At her 76th birthday last month, Evelyn Stone from Farnham celebrated more than just being one year older – instead, she and her family toasted the most wonderful news imaginable. Despite being diagnosed with terminal bowel cancer five years ago, Evelyn has defied all the odds and is now completely clear of the disease.
Evelyn was first diagnosed in 2012 and although her cancer was treated successfully at St Luke’s Cancer Centre based at Royal Surrey NHS Foundation Trust, the disease returned with a vengeance in 2016.
She was given the devastating news that this time her cancer was terminal and she had only nine to 12 months left to live.
Evelyn’s daughter Debbie said: “When Mum was first diagnosed with cancer we were absolutely shocked. She had been in a lot of pain and seeing her GP but we thought the problem was constipation or diverticulitis. Mum isn’t the type to complain and we didn’t think it was serious. It was only when she went in one day and saw a different doctor that the possibility that it might be cancer was raised.
“Everything happened very quickly from that point. Mum had lots of different tests and a colonoscopy and we found out that she had bowel cancer.
“Mum was told she would need an operation because the tumour on her bowel was quite big and that went ahead in July 2012. She then had to recover before having chemotherapy, which started three months later. After six rounds of chemotherapy she was given the all clear.”
Sadly, in October 2016, Evelyn fell ill again and was told that her cancer had returned and spread and this time she was facing a terminal diagnosis.
Evelyn, a grandmother-of-two, said: “Hearing that news was unbelievably hard, I really felt there was no hope for me. But I am a very positive person and I just tried to take things one day at a time, which helped me cope. I kept saying to my friends and family and to myself, there’s always light at the end of the tunnel.”
After receiving her second diagnosis, Evelyn was offered the chance to have palliative chemotherapy and she started having intravenous chemotherapy treatment every three weeks. She said: “All the nurses and staff in Royal Surrey are absolutely wonderful, they are angels. I also had fantastic support from staff at a local hospice, who were absolutely superb. They offer such an amazing service with counselling, massage, manicures and all sorts of support.”
Debbie said: “Mum is amazing. From 2016 to the start of lockdown, she had 62 gruelling rounds of chemotherapy. We call her super mum because she never ever complains.
“All throughout that time, she would come home from her chemotherapy outpatients session still attached to her drip but would carry on looking after my dad, cooking dinner and walking the dog twice a day. She has always been the type of person who looks after others. She is a total inspiration.”
Evelyn said: “During the chemotherapy treatment and when Covid happened, there were definitely days when I wanted to give up. There were a couple of times when I said: ‘I can’t do this any more’ but my children Steven and Debbie just turned round and said, ‘Yes you can Mum, you’re strong. You can do it.’
“It’s because of my family that I’ve kept going. My children, grandchildren and my family mean the world to me.”
From early 2020, Evelyn was receiving regular scans to check how the cancer was progressing. In early October, Debbie and Evelyn gathered as usual to hear the results from the most recent scan via a phone call from Royal Surrey.
Debbie said: “I always go round to Mum’s to be with her when she gets the phone call with the scan results. That day, we picked up the phone and the registrar apologised that Mum’s normal consultant wasn’t there to talk, but then he said: ‘I’ve got the results of your scan and there’s no sign of any cancer, nothing in your blood, nothing. It’s not there.’ He then carried on talking, but by that point we were crying so hard we couldn’t take anything in at all.”
Evelyn said: “I was so stunned, I couldn’t believe it. It’s just absolutely amazing and it still doesn’t seem real even weeks later. It’s just a miracle.
“My consultant phoned me afterwards and explained that I’m what they call a ‘super responder’ and that I’ve reacted very well to the treatment but she emphasised that this very, very seldom happens. She said I’d done so well, but I told her, ‘no it’s all of you who have done so well for me, thank you so much’.”
Sharadah Essapen, Consultant Clinical Oncologist, said: “Evelyn is an amazing lady who has been incredibly brave and positive throughout her many years of treatment. Being cleared of cancer after receiving such a final diagnosis is a rare occurrence but wonderful to be part of. It is a very rewarding and uplifting moment for all those who have looked after her, myself included. We wish Evelyn all the very best.”
After receiving her all clear, Evelyn was determined to make one last visit to St Luke’s to thank staff and complete a final task. Dressed in superhero cape and mask, she rang the special St Luke’s bell to say goodbye to cancer. She said: "The plaque by the bell says ‘Ring this bell, three times well’ but to be honest I couldn’t stop ringing it. I must have dinged that bell about 50 times. And there will never be enough words to thank the most amazing staff at St Luke’s. You are all angels and I thank you from the bottom of my heart.”
Ring this bell
Three times well
Its toll to clearly say
My treatment’s done
This course is run
And I am on my way!