A 44-year-old single mother said navigating her cancer diagnosis with an nine-year-old daughter has given them the opportunity to “go and have fun.”
In December of last year, theatre manager and Zumba teacher, Celine Garvey began to feel unwell.
Doctors diagnosed her initially with a variety of issues – including pleurisy, blood clots and menopause.
Celine had a biopsy on her liver at the beginning of the year but did not receive any information back.
Speaking to Newstalk’s Laura Donnelly for The Pat Kenny Show, Celine said she decided to call her doctor in February to enquire about her results.
“I rang my own doctor, and she said, ‘Has nobody told you?’,” Celine said.
“She then told me it is cancer, there was a miscommunication.
“We've all had moments where you forgot to send something, but when it’s cancer? To forget to tell somebody?”
Diagnosis and treatment
While Celine’s diagnosis did reveal she had cancer, doctors could not discover the origin of the lesion.
“They told me I have carcinoma of unknown primary (CUP),” she said.
The cancer is on Celine's liver but is being treated as gallbladder cancer.
Celine said the new treatment has led to bloating, hair loss and nausea.
“I can't tell you a definite of what's next because they don't know, they're going to try this new chemo," she said.
“If that does nothing, we will look into more experimental treatments. I may end up going abroad.”
Coming to terms
Celine said the idea of death made her “really scared at the start” – for her daughter rather than for herself.
“I don't want to leave my daughter alone, she’s just so gorgeous, she's so full of love,” she said.
“I've had to rewrite my will because I'm worried that I might go my any day because they can't give you a time.
“Having to come to terms with that is the hardest part, especially if you're in the middle of the night and it's dark.
“You're sitting there on your own and you're looking at a wall going ‘I could be gone.’
“One of the days I didn't want to go sleep because I thought it was gonna die that night.”
Celine said her experience with cancer has turned her into a “cheesy person.”
“I've turned into one of those things that you see flicking through Facebook that’s like ‘Life so beautiful,” she said.
“I wake up in the morning and say ‘I'm alive. Isn't that a good thing? I'm alive today.”
'She needed the word'
While Celine had planned to tell her daughter Elanor about her diagnosis, it was the nine-year-old who approached her mother first.
“She said ‘What is it exactly that's that you have?” Celine told the show.
“I told her everything in a very calm way … she knew I was going to take loads of medicine and be very tired.
“But she needed a word, and I knew she knew the word.
“So, I said: ‘Well, Elanor, what I have is cancer.”
Celine described how her daughter began to well up, asking her mother “Does that mean you're going to die?”
“I said: ‘You live, you die. What has happened here is we have something that nobody else has – the opportunity to live now,” she said.
“We can just go and have fun … you'll be able to hang around with me when you’re finished school in the summer, and we can do things together.
“She told my sister afterwards; she decided at that moment not to cry.
"I'm glad it happened the way it did and that she actually came out and asked the question, because then I didn't have time to get upset myself."
Celine along with her friends are raising money for treatment through a GoFundMe page entitled ‘Celine’s Cancer Quest’.
The Moat Writers group, the brainchild of Celine, have launched a book of short stories called ‘The Hope Chest’ to support Celine.
Celine is documenting her battle with cancer on her YouTube channel and regularly uploads blog updates to her GoFundMe page.
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