A 26-year-old mum has spoken of her anguish at being diagnosed with terminal cancer, just as she was beginning to settle into life with her little girl.
Kellie Gardner gave birth to Sophia in August 2021 and her family, with fiancee, Port Adelaide AFL star Jeremy Finlayson, was just beginning to blossom.
But three months after Sophia was born, Ms Gardner was diagnosed with bowel cancer.
The mum-of-one has fought bravely against the disease, with gruelling rounds of radiotherapy, chemotherapy and surgery.
And Ms Gardner was dealt another crushing blow earlier this month when doctors told her that the stage four cancer had now spread to her lung.
Ms Gardner, originally from Port Lincoln, told 7Life that she was wracked with “heartbreak and fear”.
“The doctors are doing everything they possibly can to ensure that I’m still here for my wedding in October and, even more importantly, I see my daughter at her own wedding in 20 years time,” she said.
Ms Gardner said she first notice something was wrong when she had pains in her stomach, her bowel movements changed and she lost weight.
Her initial thoughts were that these were just the common side effects of becoming a mum, but when she found blood in her poo, she knew something worse was at play.
She was given a colonoscopy, and her world collapsed when she woke up to life-altering news.
“The doctor spoke a whole heap of medical words I still to this day don’t understand but I sure as hell knew the sentence, ‘This is what cancer looks like’,” she said.
Ms Gardner said it took her time to even comprehend that she could have cancer, as it felt like something someone in their 60s might have – not someone in their mid-20s.
Her first thoughts were about how she didn’t want to leave her fiance as a single dad.
The constant fear and worrying about the future robbed Ms Gardner of her first year with her daughter, she says.
“My first year of motherhood was taken from me so suddenly and so aggressively that I still grieve the days I’ve missed,” she said.
She is still fighting back against her cancer and hopes to shrink or maintain it so she can continue to support her daughter.
Ms Gardner’s friends are raising money for her family. To donate, click here.
Story Credit: foxsports.com.au