In May last year, Angie Howes took herself to Wollongong Hospital with no real symptoms - just a feeling that something was wrong.
"I had been out enjoying the day with my son and I called a friend to see if I could drop him off on my way to having myself checked at the local hospital," said Ms Howes, an ambassador for the Cancer Council's Relay For Life 2020.
A week earlier she had undergone tests for abdominal issues, with the results coming back normal.
It was a busy Saturday night in the ER and it ended with her undergoing emergency surgery to clear a blocked bowel and a seven-week hospital stay.
Afterwards her surgeon sat by her bed, held her hand and told her she had Stage 3 bowel cancer and that if she hadn't taken herself to emergency she might not be alive.
As a single mum with a five-year-old boy and no family in NSW, she said "it was a lot to digest".
I know what really is important in life and what is not. I am appreciative of the little moments that really do make me smile.
"My cancer was called 'bad luck cancer' by my oncologist.
"The surgeon was confident that she had removed all the cancer during the operation however she advised me to still have chemotherapy as a precautionary measure.
Ms Howes was determined to fight the cancer with everything she had, while also being conscious it was not only her going through the cancer diagnosis. It was also her son Oscar.
"For those that know me I am a fighter and this boy needs his mum and I need him," she said.
"He has been through the journey and has seen how sick I have been. He has seen me got to hospital for five and six weeks at a time. He has been such a brave little boy."
Ms Howes said she was also blessed with a bunch of friends she affectionately refers to as her "village".
"I'm doing this cancer thing alone, but I know I'm not alone," she said.
"My village was there for the simple pleasures that were making me feel human-ish again, such as hair washed and braided, nails clipped, legs massaged and so many more amazing things.
"They were keeping each other updated to ensure that both Oscar and I had all the support we needed physically, emotionally and practically."
Ms Howes finished chemo on December 19 and was given the all clear in January. But it wasn't the end of her cancer journey.
In March a routine blood test found the cancer had returned and tumours were discovered on her ovaries and in her stomach. The cancer had spread and she was diagnosed with Stage 4 bowel cancer.
Ms Howes was admitted to St George Hospital with a blockage in my bowel and had a major 13-hour surgery the next day followed by two days in intensive care with an incision scar 63 staples long. The surgeon removed everything he could to give her the best chance of fighting the cancer.
In April the COVID-19 pandemic meant she didn't see Oscar for two weeks and her family in Melbourne, Perth and Brisbane could not visit.
The surgery was followed by six months of chemo and her friends were quick to rally around her again.
"My village was back in full effect and ensuring I had yummy foods and drinks available for when needed and that Oscar was getting to all the important things in his life such as soccer, swimming and school," she said.
Ms Howes is having the best available treatment but she knows there are no guarantees. She is living life as much as she can buoyed by her loving son and friends.
"I have a wonderful 'little man' who provides me with all the incentives I need to remain positive," she said.
"I know there might not be a 'remission' for me and unless a cure, I will always be on "watch and wait" in one way or another. I have somehow accepted that and learnt a greater courage.
"I know what really is important in life and what is not. I am appreciative of the little moments that really do make me smile.
"If I am going to live long-term with this unwelcome guest, I knew I was going to have to get used to the scans and results and treatment being standard everyday stuff, not big events. I will keep moving forward no matter how many obstacles and I will never give in.
"Life has to carry on or I will miss the best bits. Don't think ahead, take each day as it comes and live life to the fullest."
Ms Howes said the community can help by being the village for many other families this year, and she is encouraging everyone to get behind this year's 'Relay Your Way during COVID-19'.
"Anyone who wants to participate just does what they want to do because we can't walk around Beaton Park this year," she said.
"People are already digging deep and being incredibly generous considering what we are all going through in 2020."