Where to begin. My meeting with the Oncologist was just a few days later. I have no idea as to what happened in between, other than we tried to allow life to continue as normal for the sake of our sanity and our son.
The meeting was 6pm on a Tuesday. My Oncologist was prompt and just looked like he knew what he was doing instinctively. He welcomed us into his office - he was sat to my 10 o clock, Kerry directly beside me to my 3 o clock. She was clearly anxious and throughout restrained the medic in her and pretty much just listened.
We began with me going over my history which I've detailed here, and the two months since my collapse, leading up to this meeting. He was attentive and made copious notes while I spoke. Then he asked me what I understood of my disease.
I told him I knew I had a cancerous tumour in my pelvic area but that was about it. I knew it was tangled into some of my bowel which meant my surgeon couldn't operate without treatment first.
'What you have is extremely serious'.
How do you prepare yourself for the worst news imaginable? How do you comprehend it? How do you carry on? Up until then I had been so naive and arrogant, joking my way through it and pushing through the pain as though I could deny the gravity of the situation through sheer force of will. This man systematically destroyed my defences within minutes, because he had to.
I had a very large Mucinous Adenocarcinoma in my right pelvic area. This meant some cells in my bowel had mutated and formed a slow-growing tumour that was spreading. This tumour was producing mucous and poison that was entering my system and killing me. It would overtake my vital organs and kill those too, and it had already begun to do so. The tumour had already tangled itself in the complex loops and bends of my digestive system. More seriously, it had spread to my Peritoneum. I'd never heard of the Peritoneum. He described it as a bed sheet, a thin membrane that covered and protected my entire abdomen. My scans had shown disease peppering my Peritoneum, and because it was so thin the disease could track quickly across it to other organs. There was no real treatment or surgery for this because of the fact that it was a membrane. It has also compromised my Omentum. If the Peritoneum was the bed sheet, the Omentum was the duvet, a fatty organ that protected the front wall of the stomach.
Because of the extent to which it had spread, and having metastasised to other organs, there were facts I was going to have to accept, and quickly. It could not be operated on. It could not be cured. It could be treated, which meant the symptoms could be ameliorated through chemotherapy, but at some point, the fact was, this would kill me.
I had advanced cancer. I was going to die.
The sensation was that of falling. And dizziness. I vividly remember having my hand in my pocket and furiously fiddling with two pound coins. Kerry was bolt upright, but trembling and rocking back and forth. She was pale, and wiping away tears. My world was collapsing in on itself. I had only two thoughts.
My happy and innocent little boy, who meant everything to me, didn't deserve this.
My wonderful wife would be a widow and a single parent. She didn't deserve this.
This wasn't my fault. It wasn't down to drinking or diet or lifestyle. It was a cruel and random twist of fate. It was always going to happen. I couldn't blame anyone or anything, which in a way made it even harder.
My Oncologist already had a plan of action to try and slow the progress of the disease, to keep it at bay as long as possible. He'd thought about it long and hard - you could see it in his face. This was important. By going private I could utilise a drug not funded by the NHS. It was called Avastin. This was important too. The plan was to start on a fortnightly regime called FOLFIRI. Over the course of 4 hours I would have 4 or 5 drugs administered intravenously and then for the following 2 days I would be continuously hooked up to a pump that would slowly administer a drug called 5FU. We'd review after 3 months. He wouldn't be pressed on the plan after that. Fortunately I didn't twig that the reason for this was that he didn't know if I'd make it that long.
There were consequences to this treatment. It would make me sick. All my hair would fall out. It will probably make me sterile and we should consider freezing my sperm. I should see a geneticist to rule out it being in my family tree.
Kick after punch after slap after kick. I was being hammered into submission in the space of an hour. I was no longer the husband, the father, the manager, the son. In an hour I'd been hammered into something new - a victim. As I ground those pound coins together all I could see was the smiling faces of my wife and son - my world. I couldn't fight the past but I could fight the future. If it was going to take me I wasn't going without a fight - the strength of my love was too much. Towards the end I asked my Dr. to give me everything he had. 'Don't worry, I'm going to throw the book at you',
he said. He certainly did.
This was the first time a medical professional had been straight with me. I appreciated that, in spite of the horrible news. In the next few days I was to have a PICC line inserted (more on that soon) and a PET scan (more on that soon too) before Chemo started ASAP. He'd be in touch.
I had a blood test and we drove home in the late spring rain as dusk fell. We got home and Kerry went to text her parents - but her phone was gone. Something snapped at this point and she broke completely. Those racking inconsolable sobs that nothing can fix. I ran out in the rain and found it on the floor of the car but she was doubled over on the sofa, weeping. I wept too. I was the cause of her sorrow and I couldn't do anything to make it better. And I wept too.
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