At 44 years old, and fit as a fiddle, I've been diagnosed with oesophageal cancer. That came as a bit of a shock. Over the last few months, I'd had increasing difficulty swallowing food, particularly rice, pasta and dry meals. My GP eventually referred me to hospital for an endoscopy on the 19th October 2012. We thought the problem may have been linked to my hernia operation from 2008, which can sometimes cause a tightening of the oesophageal sphincter. How wrong we were.
As soon as the doctor got the scope down my throat she spotted the tumour. It is 5cm in size and at the base of my oesophagus. As I'd had a general anaesthetic for the endoscopy, I was a little spaced out when the doctor told me of her findings, but my wife Johanna was there to bear the bad news in full.
By tea time I was recovered from the anaesthetic but had an overwhelming feeling of numbness. What I'd been told hadn't sunk in at all. Johanna was still very upset. I guess I was in denial.
We had a normal family tea that night but didn't tell Paige and Isaac. (Isaac had his girlfriend round so that wouldn't have been fair)
We asked them both to be home for 6pm the following day. We ordered Chinese and sat around the dinner table. The kids had both been sending Joh and I texts all day trying to guess what we wanted to tell them, Isaac came closest with "is dad dying?"
We had our chicken soup first, can't stand that going cold, and told them what had been found in my gullet. There were lots of tears all round, but we're a strong family and we'll get through this together. The weekend went by rather weirdly, with occasional bouts of tears from Joh and myself. The kids seemed fine, but quiet. Isaacs team won against Southport in the rugby in the last few minutes of the game, and I had my first frustrated snap at Joh on the way there in the car. She's a terrible passenger seat driver!
On Monday I had a CT scan and got an appointment through to see Dr Ducadt on Wednesday for the results of the scan, biopsy and hopefully bloods. Monday and Tuesday nights at work went by in a daze. I was still strongly in denial. When asked "how are you?" I couldn't reply "dying of cancer" could I! I've got to change that to FIGHTING CANCER!!
Wednesday 24th October 2012. 15:30pm. Dr Ducadt came into the small consulting room with his registrar and specialist support nurse. Joh was sat in the only chair and I perched on the bed. I had angry butterflies in my stomach and a feeling of detachment. The doctor went through what had been found and confirmed the tumour was a T3, although the CT scan wasn't very helpful in determining the size of the tumour, it didn't look like it had spread anywhere else. My blood iron was low. Joh cried, quite a bit. I was once again off to my denial place and took all the info on board about the next round of tests and surgery with an air of detachment. Louise, the nurse specialist, then went through it all again for us, and gave us lots of reassurance and advice for the upcoming journey ahead. Joh cried a bit more.
We left hospital and headed to asda for some alcohol. 2 bottles of wine and some nice bread and butter to compliment the stew joh had made earlier. Home and a few calls to make. Mum first in Spain. No answer. On to dad, local. Eldest brother Paul, local-ish. Middle bro' Peter, Nottingham. No answer. Mum called back. Peter called back. Family told. Paige and bf Jamie told. Isaac told when he eventually got in for tea. Tears all round again and big hugs. Stew and bread was lovely, wine going down a treat.
I had second thoughts about going public with my news, but I'm glad I did. I posted on the Manchester Wheelers forum, the smacs forum, Facebook and twitter. That pretty much covers everyone we know. I'm overwhelmed by the response. We all are. Thank you.
So, today, Thursday 25th October 2012 is the first real day of living with and FIGHTING this disease. My aim is to document my treatment on here and keep my updates in one place. Love to you all xx