Shocking legacy: Cancer claims three in one family
Francesca Hudson has a rogue cancer-causing gene that has claimed her father, her older sister, a baby sister she never had the chance to meet - and nearly took her two years ago.
But she also has hope for the future.
When the 19-year-old starts her own family, she will use IVF to make sure that gene, known as Familial Adenomatous Polyposis or FAP, never gets any further down her family line.
The family's nightmare began in 1998. Ms Hudson never knew her sister who was born in 1997.
Bridget died of cancer at age one. That was beyond terrible but when her father Rick was diagnosed with bowel cancer in 2011 and died a year later aged just 40, Ms Hudson's mother Tiana had everyone gene-tested.
Frankie was only 11 when she lost her dad.
"When we lost dad, we thought it had to be in the blood somewhere and we had to figure out where it came from," she said.
Of the eight kids, only six were tested because Ms Hudson and her youngest sister were too young.
While all the boys were cleared of the gene, Ms Hudson's 22-year-old sister Talya not only tested positive for the gene for bowel cancer, she discovered she also had it.
"She was diagnosed with cancer the year dad died. She was 22 and she battled it for seven years," Frankie said.
Talya tragically died last year at just 28.
When Ms Hudson and her younger sister Mackenzie were old enough, they too tested positive to the gene, which has meant yearly colonoscopies and gastroscopies as well as ultrasounds.
In 2018, after a regular scan, Ms Hudson, then just 17, was also diagnosed with thyroid cancer, the year she was sitting her HSC.
They caught her cancer early and removed half her thyroid, enabling her to go and study teaching at Newcastle University.
"When I say cancer-free, I mean cancer-free for now," she said.
"I don't know what the future holds for me. Every time I have a colonoscopy I don't know if they will find something or not.
"It affects me more mentally than physically, I remember I can't be like normal kids, you know in 10 years' time, planning a family, I will have to go through years of genetic treatments and mentally that affects me to be reminded about this gene. I can't be like a normal person and fall pregnant one day."
What keeps her going is the dream of becoming a mother one day and, through IVF, she can choose an embryo without the rogue gene.
"I really want a family," she said.
"The thought that at least this kid is going to be healthy and knowing it will not go through the mental and physical strain I've gone through, the thought of ending it from my side of the family is really mentally rewarding.
"Hopefully it will end with me and it won't get carried further."
Throughout her ordeal, Canteen, the support group and charity set up by young cancer patients, has helped her with invaluable support.
"I joined back in 2014 after losing dad. I was blown away how supportive everyone was and there were others who understood what I was going through," Ms Hudson said.
Sandy Cham, general manager of services at Canteen, said cancer is the leading cause of death from disease among adolescents and young adults.
Originally published as Shocking legacy: Cancer claims three in one family