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The story so far pt 2 – 2013

#cancer #lymphoma #bronchiecstasis

People tell me I am a warrior and fighter I see myself as neither just someone who has been dealt bad hand healthwise and is coping with it the best way I know how and this is that story.

It’s now mid december 2013, my birthday in fact and it’s Friday the 13th. I don’t believe in all that mumbo jumbo and what happened next is just pure coincidence. It was back in October I had the needle biopsy and was told they would advise me of the results, by my birthday I had totally forgotten all about it and had just got on with things and I even managed to ignore the lump when I looked in the mirror whilst shaving.

Mid morning the postie arrived with a few cards for me and a letter being my birthday I opened the cards and set them out and just threw the letter onto my “later” pile. It was a plain white envelope so I didn’t think it was anything important enough to worry about on my birthday.

My children and grandchildren came over for the day to help me celebrate and I forgot all about the letter. By mid evening they had all gone and it was just me and the missus in thee house so I decided to open the letter. It was from the hospital they had booked an appointment for me to see the ENT consultant on Dec 24th, Christmas eve.
That was it, that’s all that was in the letter just a note to advise me of a hospital appointment, I told the other half about it and made a note in my calendar to go to this appointment. Then when on about the business of getting ready for christmas.

Because I have a memory like a sieve when it comes to appointments I set my google calendar to remind me about them the day before. Dec 23rd after I got up I switched my phone on and up popped a reminder that I had an appointment the next day at the PRUH.

Princess Royal University Hospital AKA the PRUH

After getting the reminder I told Siân (my partner) about it and she asked if I wanted her to come with me, to which I replied “Nahhh you carry on getting ready for christmas it’s only to get the results of the biopsy and if was anything serious I am sure they would have told me earlier than this” and after that once again we both just got on with our days.

December 24th 2013 – Christmas eve.

Just another ordinary day it what had been up until this point 53 years full of ordinary days. I made my own way to the hospital parking in Sainsbury’s car park and only paying for an hours parking because these routine appointments don’t take too long.

My appointment was in outpatients D but instead of going in via entrance D I would always go in via the main entrance. I would do this because just inside was a Costa coffee franchise and I could grab a nice freshly brewed Americano, which of course I duly did. I love freshly brewed black coffee, no milk, no sugar just 2 simple ingredients, water and coffee. The bad news is that it’s always too hot to drink straight away so I get it to take away and wait for it to cool down before drinking it. I got my coffee wandered off to outpatients D and checked in at reception where the girl told me to take a seat and they would call me in.

In hospitals it’s all “hurry up and wait” no matter how early you turn up for an appointment you never get seen on time and most times it’s a bit of a wait so I had my coffee and I had my kindle and I got comfortable and continued read a Lee Child book I was in the middle off “The killing floor” one of the Jack reacher serious. I sat down started to read it and heard my name being called, looked up and there was nurse calling me WOW I had only checked in less than 2 minutes ago so I got up grabbed my coffee and followed her in to see the consultant.

I walked into the room ne said “hello” shook my hand and told me to take a seat, there were 3 people and me in the room, the consultant and 2 nurses, normally only 2 just him and his nurse. He introduced the new nurse to me and said she was from the Chartwell clinic and that she would be taking care of me after I left his consulting room. Chartwell? Chartwell clinic? ah yes I’d seen the signs for the that at the main entrance but no idea what it was or even why a Chartwell nurse was even there. Also what did he mean would take care of me after I left? I was just about to ask when he started talking.

The consultant told me that they had the results of the biopsy back and even though it looked like a cyst it wasn’t his exact words were “it’s not a cyst it’s a malignancy” a what? he carried on talking “The biopsy shows you have lymphoma, follicular lymphoma to be precise” wait.. what? I’ve never heard of that. I could see that he could see the penny slowly dropping, he stopped talking and waited for me to catch on, it took a minute but suddenly it all became clear “malignancy?” I asked “Are you telling me I have cancer?” “Yes” he said “but cancer with a little c” I was completely and totally struck dumb by this, that wasn’t what I was expecting, I just went into a state of shock for minute or 2 . He then apologised for “spoiling your christmas with news I don’t want to hear” and then asked me if I had any questions.. Only a few thousand were rushing through my head but the one that came straight to the front was the obvious one “Is it going to kill me?” I asked.

He then explained that he was an ENT consultant not an oncologist or a hematologist and that they would be better placed to go through it with me and at that point the Chartwell nurse interjected and said that arrangements had already been made for me to attend the Chartwell clinic in the new year.

The nurse then suggested the 2 of us went into another room as she had some things to discuss with me. So I picked up my coffee, said my goodbyes to the consultant and off we went.

She sat down with and told me that in about 15 minutes I would be having a CT scan, the reason for this was to see how far the cancer had spread. “spread?” I said “what do you mean spread? it’s a lump on my neck, it’s not spread very far at all”
She then proceeded to tell me what lymphoma actually was that it was a blood cancer and affected my lymph nodes and the tumour on my neck would just be a visible one of many which Is why I needed the scan so they could see the rest.
She actually spent the next 10 minutes explaining it all to me but I didn’t really hear her because all I could think was “I’ve got cancer I am going to die” over and over again then I blurted it out “How long have I got?” “We don’t know, this is why you need the scan, we need to see how far the disease has progressed”.

CT scanner

Off we went to the scanning suite, while I was waiting for the scan I phoned Siân and quickly gave her the bullet points and I still remember her saying “I knew I should have come with you today I had a feeling it was going to be this” I had to end the call as my Chartwell nurse said they were ready for my scan. I cannot fault this nurse she was fantastic, she kept talking to me explaining things to me, answered all my questions all through out the scan, eventually it was over with and I really needed to get home and talk to Siân. The nurse explained that the scan would be checked and that they would let me know when I had to come and see the hematologist at the chartwell clinic. my mind was still in a whirl as I made my way home “Cancer” “malignant” “tumours” “Incurable”

Once I got home I just fell into Siân’s arms and cried, in fact we both cried. Like me Siân wanted answers and I couldn’t give them to her because until the results of the scan weren’t sure exactly what I was facing.
I think we spent the rest of the day googling lymphoma to see what it was all about and by the end of the day I had a really good understanding of what it was.

The most bizarre thing about the whole day was that when I got home I was still carrying that cup of coffee, I hadn’t touched a drop of it and it was stone cold.

It was now nearly midnight and some of my kids were coming round for christmas day so we made the choice not to tell them or anyone until the new year so as not to spoilt their christmases

From this point until Jan 2nd 2014 we kept it to ourselves.


See part 3 for more

Steve Woodmore

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