Being diagnosed with cancer changed my life. I mean, it’s impossible to think that it’s not going to. My diagnosis is probably as dramatic as a cancer diagnosis is possible to be.
Let me set the scene.
It’s April 2015. I have recently started a new job I’m really enjoying, my Auntie has recently died, I’ve been feeling under the weather for a while and I can’t breathe.
Now when I say I can’t breathe I don’t mean there’s anything physically stopping me from breathing. More like whenever I do anything (my usual example is rolling over in bed) I’d get out of breath, like I had run a marathon. Or at least what I imagine it would be like to run a marathon, having never done it myself.
To top it all off I had been really unlucky and had been blighted with lots of persistent infections. I think I had been on antibiotics for about a month solid by the time I was admitted into the hospital. I had cysts in my beard, my thumb swelled up to twice its normal size, resulting in an exciting trip to A&E to get it drained, but there was nothing inside but fluid; no pus.
After 4 weeks of trying to get a doctor’s appointment (thanks austerity) I finally got an appointment with my GP. A lovely man who I have irritated for years, he takes over when the Student Doctor can’t find out why my pulse is racing and my blood pressure is through the roof. He comes in while the hard working student has me hooked up to a ECG machine trying to discover if I’m at risk of immediate cardiac arrest. He’s all trendy pullovers and relaxed attitude as he promises me they’ll find out what’s wrong with me, and he asks me to come back tomorrow for blood tests and a chest X-ray.
The next day, with my symptoms just the same I go to get my tests done, then I go to jury duty, ironically get my hair cut and head home. The hours past, my GP phones and tells me that he’s only waiting on one test to come back, but everything else looks fine.
Then comes the second phone call.
I got a call from NHS 24 advising me that I was severely anaemic, and that I had to go to hospital for an emergency blood transfusion. Not to be outdone in the stupidity stakes I started laughing at the situation with my Brother as I packed an overnight bag.
I got to the hospital, and was laughing at the nurses fretting over me, telling me I was too anaemic to get out of bed. I had been walking in the city centre just that morning, I could surely walk to the bathroom?
Then I got handed the information leaflet about blood transfusions I had to read before I could consent to getting any blood. I can still remember the three types of people it said who usually received transfusions of red cells. Pregnant women, people who had been in an accident and people with certain kinds of cancer.
Safe to say I didn’t get much sleep that night.
The next few days in the hospital passed in a haze of phlebotomists coming to take blood, IV antibiotics to try to treat my many infections, a particularly hilarious meeting with a heavily pregnant doctor who bore more than a passing resemblance to Claire Danes when I started sobbing uncontrollably and begged her not to give me any bad news while I was there on my own and finally culminating in my harrowing first Bone Marrow Biopsy.
Then, my beautiful doctor came in and delivered the bad news 5 days after I was admitted. I had cancer.