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  • The heart-breaking, nerve-wracking, life and death struggle of a Cairns cancer survivor

    Inspirational Cairns woman Sharon Cohrs has conquered Everest and breast cancer. But with a new cancer battle underway, her husband Allan is sharing their heart-breaking journey to help them cope - and to inspire others.


    UPDATE: 3 JUNE

    In wonderful news for former Cairns resident and inspirational cancer survivor Sharon Cohrs, she has now returned to Australian shores and is recovering from surgery.

    Her husband Allan shared this update on social media today:

    "Sharon is now in our new home and absolutely loves the freedom, along with having her creature comforts around her.

    I had a small team of helpers including Andrew Thompson, Peter Knight, Scott Wood, Karla Lynch and Karen Banner who made this possible and I am so grateful to you all for giving up your time to make this happen in such a short time frame. We had so many other people wanting to help so we were in good hands.

    I planned to have everything ready so Sharon could just make the transition from her mother's, who has done an incredible job looking after her, without having to worry about a single thing. It has been intense but we got there in the end.

    We celebrated our 14th Anniversary yesterday, allowing us to spend some quality time together and today have been graced with a visit from some of the Cairns crew who flew down for the weekend to spend time with Sharon.

    Watching her laugh and share stories with her great mates is the best therapy I could have wished for.

    Sharon is getting better each day, but still gets frustrated not being able to do some of the simple things we take for granted. Her vision is improving, the swelling is slowly going down and it hopefully won't be long before she can enjoy a wholesome meal served with a nice glass of champagne."


    ORIGINAL ARTICLE: 16 MAY

    Sharon Cohrs is an inspiration to so many.

    She is the first breast cancer survivor to climb Mount Everest, and with her husband Allan became the first Australian-born couple to reach Everest's mighty summit.

    While her achievements as a mountaineer are remarkable, they are elevated to another plane altogether when you consider Sharon's battles with breast cancer.

    But having launched their new venture called Everest One, a guided trekking company specialising in climbs in Nepal, they thought their fight against the Big C was over.

    That was until some sinus pain and a toothache on the right side of Sharon's face turned out to be much worse than they could have imagined.

    Her husband Allan is documenting that frightening discovery and the fear of what comes next.


    Allan Cohrs open letter to friends, family and supporters on Sunday May 15:

    Wednesday was without doubt the toughest day of my life.

    Watching Sharon leave the ward, knowing she was about to undertake the biggest challenge of her life was deeply upsetting and something you just can’t prepare for.

    We all try to be strong, and I knew how important it was to keep Sharon calm and relaxed, but sometimes it’s easier said than done.

    Despite Sharon’s fear, knowing that there would be changes in her appearance along with potential complications and unknowns during the operation, she faced the day in true Sharon spirit: with a big smile and confident calmness.

    I am continually astonished by her strength and tenacity, along with the kindness she shows everyone and the obvious love and affection so many people have for her.

    I have never received so many hugs from nurses, obviously concerned and waiting for Sharon’s imminent return.

    She knows everyone on a first name basis, from the doctors to the nurses, the caterers to the cleaners, and has already worked out a few of the perks, including late night raids on a fridge full of tasty snacks.

    Sharon is unique and has that ability to touch people wherever she goes.

    She has a gift that you rarely see, a true warmth and desire to make people happy. It is not fabricated or self-serving, it is real and people see and feel this and connect with her very quickly. These special qualities make this journey even more difficult to accept. Cancer does not discriminate.

    So after 11 hours in surgery, Sharon was placed in an induced coma in Intensive Care. Listening to the machines monitor her vitals and assist in breathing with tubes running to every part of her body was extremely confronting.

    No mother should have to see her daughter like this. But we kept it together, well sort of anyway, and let her know we were there whilst holding her hand.

    Thursday was a different story all together, and being there when the doctors brought her out of her coma was disturbing.

    It was a place I didn’t want to be, and not being used to the process, my pulse was racing a million miles an hour. The staff were calm though, and reassured us that this was a usual reaction, but you could see how scared and confused Sharon was.

    Can you imagine going to sleep for a day and a half, and then being woken with extreme pain, a tracheotomy to breath and massive swelling to the point where you can't open your eyes?

    I have had an internal debate on whether sharing this journey on Social Media was appropriate, or should this be something we keep to ourselves.

    In the end, it really depends on the individual. For us, approaching this torrid ordeal via a social platform has been beneficial and a real source of strength.

    I am able to share updates and keep people informed.

    Time is precious and I try to spend most of it with Sharon, so for us it has been priceless.

    People have wanted to know more, and understand exactly what has been happening, but up until now, I have been reluctant to be too descriptive and explanatory.

    As many of you know, Sharon and I are Ambassadors for the Cancer Council Queensland, and we have been sharing our journey with many people at various forums for a number of years.

    We are now in the early stage of a new chapter, and this one really terrifies me.

    Sharon has developed an extremely rare malignancy, which is completely independent of her original breast cancer.

    The cancer was located in the right side of her face and presented itself as mild sinus and toothache. She had urgent surgery in Thailand to ease the pain, and then made it to the Greenslopes Private Hospital, which has pretty much been her home since.

    I spoke with both Dr Ben Wallwork, who is the ENT specialist. Ben and his amazing team performed the first phase of the operation and he was extremely happy with the result.

    He was able to remove the entire tumour and also save Sharon’s right eye, which was touch and go.

    Due to the nature of the malignancy, her cheek bone, eye bone and palate had been invaded and had to be removed. We knew this before hand, but still had a nervous wait until he had finished his part. Listening to his confidence and positivity post op was a huge relief.

    Dr Dan Rowe, who specialises in Plastic and Reconstructive surgery was next. His team worked for almost 7 hours to rebuild Sharon’s face. She had titanium plates put in to rebuild the eye, along with soft tissue and blood vessels from her leg to reconstruct her cheek and palate.

    What these guys have done is nothing short of a miracle. Not knowing a great deal about specialised surgery, it is difficult to fathom how they are even able to do what they do. This is why they are the best.

    The team of doctors put together has made this journey just a little less frightening. We have been so confident in their ability. Not only are they brilliant surgeons, but they are good people.

    They visited Sharon every day and continue to do so, they provided us with constant updates, didn’t sugar coat the potential complications, yet instilled so much confidence. When Dan called me after the final surgery, I told him if he was in front of me I would have given him a big kiss.

    As I raced to ICU, our paths crossed. I am not sure if he wanted to run or shake my hand, but I saved him the embarrassment and didn’t follow through with my intention.

    Sharon remains in ICU, and will probably be there for a while longer. Each day gets better, the swelling reduces a little and she has less pain.

    On Sunday the physiotherapists managed to get her in a chair, which is remarkable. She hasn’t been able to open her eyes just yet, although she manages to open the left eye for a few seconds to scan the room. We are communicating via hand signals and squeezes, and she knows who is around her.

    Sharon has a long road ahead, but if anyone can do this, she can.

    We can report at this stage that the surgical phase of the journey has been excellent. It is hard to even comprehend how painful and terrifying this has been for Sharon.

    I am not sure how much of this she will remember but I am hoping those rough days are now a distant blur. Probably the hardest part of all of this for me as her husband has been that awful feeling of helplessness. There is just nothing you can do to make this any easier, and it is upsetting to see her in so much pain.

    I am looking forward to seeing those big brown eyes and that first smile. It is coming and knowing that gives us all strength.

    I will let people know when Sharon is back in the ward and ready to have visitors. This will be her decision.

    Thanks again to everyone for your ongoing support, it has been so important to us.

    "If my mind can conceive it, and my heart can believe it - then I can achieve it." - Muhammad Ali