Friday, 2 December 2011

Cancer - What's In A Word?


I consider myself to be a very lucky woman in many respects. Up until May of this year the only stay I'd had in hospital was when I gave birth to my son 48 years ago. I have always considered myself to be fit as the proverbial butcher's dog. I ran 10 miles on my 40th birthday and walked The Cleveland Way for my 50th.

Then in May of this year I decided to have a hysterectomy for a longstanding problem. My reasoning was I was fit and it was time to deal with it while the possibility of complications was low. The operation was straightforward as expected but the aftercare whilst in hospital resulted in my being very ill. My recovery was very slow. I felt exhausted and unable to concentrate. In fact it felt as if I'd somehow lost myself. I'd expected to be ok in a few weeks and three months elapsed and I still felt tired and lacking in energy. I also had the complication of developing stress incontinence and I was told I need yet another operation to fix that. I have been busily doing Kegels hoping to obviate the necessity but unfortunately it hasn't worked and I am scheduled for the operation in January.

Then at a routine visit to my dentist in September she detected a white patch on my inner cheek and suggested it may be leukoplakia a precancerous condition and she referred me to the 
local Dental Hospital. I had to wait three anxious months for an appointment. At the appointment the consultant said she didn't think it was anything sinister but she suggested a biopsy and some blood tests. The blood tests were done straightaway and several weeks later I had the biopsy. This Tuesday I was given the news that in fact the thickening was due to me biting the cheek. I heaved a sigh of relief.

All should have been well in my world, but unfortunately, I was waiting to have a gastroscopy! I had been having some chest and back pain for some months coupled with the fact that the PPI (acid inhibitor) I take for acid reflux seemed to have lost its effectiveness. I discussed it with my OH and I reluctantly decided I needed to see my GP. This is, despite all I have said, a very rare occurrence. When I attended the appointment this very young doctor asked me what I thought the problem was? A little surprised I suggested that the symptoms could be a sign depression. I had been very down due to problems with my health, other ageing issues and the fact I was due to retire. He was very impressed with what he called my insightfulness but he didn't think I looked depressed? He did think, however, due to my symptoms and age it could be cancer! He said he was sorry but there was no easy way to say it! He did arrange the gastroscopy quickly and that brings me to today.

I don't know whether you've had this procedure but it's not pleasant. I'm a fairly stoic individual and usually go for eccentric bonhomie rather than show my fear so I swallowed down the camera whilst fighting the urge to panic. However, the doctor and staff were brilliant and the procedure was soon over. At the end of it I was told there was no sign of cancer but I did have a hiatus hernia and I make excess acid. She did a biopsy for a bacteria in my stomach called Helicobacter Pylori and I will have the results within ten days. As you can imagine I am delighted by the results. I did offer to kiss her but she politely declined!

So here I am chilling the wine and breaking out the cake and feeling very happy and positive and that could be that. However I would like to point out that perhaps my two weeks of worry could have been avoided if that young doctor had phrased his response differently. If he had said something like, I'll send you for an exploratory gastroscopy to see if we can find out what's happening. I may have still asked what he was looking for and he may have said we need to rule out cancer but it would have been less like a slap in the face.

As a final word I would like to say thank you for all my friends on twitter who have given me support some knowingly (they know who they are) and some unwittingly by making me laugh out loud at the times I was feeling very down. I've said it before and I'll say it again I love Twitter!

12 comments:

  1. So pleased, such a relief for you; you can now concentrate on preparing for retirement and enjoying Christmas.
    May you have a long happy retirement and keep on Tweeting xx

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  2. I am so pleased that everything went ok today - but would agree you could have been saved from a lot of worry if only that Doctor had approached in a a different way. They might be excellent Doctors but sometimes they do lack people skills

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  3. Thanks Pat I really appreciate the support you give me on twitter you're a good woman x

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  4. yes bless him for taking me seriously but he could do with a course on communication! Btw thanks for your support Sheila x

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  5. I've heard this before with young doctors. They really do need people skills lessons. I am so happy that you are ok but not half as happy as you I bet! Always love chatting to you Barbara, will catch up with you on twitter again soon no doubt. sleep well tonight x x

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  6. Glad to hear you had a positive result!  Lizzie

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  7. Crikey, you have been through it, Babs...and sometimes I feel the fear of what something might be is worse than the thing itself...in a weird way. I am so glad it is not the dreaded C...but do hope you can get some comfort for your health woes. And for the uncertainty of retirement. xxxx

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  8. Thanks Lynette for your recent support. It has made a difference. I love chatting to you on twitter but hope you'll engage on the blog or Facebook from time to time x

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  9. Thanks Jane and I agree. I'm just pleased I didn't get to test out the theory. Today I feel lighter in spirit and I hope that continues x

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  10. Leaving aside the poor bed-side manner of the young doctor (poor you)  I suffer from a similar reflux problem - my stomach valve doesn't work and five years ago I had key-hole surgery to form a new valve.  This has completely changed my life!  I have not suffered a single bout of indigestion or reflux since, and as reflux can eventually lead to cancer of the stomach or oesophagus it was a huge relief to me.  I have a family history of digestive cancers and have since had tests and will continue to do so.  I must add that I live in France but I know this is available in UK.  I too was on PPIs but read that prolonged use can lead to osteoporosis. If you want to know more, I can go into detail - I'd recommend it for anyone in the same position.

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  11. Thank you so much for the information Carol. I have an appointment at the hospital on Friday and I will be sure to ask about the operation. I am touched by your interest and kindness.

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