Mum given six weeks to live beats cancer and now plans to scale Everest

A mum who was given just six weeks to live has stunned medics by making a complete recovery and is now preparing to scale Mount Everest.

Andrea Sheardown, 48, was diagnosed with cholangiocarcinoma, a rare form of cancer occurring in the bile ducts, in 2015 – and doctors told her there was nothing they could do for her, giving her just six weeks to live.

But the mum-of-two, from Sandbach, Cheshire, refused to give up and sought a second opinion – when surgeons agreed to operate, and removed a tumour the size of a pineapple.

Although doctors have warned her the aggressive cancer could return at any time, Andrea has refused to let her diagnosis stop her from living her life – and has gone on to complete a series of adrenaline-filled challenges.

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And this week, she is flying to Nepal to hike to Everest base camp with her husband, Chris, 50, her 16 year old son, Sam, her sister and 11 other loyal friends who she calls Andrea's AMMF Army, to reach the Everest Base Camp, which can take up to 12 days of trekking.

Since being diagnosed in 2015, Andrea has climbed Mount Kilimanjaro, completed the three peaks challenge and cycled from Vietnam to Cambodia with her daughter, Amelia, 18.

Andrea said: "Since I began fundraising in 2016, I've managed to raise £62,000 for the charity.

"The doctors have warned me that the cancer could come back at anytime but I'm trying to stay positive.

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"Giving up wasn't an option for me, I wanted to see my children grow up, be there for their key milestones in life – I had to stay strong for my family.

"People can't believe that I have managed to do some of these things but life is all about challenging yourself – it's something I teach my kids and that's why they always come along with me.

"I'm so lucky with the support I've received from family, friends, local businesses and even complete strangers".

In 2015, Andrea began experiencing severe pain in her rib cage which lasted for 6-8 weeks before she decided to go to A&E at her local hospital due to the serverity of the pain.

After being told it was just indigestion, Andrea, who owns a magazine advertising business, was fed up and demanded she be given tests to find out what the problem was.

Andrea was given blood tests, which came back as all clear.

She was then given an x-ray, which was the first step in diagnosing her with cholangiocarcinoma. The x-ray showed a mass on her liver and following a week of CT and MRI scans, she was told by the hospital that there was 'nothing they could do' and she was given just weeks to live.

Left with no options, Andrea and her husband, Chris, went to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham for a second opinion where they decided to offer Andrea a lifeline in agreeing to carry out intense surgery to remove the tumour from her liver which ended up being the size of a small pineapple.

Andrea said: "It was fantastic that the hospital offered me this lifeline, but it was also the hard work of my dad who trawled the internet in search of anything he could find out about this deadly cancer.

"He was the one that found the wonderful AMMF cancer charity. This then led us to other specialists in the cholangiocarcinoma field.

"They didn't know whether I would survive the operation so I took a risk because I thought, it's either this or I'm not going to be around for much longer.

"I'm so glad I took the risk because if I hadn't, I would have died".

Once the tumour was removed, the doctors told Andrea that there was no way of making sure the cancer had gone completely as bile duct cancer doesn't show up in blood tests.

The hospital didn't think Andrea would be strong enough to survive chemotherapy at the the time, but she felt strongly this route needed to be explored further, so she decided to go down the private care route which is when she found the Christie Clinic in Manchester.

Andrea underwent six months of intense chemotherapy which resulted in her becoming weak and extremely frail.

However, in November 2016, Andrea took on her first challenge after completing her course of chemotherapy: the three peak challenge. Andrea climbed Ben Nevis, 1344m, Scafell Pike 978m and Snowdon, 1085m where she managed to reach the peak to everyone's amazement.

"I felt like people had almost written me off – they would bring me flowers and I hated that because I always associated flowers with funerals.

"Just because you have cancer, it doesn't mean you should give up on life and when I found the AMMF charity, I knew that I wanted to start doing fundraising events because they helped me so much and more awareness needs to be raised about this type of cancer.

"It's one of the deadliest and there is currently no cure".

After climbing the three peaks in order to raise money for the AMMF charity, Andrea climbed Mount Kilimanjaro in February 2018 and then cycled from Vietnam to Cambodia in February 2019.

During this time, Andrea and her AMMF army managed to raise £62,000 for the charity.

Now, after being given the all clear in October 2019, Andrea, along with her husband, her son, sister and a group of friends are flying out to reach Everest Base Camp on Thursday.

"Throughout all my treatment I have lived by the mantra of keep taking those steps no matter how small, even if they are baby steps just keep taking them.

"I had never even climbed a mountain when I first started challenging myself.

"It brings such a sense of achievement and to be able to get my children involved is incredible.

"The journey that I have been on with this cancer has been like trying to climb a mountain, so it seems fitting that I challenge myself to climb an actual one.

"I can't thank the charity enough for everything they have done for me and I hope that this brings awareness".

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