In the January, the random little pain low in the abdomen continued and I planned to return to the GP. But in February it was the blood in the toilet pan twice one evening that took me to the GP the following day. The GP said ”well we all get burst blood vessels”. I mentioned my father had died young of bowel cancer to which I was told ”you have to have 6 weeks of blood in the poo before you can be referred”. Anyway, I mention the random little pain and I got referred to Mr Bates, the gynae specialist at the North Hants Hospital in Basingstoke. I had an ultra sound the same month and a CA125 blood test (a tumor marker) for ovarian/bowel cancer to which I had a telephone call from my GP to tell me my scores were very high and it was a sign that I had one or the other.
In March I had further blood tests, CT scan and an examination by Mr Bates- so glad Jeremy came with me to divert my attention from what was going on down below and thanks to the nurse who had us in fits of laughter about her ’64 sleeps until her holiday’.
In April I was passed on to Mr Cecil the bowel specialist as Mr Bates informed me I had ”a cancerous growth from the bowel that had impacted the ovary”. The language used was very gentle. It allowed me to work things out and ask questions. At this stage I was expecting surgery to remove the tumour and I saw Mr Cecil on my own expecting to hear dates, but instead he said how surprised he was that I looked so well and had none of the usual symptoms as my situation was serious and he ‘would do the best he could’. It was at the next meeting with Jeremy that we were informed that the cancer had spread to glands and surgery was no longer an option. We then met Dr Jackson, an oncologist, at the Basing Unit who in answer to one of our questions told us that I had terminal cancer and my prognosis was 18 -24 months.
In May, the chemo started and continued through until December. I started with Oxaliplatin and Capecitabine with a cannula in my hand and pills to take home. I remember the first treatment as I was like a bunny in the headlights. The stress made me sick in the unit and on the way home. Then, later in May, I was told by Dr Jackson that the RAS gene test revealed that I was a wild-type! Meaning that my cancer cells had not mutated. So my medication changed and I had a PICC line in my arm. I was to continue the treatments with Oxaliplatin with Fluorouracil and Folinic Acid with Panitumumab as well. I had no pills to take home but 48 hour pump.
Overall, I had minimal side affects, fortunately, but everyone responds differently. So may people said how well I looked. This does make you wonder about the perception people have of those living with cancer and having chemo. In myself I felt well and could easily forget that I was ill until I saw my PICC line! My friends made a difference and going out was very important to me. I stayed positive throughout with only a few melt downs. I wonder if my revised diet helped with that. The accumulation of the drugs over the months does have an impact. For me the biggest issue was the ‘overproduction of keratin’ which affected my face and scalp. The last three treatments saw a reduction in the Oxaliplatin (which affected my blood count and therefore delayed my treatments; and in the Panitumumab which caused the skin disorders. Fortunately the worst of these was when we were away in Dorset and in Cumbria (so no one knew me anyway)!!
My Top Tips:
Stay positive – find something every day to thank God for
Stay stress free – stress has a negative affect on your body including your mind and your general outlook on life
Revise your diet – include ‘good mood food’ especially that containing omega-3 (fish), cod liver or hemp oil (the latter allegedly having anti-cancer properties).
Try taking up a new or previously dropped hobby – it helps you forget the obvious