One thing Francesca Canestri wants to people to know about gut cancers is that they are mostly silent and often aggressive. Her mum Meryl was diagnosed only three short months before she passed away with cholangiocarcinoma, a rare and brutal cancer that forms in the bile ducts.
Meryl was the heart of the Canestri family - loving, caring, generous. She was her children’s biggest supporters and was always there with amazing advice and a great sense of humour. She married into an Italian family and fully adopted the Italian love of family often gathering around a meal.
It was during lockdown in September of 2021 when Meryl felt persistent nausea and a loss of appetite, she wondered if it was related to her coeliac disease and went to the doctor to get it checked out. She was given some medication; blood tests came back looking normal and as symptoms persisted through Christmas she was back for further tests. It wasn't until January 2022 that a diagnosis of cholangiocarcinoma (cancer of the bile ducts) was given. Her prognosis was three months.
Francesca says “the symptoms were so non-descript and not painful. We never expected a cancer diagnosis. It’s one thing being told your mum has cancer, but another to be told its advanced and you only have three months left.”
Francesca wanted to share her experience to warn others to get symptoms checked out as soon as possible, even if they are mild like nausea and loss of appetite – get it checked early and explore all possible causes.
And although it is so hard to deal with such a devastating diagnosis, Francesca says “be there with your loved one, don’t forgot to tell them how much they mean to you while they are still here.”
Thank you so much to Francesca and the Canestri family for sharing Meryl’s story to shine a light on cholangiocarcinoma.