THE NEXT CORNER

Waiting

February 2, 2019

These are the hardest of days - the days between the scan and the results.  It's a time when the mind oscillates from one end of the cancer spectrum to the other, from "I've only got weeks to live" to "it could be anything, it's not necessarily more cancer, you'll be fine" and everything in between. I've had loads of scans over the last three years - I'd guess probably 20-odd CT scans and maybe 8 MRIs.  But the scan I had on Thursday is, in my mind at least, more important than any that I have had previously.

 

To give you a potted history, this all started back in November.  By "this", I mean some pretty full-on stomach issues.  Not my bum, this time, you'll be relieved to hear!  No, this time it's stomach cramps, nausea, aches, pains, bloating and grumbles.  And a serious lack of appetite.  I've gone from weighing a fairly lightweight 11st 11lb (75.2kg) in September to weighing a truly featherweight 10st 4lb (65.4kg) now.  I'm 6'4 for heaven's sake.  There's nothing to me.

 

Initially we blamed a new bile control drug I was taking, but we now think this wasn't relevant.  In early December, the pain more or less cleared up and I was feeling pretty good.  Well enough, indeed, to be able to take off with Bekky to spend Christmas in South Africa, courtesy and thanks to some exceptional, kind-hearted, wonderful and truly generous friends, in particular one Loopy Mair who single-handedly raised enough money to cover all our holiday costs and allowed us to go.  Truly humbling and just amazing.  Thank you Loops (and the generous donors!).  You are more of a friend than anyone could ever ask for.

 

It was a holiday we were looking forward to hugely and we both desperately needed - a proper escape from incessant treatment, hospital visits, relentless cancer, winter and work (especially for Bekky); an opportunity to spend 12 days away from it all.  We flew out in a state of high excitement but on day 2, the stomach pains returned with a vengeance.  Day 4 was spent in A&E and on day 7 we flew home with our tails firmly between our legs.  To cut short such an extraordinary opportunity was soul destroying for us both.  Crushing.  Utterly depressing.  But we had to get back to our beloved NHS to find out what the hell was causing the pain.

 

We flew back on Christmas day (Next Corner Top Tip - the rumours about travelling on Christmas day are true.  There were 77 people on our flight (with 230+ seats) and thanks to yet another kind and thoughtful friend (who happens to work for BA) we were upgraded to business class for the 12 hour flight which was utterly spoiling and wonderful!). 

 

There then followed a string of hospital and GP visits, ranging from a couple of hours to a full day, none of which provided an answer.  Initially there were thoughts that it might have been colitis but a colonoscopy a couple of weeks ago showed this was not the case. 

 

At one stage, the pain got so bad that I spent two nights in the Surgical Assessment Unit of The Conquest Hospital in order to try to get on top of it, thankfully with some success.  I am now on a continual heady cocktail of opiate-based painkillers - cocodamol and targinact if you want the specifics - and these are doing a fairly good job of holding the pain at bay, but they leave me tired, lethargic, woozy and spaced out.  It's not plain sailing.  Yesterday, for example, I woke up feeling pretty good and had every intention of making it into the office for the first time in a week.  I had a light breakfast and a bath and then started to feel faint and nauseous with stomach cramps so lay down on the sofa for five minutes and awoke nearly four hours later.  Aside from two trips to the GP and one to the hospital, I have barely left the house in nearly ten days.

 

Anyway, getting back to the origin of the tale, on Thursday I went for a PET scan at Maidstone Hospital where I was injected with a radioactive dye for the second time in three years then had to remain perfectly still for an hour before being lobbed into a scanner, and scanned for the best part of another hour.  A PET scan specifically looks for cancer (in my case anyway) which is where our thoughts are now leading.  We've ruled out colitis so we believe it's now either adhesions or more cancer. 

 

Bowel cancer mostly spreads from the bowel first to the liver and then to the lungs, both of which my cancer has successfully achieved already, the bastard.  As demonstrated, this can mostly be kept under control if you're lucky.  However, it can then spread to the peritoneum (the lining of the abdomen) and/or the small bowel and at that stage, things get even more serious.  Treatment options beyond chemo/radiotherapy are very limited in most cases.  I don't believe surgery is possible.  And sadly, that's what is now being investigated - has my cancer spread to my peritoneum?

 

And that's why this is the hard bit.  I had the scan on Thursday and we hope to get the results early next week, which allows a good few days for one's brain to spin wildly in every possible direction.  It is known within cancer circles as having "scanxiety". 

 

After Bekky went to bed last night, I spent a good few minutes in the bathroom, alone and staring at myself in the mirror, wondering if this really is it.  One question led straight into another.  How long do I have?  Weeks?  Months?  And how will it end?  Will I be in pain?  Will I be conscious?  How will I die?  Will I suffocate?  Will I even be aware?  Where will I be?  What will happen afterwards?  What happens to my body?  What happens to my mind?  But most importantly of all, what happens to Bekky?  She is an extraordinarily strong woman who has not only managed to put up with, but also look after me over the last three years while studying for a Masters Degree and holding down three different jobs.  But she is also a truly fragile soul who has already had more than her fair share of hardships in her life.  She is my best friend, my wife, my lover, my carer, and if I go, what the hell does she do?  The pain of knowing I won't be there to comfort her, to hold her during her hour of need and to support her in her grieving, is profound and impossible to describe.  It is the ultimate irony - the one person she will need by her side at that time is the one person who can't be there.  It's terrifying for us both.

 

The magnificent Richard Kent, who so sadly died in October, ended up with cancer in his small bowel and via his wonderful wife Gemma's blog, I followed his every last step.  His demise was deeply traumatic and unpleasant and I am so scared that I will follow him in the same way in the not too distant future.

 

BUT one then takes a step back and says to oneself, may be it isn't.  May be it's not cancer.  May be it's just adhesions.  Or something else.  May be we're worrying unnecessarily.  There's every chance that it's nothing to worry about.  And then the brain swings back into negative mode - BUT why wouldn't it be cancer?  Of course it's bloody cancer.  I haven't been able to have chemo in nearly two months, who knows what the hell the cancer has been up to in the meantime.

 

It's all questions though.  No answers.  Answers are not possible, until early next week when over the course of literally seconds we will learn if things just became critical, or if we have been worrying over nothing.  It's a horrendous situation to be in and I wouldn't wish it on anyone.  Except perhaps Donald Trump.

 

We'll get the results this week and on Friday Bekky has her graduation ceremony which, no matter what the outcome, we will attend, in order to celebrate her magnificent achievement. 

 

So, boys and girls, please could you do Bekky and I a favour and keep your fingers crossed for us.  I'm not religious, but if you have a deity, bung a good word in for me.  Send positive vibes.  Think positive thoughts. 

 

I am hopeful, but I am also realistic.

 

I'll let you know.

 

 

 

 

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