In February, Leslie Paurini hurt her shoulder while adjusting her son’s car seat.
It was an everyday incident, and she was told by doctors there would be some inflammation and suggested she see a physio.
After months of no improvement, the 36-year-old mum of two was given the devastating diagnosis – it was cancer.
An inoperable gastric cancer had developed into metastatic bone disease, spreading to that sore shoulder and hip, and which has now wrapped around her spine, threatening to leave her paralysed.
Les is determined to fight the illness, but at the same time she is preoccupied with spending time with her kids which they will be able to fondly remember should the worst come to pass.
‘Having a young son, my heart was broken for him. The longest we’ve been apart is a week,’ Les said.
‘I was also heartbroken for my daughter and wanting to make memories with her.’
Leslie Paurini (pictured), 36, hurt her shoulder adjusting her son’s car seat in February 2020 but it was dismissed by doctors as an injury or inflammation and she was told to go to a physiotherapist
She kept going to doctors and was diagnosed with a cancer called metastatic bone disease, which had spread to her spine, hip and shoulder, in July after the cancer originated in her stomach. Pictured: Les with her daughter, 17, and son, four
Despite the seemingly innocuous cause of the shoulder injury, and the initial diagnosis of inflammation, the Auckland woman sensed something was wrong when it took longer to heal than he broken leg she had suffered earlier in life.
So she went to another a doctor and two specialists, and that is when the gravity of her illness was revealed.
She immediately got her affairs in order and how to prepare her two children – aged four and 17 – for what was to come.
WHAT IS METASTATIC BONE DISEASE?
Metatastic bone disease is cancer that originates in an organ, such as the stomach or lungs, before it spreads to the sufferer’s bones.
- High levels of calcium in blood, leading to nausea and confusion
- Fragile bones
- Weakness in the legs
- Low blood cell count
- Loss of urinary or bowel control
The cancer is diagnosed through X-rays, bone scans, CT scans, blood tests and MRIs.
It can be treated with radiation, chemotherapy or surgery, however there is no cure
She said she didn’t want to leave them traumatised if she hadn’t prepared them properly and she passed away.
‘My parents told my daughter. She went through cancer with her other grandparent a year ago so she understands the process,’ Les said.
She said telling her son was a lot harder – but she has managed to help him understand what she is going through by creating a story book about a family of tigers.
‘When I was admitted to hospital on August 5 I added the worst case scenario to the story,’ Les said.
‘I still need to get that written down but it’s important [to write it].’
She said the book might help other parents in the same situation some day.
Les said her son does show an understanding of her situation – and sometimes he will ask her not to die while he is at daycare.
He also pleads with the doctors to give her better medication.
Leslie said her current goal is to find any means she can to fight the cancer, as well as make memories with her children.
She wants to zip line and do the luge in Rotorua and tube in the Waitomo caves with her daughter.
The cancer has weakened Les’s bones, and her T1 vertebrae has ended up fractured
The fracture has prevented Les from going on planned adventures with her daughter
Sadly, she has a fracture in her T1 vertebrae due to her cancer and is currently in a thoracic brace, so the pair must put this adventure on hold.
Les also wants to take her son to amusement parks, and bring both her children to Australia when travel opens back up again after the COVID-19 lockdowns.
‘I want to see them grow into the amazing people I know they can be,’ she said.
‘Plus – plenty people here 20+ years after being given a timeline – miracles happen and I’m hoping I’m one of them too.’
Leslie currently has chemotherapy every two weeks for five hours at a time, leaving her exhausted.
Les also wants to take her son to amusement parks, and bring both her children to Australia when travel opens back up again amid COVID-19 bans
She is researching alternative treatments such as acupuncture to ease the pain and spending time in an hyperbaric oxygen chamber.
Leslie is also looking to speak with other suffers of gastric cancer to see how they dealt with it.
After two more sessions of chemotherapy, she will have her body scanned to see a difference.
If the chemotherapy has helped, she will undergo another eight sessions.
A Give A Little page has been started to help Les pay for her treatments and go on adventures with her children.