Corrigan couldn’t focus. But with her son begging for her attention, she mustered up every piece of her strength to smile and play along. They were playing with lego and toy figurines.
Still, her eyelids grew heavy, her breath shallow, she couldn’t hold on. Just for a little while, she thought. Suddenly, her son’s coos became distant noises in the background and she hit the floor.
Laura Corrigan was an ordinary single mom who lived in Durham, England. She had worked hard to support her family. She was no CrossFit enthusiast, but she lived a moderately active life.
Lately, she was always tired. She had convinced herself that she was just run down from stress and work. But her friends were worried, and they had every right to be.
Corrigan gulped down a cocktail of vitamins and over-the-counter medicines in an attempt to recuperate. She took Vitamin E, Vitamin C, Vitamin B, Zinc, Iron— but none of it seemed to help.
After a few weeks, her friends forced her to go and see a doctor. But the doctor just confirmed what she already knew, and she was given a sick note to take a few days off from work to rest. But Corrigan’s illness was unshakeable.
As Corrigan drove, she remembered the night she had. The boys were a handful. Her youngest boy, still a baby, was completely restless all night.
He pulled her hair, kicked her back and face – all accidental baby-kicks of course, but still enough to wake her up. He cried so much that he gave her a headache. Then something very frightening happened.
Corrigan was pale and had random bouts of exhaustion. Her appetite vanished, and her health continued to decline. Her friends were growing increasingly worried. Weeks after her first visit, they dragged her back to the doctor.
They were surprised that a strong, young woman with a healthy immune system like Corrigan, who should have overcome the flu weeks ago, was still deteriorating. Now, they were growing concerned, too.
The doctor, beginning to take Corrigan seriously, ran blood and allergy tests in hopes of picking up any disease or intolerance. All the tests confirmed that Corrigan was a healthy woman.
They didn’t have a diagnosis, but they decided to try an “elimination” approach, so Corrigan was put on several different antibiotics. Her doctor had hoped that Corrigan’s reaction to the medications would give her an insight into her ailment, but instead, the opposite happened.
Corrigan started to feel worse instead of better. She had body aches and could barely keep her eyes open. Then the mystery illness started to take a toll on her mental health.
Her friends and family members started to worry. Maybe the illness was all in her head? But no, Corrigan knew her body and she knew something wasn’t right. Her friends witnessed her deterioration first-hand, and they also knew in their hearts that something just wasn’t right.
Corrigan, determined to get to the bottom of her illness, searched for her symptoms online. She spoke to “experts” in online chats, and she tried herbal treatments and natural remedies, but nothing seemed to be helping.
As time went by, more and more people lost faith in her, and no one could give her answers. She had never felt so alone before. Maybe it really was just all in her head?
Finally deciding to get a second opinion, it took a few weeks for Corrigan to get her results from the tests back.
And when the doctor called she asked her to rather come in–she would prefer to speak with her in person about her test results. When she left the doctor’s office, she couldn’t breathe.
Suddenly, an intense wave of tiredness washed over her and she felt almost paralyzed. With her working day nearly finished, she tried to ignore what the doctor had told her and distracted herself with thoughts of the boys.
She wondered what they might want to do for the evening. The distraction was working, she began to feel normal again. But not for long.
Back in the car once more, Corrigan was looking forward to being at home. She missed her boys and needed their light-heartedness to erase this weird day she’s been having.
She arrived at a crossroads and made the turn towards home. She was halfway there when it happened again. The intense wave of tiredness. Except this time, she felt dizzy. Then something else happened and she lunged for the brakes.
She managed to pull her car over safely and gave in to the pain. Everything hurt. She gave herself a few more moments. Waiting for it to pass. When it finally did, she started towards home once more.
Arriving home, she welcomed her boys into her arms with a big smile and hug. She asked if they were hungry and made dinner. But there was only one thing on her mind.
She needed to think and she didn’t want to panic the boys so she decided to go for a family coastal walk. This was one of her favorite things to do.
Being with her boys and by the sea, the worries about her health faded and she began to think more calmly. She was going to spend the rest of the evening with her little men and look for advice tomorrow. Little did she know, it wasn’t going to go as planned.
Refreshed and revitalized, Corrigan and her boys arrived back home. Finally, some time to relax, she thought. But as soon as she sat down on the sofa, the boys got out the lego set.
They weren’t done playing yet, and they definitely weren’t finished spending time with mom. Sighing lovingly, she got down on her knees and began to play. Then everything changed.
As she was playing her eyelids grew heavy, her breath shallow, she couldn’t hold on. Exhausted, Corrigan finally passed out, asleep, mid-lego battle. Her son took a picture of her and she then posted it on Instagram.
But why was she so tired? There was a reason behind all of this. Heart pounding, she decided to reveal the tragic reason as to why she was so tired. She sat behind a desk and started typing.
After becoming sick and tired of her mystery symptoms, Corrigan sought medical advice from a new doctor. Soon after, she was diagnosed with bowel cancer.
This was notably rare for someone in their mid-30’s but doctors were still hopeful for her future. “It was pretty hard to process,” she wrote on her blog, Cancer, Milk & Rainbows. “All I wanted to know was if I was going to die or not and that, they couldn’t really answer.”
She created a blog and overcame the fear of sharing her own personal story online. Corrigan explains how social media was a great form of therapeutic release and support for her.
“It has helped me, both writing thoughts and feelings down and connecting with others,” she explained. But Corrigan had her own idea of help in mind.
As well as being a member of multiple different societies, Corrigan gave back to her cancer community by raising money for Bowel Cancer UK.
As a keen kayaker and wild swimmer, she completed a one-mile swim despite being seriously ill at the time. She was never happier than when she was near the ocean and surrounded by nature.
It wasn’t long until Corrigan was going for chemo-radiotherapy on a daily basis. And it was around that time that she began to notice the effect her illness was having on her children.
She had to stop breastfeeding her youngest son, Finn. Feeling emotional, she sought solace from her blog-writing. “This has been the hardest part of my journey so far, certainly harder than hearing the diagnosis. He, on the other hand, after just two weeks, is coping amazingly well,” she revealed.
But, Corrigan was a self-confessed “fighter.” She took every day as it came and took every new challenge in her stride. To try to make sense of what was happening and to document her battle, she turned more and more to her writing.
“I write when I can and have connected with other people a lot that way, as well as in Facebook support groups.” Almost one year on from her original diagnosis, Corrigan continues to fight her illness.