I don’t really remember much about the days after I found out I most likely had cancer. I think I’ve subconsciously blocked them out though I do remember feeling like I wasn’t actually living on this planet. I remember that although I tried to stay strong and positive I felt so angry and sad. I cried at the thought of dying, of leaving my family, of leaving Ash on his own and of not living to be as old as I thought I would.
I found myself feeling like a little girl again, I wanted my Mum to take away the pain and fix everything like she always seemed to do. But this wasn’t mum fixable, it was completely out of anyone’s control.
I love the house where Ash and I live, I love the beautiful things we have in it but all I wanted to do was smash everything up. I felt so angry and it was the only way I thought I was able to get it out of my system. Thankfully all of our house and its contents stayed intact and I made it through that very angry period with my hair straighteners, phone and make up brushes being the only things that took a bit of a battering!
My next step was waiting for the MDT (Multi-Disciplinary Team) meeting to be held at Stepping Hill Hospital. I was told that these meetings are a place where all the brainiest people in the hospital get together to discuss patients and what their plans of action are for treatment. I got a call to say that I had an appointment two days later on the Friday to discuss their plan for me.
The appointment is something else I don’t remember a lot about but I was told that my operation would be on the Tuesday of the following week, with admission in to hospital on the Monday before. There was a chance that they wouldn’t be able to remove the lump they now referred to as a tumour and that if they couldn’t they would only be able to do a biopsy. They were still in the dark as to what type of cancer I had and I still held on to the fact there was a slight chance it wasn’t cancer at all. It really seemed to be a case of opening me up to see what they found. There was a chance they were going to have to remove a portion of my colon because the tumour was squashing it and although they planned to attach it back together there was a chance that they wouldn’t be able to right away, in which case I would have to have a temporary colostomy bag. The doctors suspected that the cancer had spread to my pelvis and uterus and if that was the case there would be no point in removing the tumour because it was already too late. My heart sank, and what I mean by that it is felt like it dropped out of my body and smashed right on the floor underneath me. Although at the same time I felt peaceful. As well as Ash I had taken my friend Sophie to the appointment with me. She’s a doctor and came all the way from Liverpool to sit and listen, she seemed so confident in the doctors and so positive about everything. She didn’t seem panicked and I didn’t feel that I needed to be either. She was an amazing strength for me that day and so was Ash – I couldn’t have got through it without them.
I know, and not just because I have been told, because I have experienced having to do it, that being positive is absolutely vital in fighting.
The minute you decide something has its grip on you, you fall into a big black pit and it’s hard to get out. You won’t fight, your mind won’t fight and your body won’t fight.
I’m not saying that I have spent the past 11 weeks in denial about everything that has happened to me and is happening to me. It is shit, unfair, sad and so disgusting, I miss my other life before all of this and I wish that I could remember what I felt like before I had cancer, but I try everyday as best I can to fight, to fight my thoughts on a daily basis. It’s not easy though, it’s bloody hard!
We all have that choice, we either fight strong and carry ourselves through situations with hope and belief or we don’t fight and we carry on with nothing, accepting the worst and being completely miserable and ready to lose. I personally believe that goes for a lot of other things in life too, not just cancer.
During my last free weekend before the big operation I spent time with Ash and my family, drinking champagne, prosecco, anything fizzy, eating my favourite foods, shopping for bits and bobs I needed to take in to hospital and removing all of my gel nail polish – which I hated doing because I feel disgusting with naked nails!
My cousin Sarah and her husband Chris held a ‘Pre-op Party’ for me at their house. We sat in the garden and gave my old damaged body a proper good send off!! #laterscanceryoulittlebitch
Before I knew it Monday morning had rolled around and I was waiting for someone to call me to let me know my bed was ready for the night in Stepping Hill Short Stay Unit.
I arrived in hospital that afternoon and got settled in and straight into pyjamas! I spent most of the afternoon being asked and answering the same questions by various nurses and I had two of the stoma nurses come and draw a target on either side of my lower tummy for where the colostomy bag would go if I needed it.
Two of the surgeons who were going to be performing my operation came and saw me for a chat. The one I spent most time talking to completely scared me and I felt traumatised after he left, he made me feel angry at him because of what he was telling me, I didn’t think it was fair. I now know it was the drama drawers girl in me rearing her head because I look back and I see he was just being honest – he has since become one of my favourite doctors and when he came to see me after the operation he held my hand as he was talking to me – what a lovely guy! He told me there was a big chance the tumour wasn’t coming out at all and that because the tumour was lying right next to my vena cava (the bodies main blood vessel) they had to ensure there was no way they would risk performing surgery that may cause damage to it – I would more than likely bleed to death if they did. I asked the surgeon how long I would have lived if the tumour hadn’t been detected and had been left untreated, a couple of months at the most was the answer. I couldn’t believe it. If I hadn’t have kept pushing the doctors to take notice of me I probably wouldn’t be alive today.
I hadn’t eaten anything since about 9pm the night before I went in to hospital, no brew on Monday morning – I missed the two brews I usually have in the morning to wake up properly. I was on water all day and a pre-load drink to fill my body full of energy, which I had hoped would be like one of those protein shake type drinks – it turned out to be water with a special powder in it, nothing exciting and certainly not filling! I love my food so it was torture for me! I was starving and at about 6pm I was finally allowed to eat, it was the low fibre option so nothing fancy but I wasn’t going to refuse it. I took the lid off the plate I had been given…poached fish, boiled carrots, mashed potato, egg custard, cheese and crackers. It was vile, I heaved eating the potato and didn’t even touch the rest so all I ate were the two cream crackers with warm cheddar on them. Fab! I did get a black tea with sugar though, that was amazing!
That night after I had said a long emotional goodbye to Ash, even though the nurses were letting him sneak back in the morning, I managed to get some sleep. I woke up at 4am and couldn’t manage to nod back off because my mind was racing. I sat in bed and read over and over bible scriptures and the messages I had received over the past few weeks of love and encouragement. I had saved them in a folder on my phone and I had been reading them daily to help get me through each day.
I was brought up in a Christian family and so I have always believed in God. Whether he’s your cup of tea or not I believe he saves and loves us and carries us through hard times. I don’t believe he made me poorly. What I do believe is that he gifts super amazing people, people to research science for cures, out of this world surgeons who are able to mend our bodies and beautifully kind people to nurse us back to health.
I was absolutely terrified of the operation, of being cut open and all my insides exposed, scared of the surgeons not being able to take the tumour out, scared of the unknown and scared of being out of control. I was wheeled down to theatre at about 11:30am and was sat in bed in a little room opposite the big doors to the operating theatre. I had a student nurse on one side of me, we were talking about Buxton, I have lived there all of my life and she had recently moved there. There was the anaesthesiologist and another guy who were trying to get a machine working – they were about to hook me up to it so I was relieved when they decided to go and swap it for a different one. The anaesthesiologist was brilliant. I told him I had watched films and read lots of stories about people waking up in the middle of surgery, so I made him triple promise me that that wouldn’t happen to me. His exact words were ‘I promise, promise, promise you and absolutely guarantee you won’t wake up during surgery’ and I knew he meant it!!
I didn’t even have to count down to go to sleep because I must have been gone before I realised they were about to knock me out. The next thing I knew I was being woken up, I was in pain like I had never felt before and I took this as a good sign. I had been given a button to hold that I could press every five minutes to give me pain relief and I remember telling whoever I had around me that it was shit – I’m sure I heard a few laughs at that! I remember asking someone if they had removed the tumour but I was too out of it to listen to the answer. The next thing I knew I woke up on the High Dependency Unit, Ash was sat next to me and I asked him what had happened. He told me they had removed the tumour and that the operation had gone really well. Ash said to me later that the look on my face was such happiness and relief.
‘Whenever you find yourself doubting how far you can go, just remember how far you have come. Remember everything you have faced, all the battles you have won, and all the fears you have overcome.’ – Unknown
The first photo below is the last picture of Ash & I before surgery and the second is the first picture taken of me afterwards.