Tim Stone was only 33 years old when he tragically lost his battle to cancer last month.
The Yankalilla father of two young girls, Tim was fit, healthy and had never suffered a serious illness.
His wife Lauren is now bravely sharing his story in the hope she can help raise awareness and prevent another young family going through the same pain.
“I don’t want any other family, especially a young family, to go through the pain my girls and I are going through, along with the rest of Tim's family,” said Lauren.
In a heartfelt Facebook post last week, Lauren shared her families’ devastating experience and has received an outpouring of support from the local community.
“We are beyond devastated and hope we can increase awareness that head and neck cancer does happen to younger people. You always think you won’t get cancer or that it wont happen to me or my family,” she said.
“Be aware of what’s going on in your body and get things checked out no matter how small they may be. Trust your instincts and look after yourself.”
In early January 2018, an ulcer appeared on Tim's tongue resulting in a number of doctors appointments and an emergency visit when pain lingered and it failed to heal. All of the doctors Tim saw initially said it looked like a normal ulcer.
A short time later, Tim noticed two small lumps in his neck. After seeing specialists and having a biopsy, Tim received the diagnosis – Squamous Cell Carcinoma, a head and neck cancer.
Because he was young and healthy, doctors were optimistic and carried out a seven-hour surgery to remove 40 percent of his tongue and 32 lymph nodes from his neck, with about a quarter confirmed to be cancerous.
Tim underwent 6.5 weeks of radiotherapy five days a week, and had to have a percutaneous endoscopic gastronomy tube placed into his stomach as he was unable to eat.
“The treatment was particularity hard on Tim,” said Lauren. “All of this occurred as we prepared to welcome our second child. Our gorgeous daughter Annabelle arrived on the 11th July, in the same hospital as Tim was having radiotherapy.
“As he had treatment on that day, he was unable to enjoy this exciting time as much as most parents would.”
On October 12, 2018 Tim and Lauren learned the initial cancer had gone, but had spread to Tim’s lung. A week later, it was in his rib and appeared to be incurable, but manageable. Eight more weeks of chemo followed in the lead up to Christmas.
“Tim was hoping Christmas with his family would be normal,” said Lauren. This wasn't to be.
“Tim spent the day resting on the couch, feeling more unwell as the day progressed. After vomiting much of the night, Tim's mum took him to the hospital on Boxing Day. He insisted she take him, rather than go by ambulance. He was a very proud man.”
Tim now had pneumonia. On December 31, the news got worse. The cancer was now in Tim's hip, his spine and his brain. The brain tumor was inoperable, and the plan was for five doses of radiotherapy. After only one treatment, this was stopped due to the severity of Tim’s pneumonia.
After 17 days in hospital, Tim passed away, surrounded by his loved ones on January 12, 2019. Tim fought a horrible battle, with not one piece of good news over the nine months since his diagnosis.
All of this followed Tim's younger brother Craig having been diagnosed with a brain tumor nine years ago. Fortunately, Craig survived his battle, but meant this was the second time Tim’s family was forced to go through the pain of a cancer diagnosis.
Lauren said she had a simple message in sharing her story and that is to see a doctor as soon as you feel something isn’t right.
“Please, if something out of the ordinary shows up on your body, and is there for more than a couple of weeks and doesn’t go, please go back to your GP. Please tell them what’s going on. Please don’t stop until you’re aware of what’s going on with your body, and you're happy with what your doctor is doing for you.”
Lauren’s post on facebook sharing the details of Tim’s cancer battle has been shared almost 300 times and has been inundated with comments from friends and family, as well as complete strangers who have suffered through similar hardships.