amie 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.”
It has been heart-breaking for Chris to watch the woman he loves go through hell, but he is extremely proud of the dignity with which she has faced such devastating news.
He said: “I feel really numb. I even had to spend time in hospital, as I was vomiting because of all of the stress.
“We had options before, but now they’re running out.
“Our oncologist started talking to us about wills, which was just something I didn’t think we would ever be talking about.”
He added: “But I’m so proud of Amie. She’s been incredible, after going through the most horrendous time and does everything she can for our children.”
You can donate to Amie’s fundraiser here: https://www.gofundme.com/f/prolong-amies-life?