Mum diagnosed with terminal cancer after mistaking symptoms for early menopause

News

A mum-of-three who thought she was suffering from early menopause was shocked to discover she had terminal cancer.

Jennifer McBurnie, 42, initially thought she was tired because she was a busy mum working as a physiotherapist.

But when the symptoms continued she booked an appointment to see her doctor – and was shocked by her diagnosis of secondary liver cancer.

“I had a lot of fatigue and had some night sweats and feelings of nausea, particularly in the mornings,” said Ms McBurnie.

“I went to the GP and had blood tests done. We were thinking that it was a thyroid problem or perhaps early menopause.

“So it was a complete shock when I got the results back and it showed there were significant problems with my liver.”

Ms McBurnie, of Aberdeen, started to feel tired after Christmas but put it down to the busy festive period.

She said: “You’ve had Christmas, you’ve got the three kids and you’re running about like mad so a lot of the symptoms in themselves could be explained away but I thought I’d better just get this checked.

“I’m someone who has never particularly been a drinker; I’ve lived a very healthy lifestyle.

“I practise what I preach to my patients so the cancer diagnosis really was a complete shock.”

After tests, including MRI and CT scans and a biopsy, she was diagnosed with secondary liver cancer at the end of February.

Ms McBurnie is now on her seventh round of chemotherapy.

“I have had one CT scan since I started the chemo and it did show some shrinkage in the cancer but it’s palliative rather than curative,” she said.

“Buying time is what it’s about, rather than a cure, unfortunately.”

She is trying to keep life as normal as possible for her husband and three children, aged nine, seven and four.

Her positive outlook has inspired her colleagues to launch a fundraising challenge.

NHS Grampian staff from the outpatient physio department are walking a total of 5,000 miles to raise money for Clan Cancer Support.

Each trip is logged through an online tracking app, and Ms McBurnie has also helped by walking with one of her colleagues along Aberdeen Beach.

Organiser Anna Harris, 26, said: “We have been so moved by Jennifer’s positive attitude and strength in fighting this disease.

“She has shown remarkable courage and has inspired us all in so many ways.

“She’s the mother of the department and we’re eager to show her and her family our support by taking on a challenge to fundraise for Clan.

“Clan was chosen because of the amazing support they have been providing to her and her family.”

Ms McBurnie said: “Keeping positive has not only helped me but the people around me.

“My kids have been brighter and my husband has been happier.

“I think positivity has a ripple effect, like when you drop a stone in water; if you can gain it in yourself it ripples through the family and out to the community.

“I can’t change the diagnosis of cancer, I cannot magic it away.

“But I think what one has to focus on is what they can do for themselves.”