Yasmin battles rare cancer

SILVER LINING: Yasmin and Alex hope to be married later this year despite her ongoing battle with a rare cancer. Photo: supplied
SILVER LINING: Yasmin and Alex hope to be married later this year despite her ongoing battle with a rare cancer. Photo: supplied

Yasmin Remynse chose a career as a teacher because she wanted to be a working mum who spent time with her children.

But that dream was taken away from her when she was diagnosed with rare primary appendix cancer and an aggressive secondary cancer in her peritoneal cavity.

It started in June last year with persistent abdominal pains.

Despite many tests, scans and specialists, Yasmin was given the all clear.

When the pain continued to increase she went for an ultrasound where something was discovered on one of her ovaries.

After further investigation doctors told her it was most likely a cyst but agreed to operate because of the pain. 

“My fiancee [Alex] and I thought worse case scenario was difficulty having children and needing IVF,” Yasmin said.

“That’s what we were prepared for.”

But the reality was much worse.

Yasmin was in hospital for five days after her operation and it was not until the fourth day she was told she had cancer.

They had found lots of adhesions on her uterus and ovaries which turned out to be cancer. The primary cancer was in her appendix but it had spread.

“All the adhesions they had cut out were cancer, my abdomen was full.”

Yasmin then had to undergo a peritonectomy where she was cut open and surgeons looked for cancer and then cut it out.

She spent 11 hours on the table and after surgeons removed what cancer they could, Yasmin was filled with hot chemo for 100 minutes.

“They drained that, stitched me back up and hoped the cancer suffered and the organs survived.”

Yasmin ended up having nine organs either removed or worked on during the operation and a full hysterectomy.

Her cancer is even more rare because it does not behave entirely like an appendix cancer nor does it behave entirely like a bowel cancer.

She was told by her oncologist they had seen 25 cases of this type and were still unsure how to treat it.

“With the chemo there’s no treatment for my cancer. The words they used were we’re ‘hedging our bets’. That’s a hard thing to swallow and not having a prognosis is hard.”

“All I ever thought was I’d grow up and be a mum. That’s been the hardest thing for both of us.”

A month later she started chemotherapy in Bowral but has yet to complete a successful round as her body is struggling to cope with the treatment. She will have further surgery after chemo. 

When she was first diagnosed, Yasmin didn’t know where to turn.

“I prayed I had breast cancer because there was a charity for that, someone to ring. There was absolutely nobody to ring with this and there’s no answers and no prognosis.”

But through a friend she found Rare Cancers Australia (RCA) who linked her with a charity in Melbourne who focus on neuroendocrine tumours.

Yasmin has been having her chemo treatments at the Southern Highlands Cancer Centre. Photo: supplied

Yasmin has been having her chemo treatments at the Southern Highlands Cancer Centre. Photo: supplied

RCA has also helped Yasmin financially.

“I applied last year in December for an allowance with Centrelink because I’m out of work. It is now May and it hasn’t even been processed. If it weren’t for charities like rare cancers who have helped me then we would be lost financially.”

Yasmin said she and Alex hoped to get married in December this year.

While she lives in Picton, Yasmin went to school in the Highlands at Chevalier College and said support in both communities had been amazing.

“One of my year 12 students who had just graduated started up a GoFundMe page which was beautiful and the comments and small donations were coming from so many kids. It was just uplifting

“The staff here [at Bowral] are outstanding. It takes a special person to be an oncology nurse. I just try and find the silver lining each day and make the most of it.”

She has also supported a Vietnamese orphanage since 2012 where they have run a coffee shop to help students learn barista skills.

The coffee shop has raised close to $20,000 in that time and Yasmin said the students had continued to operate the kitchen while she has been unwell.

To help Yasmin, visit http://treat.rarecancers.org.au/campaign/2049/helping-yasmin-remynse