Yesterday, something I wrote three years ago came up in my Facebook feed. It seemed apt for the situation I find myself in, so I reposted it:
How you choose to live your life is no one’s business but your own. Let me remind you, however, that you have a limited span of years on this earth, and each time you say something you don’t believe, do something contrary to your nature or go along with something just because the crowd expects it of you dilutes your individuality.
Time is too short to waste it with things or on people indifferent to your purpose. The clock is ticking. Find what’s precious to you and cherish it; say what you believe and act as one with it without shame; and, above all, be true to yourself and follow where it leads you
I don’t know what moved me to write about it at the time, though God knows there’s so much fakery in the world today that I don’t have to look far. Now, of course, it means something different for me – poignant and slightly bitter.
Those who read my revised post yesterday will know that the news was bad. I have cancer. To be precise, sinonasal cancer.
I was called into the doctors’ office, and without too much of a preamble, he told me that, unfortunately, he had some bad news for me. He then went on to tell me the details before explaining what was to come next. I asked a few questions and then walked away.
I wasn’t surprised, though it was shocking. I remained still, my voice even. I felt numb. I was conscious of wanting to hold it together and wished there was someone else there with me – the doctor said he’d have recommended I bring someone with me had he known the results.
I caught the train home, responding to the people who’d been asking for updates throughout the day. It all felt very strange.
I got home and fed Rigby, and gave him a hug. I made a couple of calls and received a few. So much to take in. So much to do.
I ended up at the Cheeses for dinner. They offered all their support, as I expected they would. There will be a tough time ahead, not just with this – I have to fucking move house somehow. They made me accept their help, which I did, as I know I can’t survive this by myself. They’re putting together a WhatsApp support group to help with the move ahead and the treatment after. Everyone I’ve spoken to has offered to chip in their help, and it’s quite humbling.
So, the story is I have this reasonably unusual variation of cancer. Tests confirmed it was growing there behind my nose and cheek. My treatment will be shifted from the E+E to St Vincent’s, and I expect a call from them today with all the arrangements made.
The first thing to happen will be a range of scans and tests to get more detail on the cancer and, most importantly, to check how far it might have travelled and where. The results of this will have a huge bearing on my prognosis. I think, in general terms, that if it’s gone below my shoulders, it’s curtains for me. Above that, it can be managed still, though tricky and with no guarantees.
Next, I meet with surgeons next Thursday to review the results and map out the treatment plan. That will be a scary meeting.
In the week or so after that, I’ll be admitted into the hospital for surgery. This is full-on surgery, not the little up my nose piece of work I was expecting previously. Believe it or not, that will take between 12-14 hours. They’ll open up my cheek, remove the cancerous bits (hopefully) and reconstruct the damaged bits.
I’ll be in hospital for up to a fortnight after that. Then there’s chemo and radiotherapy. That will be pretty tough. The doctor warned there’ll be times I’ll want to quit it, but it’s important that I continue.
All up, about 14 weeks of pretty intense treatment, at the end of which we hope the cancer is gone.
It doesn’t sound easy, and I expect it won’t be as easy as it sounds. It’s daunting, but I can’t wait to get started.
Funnily enough, some of my immediate concerns are practical and logistical. I’m told next week will be a whirlwind. I’m worried about shifting house and if I’ll be around for it, though I have many offers of help.
I worry about how I’m going to cope financially. I don’t have 14 weeks of leave up my sleeve, though he encouraged me to work as much as I can through this for my mental health. In reality, I don’t think that’ll be much. I have rent to pay and right now don’t know how I’ll manage to pay it.
Experience with my mum and my stepfather tells me that I’ll be pretty debilitated when I’m getting chemo and radiotherapy. Back then, I would take mum to and from the hospital. I don’t have that person, but I’ve asked if I can get that support from my friends. I won’t be able to drive, and I don’t want to take public transport. I guess we’ll work it out.
Of course, the greatest concern is survival. There’s a strong chance that it’s gone too far already.
I don’t know if I’d know, but I don’t think it’s in my lungs, and the doctor checked my lymph nodes yesterday, and there was nothing to find. I’ve not lost weight, not had fever or chills or sweats. In fact, it’s surprising to think I have cancer because, other than my head, I feel pretty chipper. But I’ve felt a little tingle in the back of my throat the last couple of weeks…
Despite all I’ve written in the last week, I think I knew this was coming. I never told you because I didn’t want to admit it, but I think Rigby picked it up.
Some dogs smell out cancer. I remember when mum had it that Rigby would sniff at her. In the last few weeks, there’ve been several occasions when Rigby will just stare at me and then start barking as if to warn me. It was unsettling.
There it is, much as I can remember at the moment. I’ll be making a broader announcement to my friends’ group through Facebook later today, just to get it out of the way. I have a chat sometime today with management at work also. I’m a little dazed but strong. Someone has to get it. This time it’s me.