Saturday, 14 November 2009

Another blow of the Hammer

We were feeling down.
The shock and mental stress of the Appendectomy were only just out of the way and suddenly I'm told I have Cancer. It knocks the wind out of you and you feel sick in the pit of your stomach.
So much runs through your mind....can I get over this? Why me? Am I going to die? I have known people who have suffered from this terrible disease and fought hard and lost. Will that happen to me?

The CT scan date arrived and I again left work early to go get the scan done. Work had been fantastic and incredibly supportive, giving me time off to deal with all the appointments I needed to take and offering help wherever possible.
I arrived again at Southmead hospital and found the waiting room. I had not eaten for four hours beforehand and had drunk a liquid dye the hospital had sent me prior to the scan. The waiting room was small and again it was a warm day. I went in and sat down. To my left were two older ladies with no obvious ailments. Directly in front of me however was a lady who was clearly undergoing treatment for cancer. She wore a headscarf and was pale and her skin was grey. I couldn't help but wonder if that was I was going to look like at some point in the near future?
My name was called and I was shown to a cubicle. I had to put on a hospital gown and a cannula was inserted into my left arm. I waited quietly in the cubicle until my name was called.
I was soon led into the scanner room. In front of me was a big machine. Not the long tunnel you see on the television used for MRI scanners but a smaller version we have nicknamed "the donut". I led on the bed and was made comfortable. The bed was raised and then moved through the donut. On the other side I was asked to raise my arms above my head and the cannula was connected to the machine. The staff left the room and the machine was started. Its not too noisy and there are verbal instructions given to the patient throughout....."breathe in.....breathe out....breathe in and hold..." at this point some sort of liquid is given via the cannula that must react with the liquid you have drunk to dilate the blood vessels throughout the body. Its a strange feeling your whole body feels hot and it feels like you have wet your pants!
Within a few minutes its all over. Back to the changing room and the cannula was removed and I was off home. Now the wait for the results...

An appointment came through for me to go back to see Ms Burt and Lesley Atkin. Lesley also rang to suggest that Tracey comes to the appointment too as I had come away from the first appointment not quite fully understanding all the points discussed.
We arrived at Southmead and sat in the waiting room at the Colorectal ward. Finally we were called in. We walked through the consultants office and into a lounge like,very comfy room. My heart sank. This didn't bode well.
We sat down the mood was sombre.
Ms Burt did most of the talking. Basically the CT scan had shown a mucinous like jelly coating the organs in the abdominal cavity. It was a very rare type of Cancer known as Pseudomyxoma Peritonei. It was a very rare type of cancer that effects one in every million people. Because of the nature of this cancer it cant be treated by conventional chemotherapy. Instead the usual treatment is a huge operation known as the sugarbaker technique. Because of the seriousness of the operation and the specialised nature it was not an operation carried out by normal hospitals and I was being referred to a specialist center in Basingstoke.
Tracey burst into tears and I was close to it.
This was bad.
"So what are my chances"
"You are a prime candidate for the operation,fit and well. But people do die from this condition."
"the other thing we must stress is that this is a very slow growing cancer"
The rest was a bit of a blur (again). We were handed a information sheet about the condition and the details of the specialist nurse in Basingstoke who would now be handling my case. An appointment would be made there soon for me to meet the team.
We composed ourselves and left. This was by far the lowest point we had been.
We got out side and Tracey again broke down, I held her and we cried together. Our world was shattered.
We drive home in silence, both of us numb.
We got hame and once through the front door Tracey again broke down, this time her legs going from under her and in hysterics. We sat together and cried some more.
I rang my parents and asked them to come up.
They arrived only ten minutes or so afterwards along with my brother. We broke the news. More tears. At this point Tracey read the leaflet that we were handed. I had avoided it up until now but had to read it. It was bleak reading.
" I don't stand a chance" I said and broke down again.
My parents left for a bit. Mum was unable to cope with the news.

When the girls came home from school we decided to tell them the news. There was now too much at stake and too much going on to keep it from them any longer. we were careful what we said but told the truth throughout and vowed that we would tell them everything (within reason) from this point on.

Mentally I felt like a nail being driven into a piece of wood. Blow after blow of bad news and I simply wasn't sure how much more I could take. This is the best analogy I could use to describe how I felt.

I visited work the following morning to inform them of what was happening. I took a few days of to come to terms with what I had been told.


  1. Dave,

    What a gret idea, this will deffinetely be an inspiration to others with the same condition. Very moving words. Will give you a bell in the week for a catch up. Andy

  2. I was diagnosed with PMP in early 2006. As my luck would have it, I ended up with a rare sub-variety of PMP, a urachal mucinous adenocarcinoma. Nearly four years on, here I am fit and well. Read my full story here:

    All the best for your op, Dave. You are young and fit and you have the best possible chances of a full recovery. The Basingstoke team is one of the best in the world.