A mum 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 working mother with three young children.
But she booked an appointment with her doctor when the symptoms continued and was shocked by her diagnosis.
“I had a lot of fatigue and had some night sweats and feelings of nausea, particularly in the mornings,” said Jennifer.
“I went to the GP and had blood tests done. At that time we were thinking that it was a thyroid problem or perhaps early menopause.
“So it was a complete shock when I got the blood test results back and it showed there were significant problems with my liver.”
‘A complete shock’
Jennifer, of Aberdeen, started to feel tired after Christmas but put it down to the busy festive period.
The physiotherapist said: “I had been a bit symptomatic before January, particularly with the tiredness. but never got to the doctor.
“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 practice what I preach to my patients so the cancer diagnosis really was a complete shock.”
After several tests, including MRI and CT scans and a biopsy, she was diagnosed with secondary liver cancer at the end of February.
Now, four months on from her diagnosis, Jennifer is 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.”
Jennifer is trying to keep life as normal as possible for her husband and children, aged 9, 7, and 4.
And despite battling nausea and extreme tiredness from her treatment, her positivity has inspired her work colleagues to launch a fundraising challenge.
We have been so moved by Jennifer’s positive attitude and strength in fighting this disease.”
Physiotherapist Anna Harris
Throughout the month, 32 NHS Grampian staff from the out-patient 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 Jennifer 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 fund-raise for Clan.
“Clan was chosen because of the amazing support they have been providing to her and her family.”
‘I think positivity has a ripple effect’
It has been important for Jennifer to remain positive throughout her cancer journey.
She said: “For me, 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 – there is no magic cure.
“But I think what one has to focus on is what they can do for themselves.”
Jennifer, who is originally from Inverness, is grateful for all the help Clan has provided throughout her cancer journey.
She said: “Clan has been great at providing family support, we’ve been using them for support for the children.
“They talk about the different people involved in someone’s journey with cancer and give you resources you can read with your children.
“They go right through to pre-bereavement and post-bereavement support. We’re not at that point yet but they will do that.
“It’s really touching the way that my colleagues have got together and got behind me with this challenge.
“I’ve been quite amazed at the support, not just from people I’ve known and worked with closely, but from those who have got on board with this who know of my story but not me.
“Everyone has been so helpful – I’ve been overwhelmed with the support from friends, family and work colleagues.
“I’ve had so many cards and emails and meals dropped off and baskets of ironing being taken away.
“There’s been a whole community around our family and I’ve been so touched and grateful.”
Fiona Fernie, Clan’s head of income generation and business development, has recorded a special message for the fundraisers, who have raised more than £3,000 so far for the charity.
Anyone wishing to donate can visit the physio team’s fundraising page at www.justgiving.com/fundraising/aberdeenmskphysios