I’ve recently had my annual CT Scan at the Christie Hospital in Manchester. My association with them started in 2010 when I was referred for a preventative surgical procedure.
I was both lucky and unusual.
I’d had my appendix removed in January 2010. I recovered quickly and thought no more about it until six weeks later. The surgical team called me in for an unexpected outpatients appointment. They told me that when they examined my appendix in histology they had found a mixed malignant tumour. The tumour was found in patients suffering a very rare from of cancer called Pseudo Myxonoma Peritoneii or PMP for short. I later found out that this condition occurs in only 1 in a million people.
The team in Leeds referred me to a specialist team at the Christie Hospital in Manchester ( A specialist world renowned Cancer hospital) and ordered lots of scans and tests. I was photographed, prodded and poked for a month. That I can safely say was the longest month of my life. I had my funeral music sorted, arrangements made in the event of my death arranged and was generally terrified. All the tests came back clear, with no evidence of disease or illness present. To say I was relieved is an understatement!
The surgeon recommended I carry on with my referral to The Christie.
I agreed to have preventative surgery, a procedure called HIPEC. I went in for my operation in June 2010. The operation was a relatively quick six hours. Often patients with PMP can be in surgery in excess of twelve hours. I recovered unusually quickly post surgery and was out within five days. I convalesced at home for a couple of months before resuming daily duties.
I have been subsequently scanned yearly since my operation.
This morning I found out that my most recent results are all fine and I now move to eight and ten year follow up. This is a big milestone for me. But what has the last six years shown me?
Cancer is a cruel, indiscriminate illness. It strikes down the rich and famous, the good and bad, young and old, fit and unfit. It shows no discretion. It can be slow and manageable or fast and aggressive. The great David Bowie, Alan Rickman, Lemmy from Motorhead, all recent high profile victims of cancer. Three out of four of my grandparents all suffered from cancer. My late brother in law and his second wife also cancer victims. Many friends and parents of friends have been affected by cancer. It changes the lives of all those patients and families.
I have sat in the waiting rooms at the Christie with some very sick people. I have never heard complaining, rarely seen fear in the eyes of my fellow patients. The hospital is a truly unique environment. The staff are helpful, calm and skilled at their job. My situation has always been treated with the same professionalism as other far more seriously ill people in the hospital.
My life has changed dramatically in the last six years and is continuing to evolve. I don’t fear death any more. I am relieved rather than overjoyed to be cancer free every day. I haven’t lived life to the maximum but I now intend to. I know there are loads of other chronic illnesses and conditions that can be life threatening which I may develop but that no longer worries me.
Life is precious and should be enjoyed. Cancer can materialise at any point and could whisk me off. Waiting to wonder if it will is not the way to live. Maybe after six years I can now breathe slightly easier.
We should not be afraid of Cancer. I am not afraid of it any more.
I am more afraid of loneliness, unhappiness.
Cancer hasn’t claimed me yet.