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Frome mum told to plan her funeral is now taking part in charity’s ‘Race for Life’

A FROME woman is sharing the story of her cancer journey to highlight the importance of taking part in Cancer Research UK’s Race for Life, which is taking place in Bath on 3rd July.

Cancer Research UK – Carol Kernagham, best friend Sharon and son Sam

“I was working 12-hour days, I had a busy life, I didn’t have time to get ill –  then I found out I had terminal cancer and was told to start planning my funeral,” explains Carol Kernagham, who had thought her symptoms – which included irregular periods and stomach cramps – meant that she was going through the menopause.  

During lockdown in November 2020, Carol, 61, had a huge haemorrhage whilst she was living in her houseboat in Saltford. 

The mum of three and grandmother to nine, who now lives in Frome explains, “It happened twice, the second time I was at my daughter’s house, who is a nurse and thankfully and she was able to take charge. I’ve always been fit and so this came as a big shock.” 

Carol went through her treatment alone as lockdown meant she couldn’t have her family in hospital with her. Following a blood transfusion and an ultrasound, doctors believed the problem was caused by fibroids. But a biopsy revealed something different. She was called in to see her doctor who broke the devastating news that she had cancer. 

“I was told it was in different organs, including my womb, bowel, bladder, pelvic wall and cervix,” said Carol. “By this stage I was in terrible pain and I couldn’t eat or drink. I couldn’t do anything for myself and I was in a wheelchair and in such a poor way. 

“Within weeks I was on so many pain killers and I couldn’t speak. I was told it was inoperable and it was palliative. My daughter wanted to care for me until I passed, and I really thought I was on my way out. Dorothy House had prepared a palliative care plan. I was in a very poor state and they didn’t think I would survive chemo. My weight had plummeted from nine and a half stone to six stone. 

“The cancer caused a fistula in my bowel resulting in sepsis, which nearly killed me. I was given an emergency colostomy. During this procedure the medics discovered I had hydronephrosis in both kidneys, but they couldn’t put shunts in to drain them due to the tumour ingress. 

“The prognosis was poor.  The biopsy showed that I was missing a particular gene and genetic testing showed I had Lynch Syndrome meaning I have a higher chance of getting cancer, mainly colorectal and endometrial. My family are now being tested to see if they too carry this genetic flaw.  I started on a course of immunotherapy as my consultant thought this might reduce the tumour. It worked! The tumour reduced over time, which meant that surgery was now possible. 

“After seven cycles of immunotherapy at Bath’s RUH, a scan showed the tumour had shrunk. I felt so much better, even after three cycles, and I was on no more pain killers and I was out of the wheelchair. 

“I also needed a hysterectomy and after surgery I was given radiotherapy for 5 weeks and the surgeon then told me the tumour had gone. I am now cancer free. Thanks to the research which allowed me to have this relatively new treatment, I am alive today and so I race for life to say thank you and hope that one day everybody will be able to say they beat cancer.” 

Carol now plans to take part in Cancer Research UK’s 10K Race for Life in Royal Victoria Park in Bath on Sunday 3rd July with her best friend, Sharon Osmond. The pair are hoping to encourage women and men of all ages and abilities to sign up to their local event at: www.raceforlife.org  

Carol said, “I’m proud to Race for Life. It means I can pay something back for the treatment I’ve had. 

“Cancer was a tough thing to go through and there were many frightening moments. But early on, I realised there were some special people in my life who were there for me, especially my best friend Sharon. 

“It will be a special moment when we stand at the start line together. We all have a reason to Race for Life. For me it will be a celebration of our friendship, as well as a chance to raise money to help others facing cancer right now.” 

The Race for Life events at Royal Victoria Park, Bath, takes place on Sunday 3rd July and is open to people of all ages and abilities.  Women, men and children can choose from 5k and 10k events. Anyone who enters Race for Life between 30th May and 12th June can claim 50 per cent off the entry fee as part of the sale by using the code SUMR50. 

Cancer Research UK’s spokesperson in the South  West, Ali Birkett said, “We are incredibly grateful to Carol for her support.  

“Sadly, cancer affects all of us in some way. Whether people are living with cancer, taking part in honour of, or in memory of a loved one with cancer, or signing up to protect their own children’s future, everyone has a reason to Race for Life. So, we’re asking people across the region: ‘Who will you Race for?’ 

“Our Race for Life events are open to all. For some people, the Race for Life is literally a walk in the park. Slow and steady still wins. For others, it’s a jog. Others may opt to push themselves harder, taking up the challenge of the 10K distance and even pushing for a new personal best time.   

“But what is for certain is we’re looking forward to welcoming people of all ages and abilities. Race for Life in Bath will be fun, emotional, colourful, uplifting and an unforgettable event this year.”   

Cancer Research UK’s Race for Life, in partnership with Tesco, raises funds for research to help beat 200 types of cancer including bowel cancer, breast cancer, prostate cancer, lung cancer, testicular cancer, brain cancer, children’s cancers and leukaemia.

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