Tuesday 28 July 2015

The Results of the CT Scan

The CT Scan showed that the tumor in my bowel (in my sigmoid colon to be precise - that is like your left hand corner of the big tube) was indeed nearly completely blocking my bowel and I was very constipated as a result.

And it also showed that some nearby lymph nodes in my bowel were infected with tumors.

And it also showed lymph nodes along my aorta we infected with tumors. 

I thought the aorta was a part of your heart, but its actually a main vein leading to your heart. Sort of. I'm sure anyone with any medical background will cringe at my medical understanding.

And it also showed lots of very tiny dots of cancer in my lungs.

Not really want we wanted to hear. Could have been worse though. Could have been better too.

When you have cancer, the primary tumor is the type of cancer you have. So in my case, bowel cancer. The cancer in my lymph nodes and lungs is also bowel cancer.

The surgeon advised that the next step has to be surgery and soon, due to the size of the tumor. Oh and to start taking something for the constipation in the meantime.

The plan was for keyhole surgery, and if all went well I shouldn't need a bag afterwards. They would remove that entire section called the sigmoid colon and reconnect my bowel at the resulting gap.

After surgery would come more tests and treatments but the main thing was to focus on the surgery for now.

After the consult I wanted cry. I wanted to go home. But first some admin. Payment, and the receptionist gave us what seemed like a massive wedge of paperwork to complete. We didn't have to but I decided to stay and fill it in then and there. I felt much calmer after that. I think I was learning that keeping busy is keeping distracted and distracted is better than the real issue.

Thursday 23 July 2015

The CT Scan

So by now I'm already away from my nice, normal routines and having lots of new experiences I never wanted.

For a CT Scan, they give you a drink, make you wait for a bit, get you to change into a gown, more waiting - then you go into the room where its done.

They put a cannula in your arm and put some more stuff in you. By now people don't want to spend much time in the same room as you. Because you're radioactive. I think.

Then the cannula comes out, you lie down on the bed and it slowly moves through a big white ring. You have to hold your breath at strategic points, the instructions are called out to you by a person in another room.

Just when you're starting to get really bored and a bit uncomfortable and wanting to fidget its done.

The images were ready right away, Dave and I took them home with us. We had a really good look at them. A couple of times we even got them the right way up. We had no idea what we were looking at.

That was a Thursday. We were not seeing the surgeon to discuss the results until the following Tuesday.

It felt like a very long time.

Here's me in the fabulous gown before the scan started.

Wednesday 22 July 2015

The C Word

We saw the Doctor in his rooms 2 days later.

He told us it was cancer. When I heard the word I felt a weird shockwave travel through me, starting at the top of my head and working its way down.

Apparently he told me after the colonoscopy, but I don't remember - that the tumour is so large that they couldn't get past it with the scope.

He got us to book a CT scan followed by an appointment with a colorectal surgeon as soon as possible.

OK, so it is cancer. We can take that out and move right on, right?

Monday 20 July 2015

The Colonoscopy... of Doom

We arrived at Calvary Hospital at 7.30am. I had still been making dashes to the toilet all night, so I was a bit worried about leaving the house, but things settled down, and no dramas ensued.

We sat in a waiting room full of people also waiting for colonoscopies, looking tired and washed out. All of them were much older than me.

As we had been booked in at very short notice, this was the first time I met the Doctor.

One good thing about the procedure is that you don't have to get changed into a hospital gown. You just wear some of your own comfy clothes, and the nurses help you get organised and lying on your side, under a blanket.

If I remember correctly, the cannula was put into my wrist (as opposed to the corner of my arm). There was beeping and bustling and talking. All the staff were really nice. I remember crying. As much as needles scare me, I don't usually cry. I think they asked me to count, I think I remember being glad they didn't ask me to count backwards (too hard!). My eyes closed, and when they were open again it was over.

The Doctor gently but with much gravity told me that they'd found a growth. They'd taken a biopsy to send it off and see what it was.

A growth. OK, we'll get that taken out then I guess. I still didn't think it would be cancer. I suspect I was the only one.

Sunday 19 July 2015

The Glamourous World of Bowel Prep

When you have a colonoscopy, you have to eat a low fibre diet for a few days before hand, then fast for a day while drinking a solution of magic stuff that 'clears you out'. So yep, you have diarrhoea until there is nothing but water going straight through you.

A low fibre diet mainly consists of my less preferred foods, but only foods I really hate is bananas and ketchup so it was quite easy really.
We did have a little bit of trouble finding a low fibre bread - they all claim to be packed with fibre. I told my surgeon this later, he said that they are still all low fibre.

I'm not very good a skipping meals usually, so I was a bit worried about the fasting, but I managed it very well.

The first few sips of the bowel prep solution don't seem too bad - a bit like alka seltzer or something. By the time you're on your last dose, you're choking it down.

Friday 17 July 2015

Symptoms III: The Trilogy Concludes

Friday, 2am - guess what? More red offerings to the porcelain altar.

By now I am getting Deja vu. I go back to bed, and call the GP at 8.30am.
He makes some phone calls, and gets back to me later with a colonoscopy booked for Monday.

I'm approximately 1 million miles out of my comfort zone now.
I'm scared of hospitals and needles (and needle related stuff like blood tests and cannulas). I'm scared of the risks associated with anaesthesia. And I'm mortified by the exposure of bits of me that the sun never shines.

It was a long weekend but I had no further symptoms apart from feeling a bit drained, like one feels after a bout of gastro.

Cancer still hasn't even crossed my mind.

Thursday 16 July 2015

Symptoms II: The Return of the Symptoms

On Thursday morning, about 5am, it all happened again. I was woken by a sudden need to rush to the loo, where I proceeded to gush blood.

I'm a quick learner. This time, I had a good look. A really good look. I even took photos.

Dave took me to A&E. I've never been to A&E before, for myself or anyone else.

It was 6am by the time we got there. It was nice and quiet.

By 7am I decided it was time to call work and let them know I might be late.

Shortly after, I was seen by a nice young Doctor, who was on his 13th hour of his shift. I was impressed by his ability to function like a human after 13 hours of work. I'm not impressed that Doctors have to work such long hours. When I have a spare minute, I must get round to revolutionising the medical system. But I'm busy at the moment.

He asked me all the same questions as the GP. He did all the same prodding and poking. Then he put a cannula in my arm. This is a terrifying experience for me. He did a blood test to check my red cells. They came back normal. He said "This is a bit mysterious". And said he would refer me for a colonoscopy.

Work told me to take the day off. I went to bed.

Tuesday 14 July 2015

My First Day of Symptoms

Warning - Gory details are included

On Tuesday 14th July I got to work at 8am as usual. As soon as I put my bag down, I suddenly had to rush to the loo.
There, imagine Quentin Tarantino writes an episode of American Horror Story: Bathroom. Yep, blood gushed out from whence it should not.
My reaction: "Yikes!". Flush. Clean up.

By this time, one of the directors had arrived at work, so I told her and she sent me to the nearest GP right away.
That sounds pretty calm but it wasn't. I don't often swear - but I did that morning.

Here is my top tip so far - if you do something in the toilet that you need to tell a Doctor about - have a really good look at it before you flush.

The Doctor wanted to know every last detail of what I'd sent down the big white telephone, but I really didn't have the answers. All I knew was there was a lot of blood.
He asked me lots of other questions too, did some prodding and poking, and said he would refer me for a colonoscopy.

I got a taxi home and went to bed, feeling drained and sorry for myself, but also sure it would not be anything serious. Cancer never even crossed my mind.

I went to work the next day. I still felt drained, and I joked with a colleague when she asked me how I felt "Like I could do with the rest of the week off" Ha ha.