This is the daunting reality that one mum is living with after being faced with a shock cancer diagnosis earlier this year.
Kerry-lee Morris is a 47-year-old mum from Sydney and the past 18-months of her life have been fraught with challenges.
Just last February, Kerry-lee was hospitalised after being involved in a car accident that saw her car smashed by a speeding 10 tonne truck.
“I was on my way to a sales meeting and I pulled up at the traffic lights, with a bus pulling up next to me,” she told news.com.au.
“A truck driver was speeding behind me and slammed straight into the back of me. It pushed my car 20 metres across the intersection. It was terrifying.”
Kerry-lee sustained a number of injuries that she is still feeling the affects of, including a torn disc in her lower back that has left her with ongoing nerve pain.
Then in March of this year, as Kerry-lee was still struggling to manage the pain caused by her accident, she was hit with another formidable life event: a breast cancer diagnosis.
“I went in for a routine mammogram at the beginning of the year and it was a total shock when the cancer result came back,” Kerry-lee said.
“I felt that things were going well and I was slowly getting better after my accident and then it all just came crashing down.
“And this is the same story for thousands of women, it can just happen out of the blue.”
Kerry-lee has since undergone a bilateral mastectomy, where both breasts are surgically removed in order to cut out the cancer cells.
This is when doctors found that the mum-of-three had a very rare and aggressive type of cancer called micropapillary, which accounts for approximately 2 per cent of breast cancer cases.
Micropapillary is a very fast growing cancer with a high chance of reappearing somewhere else in the body.
“The scariest thing the oncologist said to me is that they can’t save me if it comes back,” Kerry-lee said.
“If it reoccurs he said I will have between three and eight years left. It’s all a bit daunting, going from my normal life to being told I could only have a few more years.”
Kerry-lee’s youngest child, Grace, is just 12-years-old and, as any mother would, she worries about what will happen to her if the cancer does come back.
“It’s hard to keep what’s going on from my daughter but I try not to burden her with all the details,” she said.
“I want to do everything I can to fight this so I can be here for my daughter, and be there to walk her down to aisle and see my grandchildren being born.”
At the moment Kerry-lee is undergoing high intensity chemotherapy and radiation treatment to try and ensure that the cancer doesn’t pop up anywhere else in her body.
She has only just started with her chemotherapy and radiotherapy and still has another intense six months of treatment ahead of her during which time she will be unable to work, further adding to the financial stress caused by the diagnosis.
So far it has cost around $15,000 but she is looking at $50,000 on top of that for ongoing treatment.
A friend of hers has set up a GoFundMe page with a goal of raising $60,000 to help Kerry-lee receive the best treatment possible and help ease their financial burden.
The high doses of chemotherapy, though necessary, are extremely harsh on the body’s immune system and means that Kerry-lee will have to endure debilitating side effects like vomiting, possible nerve damage, ongoing pain, diarrhoea and intense fatigue.
But there is an alternate treatment that Kerry-lee is also undergoing that she praises for keeping those horrible side-effects at bay.
Dr Chen Qi Xin is a Chinese Herbalist with a background in Oncology who was recommended by her doctor.
He works alongside the mainstream doctors, treating patients with Chinese herbs and acupuncture to boost their immune system and reduce the harsh impact of chemotherapy.
“When I first went to see Dr Chen he explained to me that it is imperative that I have the chemotherapy if I want to get better,” Kerry-lee said.
“What he does is work in conjunction with that using Chinese medicine doctors to ensure my immune system is strong and give me the best chance of surviving.”
Kerry-lee started her chemotherapy and radiation just over a week ago and says that since she has been seeing Dr Chen she has had minimal side effects.
“Since I started my chemo and have been on the herbs and acupuncture I haven’t vomited once, my energy levels are great and I have been out walking every day,” she said.
“I really feel like it is allowing me to carry on my life as normal while I am going through treatment.
“Obviously, I do still get tired more easily but it is such a difference and it is something I feel should be available to the wider public.”
The extra treatment costs her around $370 a week, with her health fund only allowing for a provision of $400 a year for alternative treatment.
Though it is an extra expense on top of her also costly mainstream treatment, Kerry-lee says it has improved her quality of life dramatically and is “worth every single penny”.
“It has really given me hope. My diagnosis was quite depressing. My surgeon told me he gets one case a year like mine, that’s how rare it is,” she said.
“I am just trying to stack the odds in my favour and I feel that the Chinese treatment is allowing me to do that.”