Tag Archives: cancer

8. Closure

I arrived up on the Respiratory Ward with my heart hammering in my chest. Don’t be pathetic, I tell myself. It’s just a needle, then a tube….bingo, fluid gone! Nothing like what I have been through in the past few weeks! But after that experience of coughing up blood the night before, I just couldn’t nudge the anxiety aside.

The lovely lady-doctor who had instilled such faith in me earlier today was waiting in my room when I got there. Through 2 double doors into a low-pressure single room (yes, this is the public system and yes, I have a private room – welcome to NZ healthcare!), my rather-large-unit of a male nurse gently sits me down and reassures me. James standing on my other side, I feel like I have my 2 bodyguards beside me once again, and I feel a twinge of heartache as I think of my Dad. The doctor is arranging everything she needs on the bed behind me as she tells me to sit exactly as I had earlier on for the ultrasound scan. Deja-vu from the night before steps in….but this time she knew exactly how I was sitting to re-create it as she had been present during this scan. The atmosphere was different in the room….no fuss and rushing around with hasty words spoken, there was quiet and calm…and most importantly, my James had settled himself into the seat facing me and had taken both of my hands in his and locked me into his eye-contact, sensing my apprehension. It happened exactly as she explained it would earlier: sedative and morphine was pumped into my IV line, then local anaesthetic gently inserted into the area of my back where the drain would be going….then I felt nothing more than a pushing and prodding sensation whilst she inserted the needle then the tube around it. I felt nothing, heard nothing but the gentle voice of the doctor talking me through the procedure and James reassuring me…..then all of a sudden I felt an intense pulling and cramping in my back that catches my breath. Where the pipe had snaked its way around my side I saw red fluid bubbling and rushing down the pipe. James found it fascinating: laughing and exclaiming “Holy Shit, that’s a lot of fluid!!”. At first I also found it amusing, James’ jolly nature once again spurring me on….until I felt a tightening painful cramping in my chest, really rather unpleasant. Apparently, when a lot of fluid is released from the lung space, it can move too fast and the change in pressure is painful. So they literally turned the tap off behind me whilst I recovered momentarily, then continued with a slower flow and monitored my pain till they had drained off about 1.5 litres of blood-stained pleural effusion. The nurse holds up the bucket and asks if I want to take a look. My back to the door where he is standing, I decide that this time….no, I don’t need to see the gory details! I feel exhausted by it all, like the very blood of my being has just been squeezed out of me…and all I want to do is sleep. James leaves, I settle into a night trying to get comfortable with a tap sticking out of my ribs.

drain

It’s very curious to be wheeled around on a bed when your legs are working perfectly fine. Throughout those days I spent at Auckland City Hospital, I wasn’t allowed to walk very far. Quite the opposite to Mercy where they were constantly trying to coax me to my feet to get me mobile and would have been simply delighted if I had had the spontaneous inclination to do so. Here, they wheeled me everywhere! Admittedly, I had an awkward little trolley attached to my pipe with a bucket of blood-stained fluid sloshing around in it…..but I’m certainly not one to be ashamed or embarrassed about these things so I would have quite happily walked.

drain bucket

But no….they pick you up for everything in the bed! I remember countless times being wheeled for an xay or a scan through the tall atrium of ACH gazing up at the photographs of hospital staff as I glide by, loaded up with my pipe and drain. I tried to memorise them each time, seeing their laughing faces and wondering what job they had – are they doctors, nurses, or perhaps a chef or cleaning staff? Each and every one of them have a vital and admirable role to play in the treatment and recovery of people like me. I feel humbled and thankful each time my bed rolls by their faces. I look up at the darkened bedroom windows in the atrium, see the silhouettes of patients in their beds….and wonder how many awful struggles people are having to contend with behind those panes…. so much suffering goes on behind closed doors. Times like this put everything in perspective, fact! Everyday trivial life struggles I would normally fill my mind with just don’t seem relevant any more.

Monday morning: I get awoken by breakfast, early of course. Then half way through hungrily munching on my toast and cereal and quietly contemplating how different this hospital experience is, (previously I would have turned green at the sight of breakfast), the door bangs open and in marches a very tall lady-doctor with her entourage of wannabe-doctors and apprentices: the Respiratory Team. Literally, there must be 6 of them in the room….and they all gather in a semi-circle around my bed as if examining their next specimen. Swallowing whatever I was currently munching on, I smile weakly at them all as she launches into her spiel. In a nutshell, my pleural effusion is too blood-stained to see WTF is causing it. And because I coughed up blood when the first sample was taken, they would need to take a look at the inside of my lungs to check for the worst case scenario, even though the blood was most likely caused but an accidental puncture the other night. I guess the doctors need to err on the side of caution after you have had a tumour removed, especially such a sizeable one just below the lungs. I was already acutely aware of the risks of spread to my lung, but the confidence my surgeon had that he had removed it all without chance of spread made me feel reassured. This was all procedure to eliminate all possibilities, that’s all. So part of this procedure would take place the following morning with a bronchoscopy. Basically, a camera down the lung to check for any nasties and the cause of my bleed. The entourage of doctors marched out as solemnly as they marched in….off to find their next specimen.

The next morning, no breakfast allowed, and I am wheeled (of course) down to the endoscopy unit for my bronchoscopy. No fluid had drained off my lung for a while now but they insisted on keeping the drain in, despite how uncomfortable I was. Lying constantly on an angle to avoid leaning on it was leaving me stiff and sore. But I was starting to feel so much better without the fluid so I could see light at the end of the tunnel! I wait…..and wait…..lying there on my bed in the endoscopy waiting area. Eventually I am wheeled in backwards and I immediately recognise the voice of the lady doctor from yesterday….it feels rather strange not to see her face but these are the joys of travelling around in a bed – you spend most of your time going backwards! I see the eyes of another doctor I recognise peeping out over the top of his face-guard, and a few of the other entourage members are lurking in dark corners waiting for the show. As soon as I’m in place, they pump my IV once again with sedative and fill my right nostril with a numbing gel using something akin to a lolly-stick. I feel like I’m at the dentist with a strange twist! Once lack of sensation is confirmed and I’m feeling a little woozy from the drugs, the camera is VERY quickly slid up my nostril and all of a sudden I feel a cold stick hit the back of my throat and continue on its merry way down to my lung. I have this uncontrollable need to cough and swallow….constantly….quite an unpleasant experience. I am amazed at how quick it all is though….no sooner are they in there, they have all the pictures and information they need to confirm that my lung is indeed healthy on the inside, just evidence of old blood in the bottom right lobe where I was likely punctured with the needle. The lady doctor confirms this from behind me that it’s all good….then I’m whisked away and back to my room in a woozy haze before I know it!

I had another visit from one of the entourage later that day and I pleaded to have the drain removed. Nothing had come out of my lung for ages now and I was losing my patience with it. I had more test results, confirming no cancerous cells as part of the fluid they released….everything was going brilliantly and I wanted to get the hell outta here ASAP now! The nurse came to take the drain out, which was really no drama at all. I thought it would be another unpleasant experience but really I hardly felt a thing as she whipped the pipe out and sealed the hole with steri-strips. I’ll be honest, pulling all the plaster holding it in place off my back was actually more painful than the drain coming out!! The bliss of being able to move freely and lie comfortably was incredible. Like I keep on saying, you learn to appreciate the small things….and let’s not forget that I haven’t been able to lie comfortably now for weeks, since the op. So all of a sudden being able to lie painlessly was just heavenly! I remember just lying there looking out of the window and appreciating that moment of painlessness, just then. A skill I would love to have the patience to carry forward into my life looking forward, just appreciating ‘the now’.

hospitla view

One more night of monitoring…..and I was good to go. On my last morning in there, I had a visit from a member of the endocrinology team. A very spritely and jolly chap; he gives James and I a complete thorough run-down of the genetic side of things, the part of the story that would hopefully conclude this sorry tale! Once again I feel like a medical celebrity-case as he joyfully tells us how unusual Pheos are, especially of this size. He popped in, in true Kiwi style, just because he had heard I was in the ward so he wanted to see how I was! He almost seems excited! Well, at least someone’s having a good time through all this! I would see this team of medical professionals next (add to my list of hospital departments: Hepato-Pancreato-Biliary (liver), Respiratory, now Endocrine) – my surgeon had already referred me to see an extremely experienced professor of Endocrinology regarding the genetic testing that I would need to wait on now.  These DNA tests should get me possible answers to my fears for the future: will it come back, is my family at risk, will I be able to have children?

I leave the hospital, this time I vow for the last time in 2014, squinting into the sunshine and chuckling at James who is grumbling at the car-park machine. Life will be back to normal now, I can feel it. All medical dramas are over. Yes, I’ve got a few tests to go through the paces of….but deep in my heart I have a strong feeling that it’s all just part of the procedure and it’s all over now. I’ve well and truly done my hospital dash. My next hospital visit will be for good reasons, with a bit of luck!

That night, in true James style and as if to remind me that life is vibrant and worth catching up with…..he nearly sets Onehunga on fire with a fantastic private firework display just for me. 🙂

fireworks

Now a few weeks on, I sit here at the island bay in our new kitchen amongst building dust, surrounded by tape measures, upholstery swatches and tile samples. I have really struggled to find the time to finish this blog with house renovations and getting slowly back to part-time work, but being someone who never leaves anything unfinished it has been bothering me. Then it got me thinking about the whole point of me sharing my story. Firstly it was to educate others who might be in the early stages of a Pheo diagnosis and who might be as clueless as I was…..but ultimately it was for my own recovery. I had the choice to go for counselling, but I chose my own method. Off-loading my struggles onto paper has been my self-help, my therapy. However, now my priorities have changed. No longer do I spend my days agonizing over physical and mental pains, now I am filling my days with making our home fabulous. I am filling my days preparing for friends and family to come and visit over Christmas to enjoy our new home and enjoy NZ, the beautiful country we live in. I am filling my days with life! I no longer feel the inclination to pick up my blog, therefore it has served its purpose.

I think back to the day the surgeon said I may wish to seek out counselling. Well, that I did. You, my readers, are my counsellors. In taking the time to read my blog, it has made writing it worthwhile…..and as a result I have been inspired to continue and offload every last thing and have mentally pulled myself through the most challenging time of my life.

Thank you, from the bottom of my heart.

PS. Today I had my genetic test results: it seems mine was sporadic. All 3 DNA tests came back negative. Therefore, no implications/worries for my family. And, with a large dose of luck, I may have a family of my own one day with no risk of passing on anything nasty other than my annoyingly impatient gene!!

The alien was sporadic, who knows what kicked it off and kept it growing (I have a VERY strong theory it was stress-related – immune low, can’t fight bad cells….then again, I’m no doctor, just a hunch!).

Who cares….adios Alien. Now back to tiles…… 🙂

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5. Every cloud has a silver lining

I arrived down on the ward to welcome peace and solitude. I had a nurse tending to me 24-7 but on a much less hectic level. I left a few of my pipes up in ICU too so I felt a little less like a Christmas tree.

Lines

Finally, I am also allowed visitors other than Dad and James, not that they weren’t enough, but the friendly faces I would see in the following week would really help me along on my way towards positive thinking…..and give Dad a chance to duck out of the room to have his own time-out having sat tirelessly at my bedside throughout my stay in hospital.  I must say, a few weeks on now, I am blown away by the kindness of Kiwis. I have had endless visits, meals made, pick-ups for walks, flowers, coffees, sweet delights and well-wishes. I was heavily on drugs so I had to write down who had been to see me, otherwise I would surely forget….but each and every visitor was appreciated, helped pass the time, made me smile, tried not to make me laugh – the agony- thank goodness for my coughing pillow….!

Ah yes, coughing pillows…..

The nurse had given me a lecture about this the night before my surgery, which had gone completely over my head as I was far to preoccupied with my nerves to listen. After abdominal surgery, coughing pillows become your best friend. For my surgery, a giant L shape was cut down from my sternum to just above my belly-button and across to my flank. In this process, of course, huge amounts of abdominal muscles are sliced through, leaving them rather broken and painful afterwards. It’s amazing how much you discover your ‘core’ muscles are responsible for…..pretty much everything! Every movement you make involves some part of the core, therefore mobility is nigh on impossible without pain.

Breathing, lying, turning, sitting up, standing straight, walking, talking, laughing, coughing……all agony!

Seriously, no lesson is required by a nurse….you grab that pillow and clutch it tight to your tummy, like a child clutches his teddy bear, thankful for the comfort and fearful of losing him. When it drops from the bed or you lose sight of it momentarily, panic sets in. It’s just a pillow…..but sometimes the simple things are the most effective.

I remember my first shower, after 2 days in ICU where showering is not high on the list of priorities, you feel pretty grim. It’s a fine line between how grim and dirty you feel, and how much pain you can face to endure the shower. You know it’s coming….but you’re in denial. In she comes, bright and breezy “Let’s get you in that shower for a nice scrub….it will make you feel a million dollars!”. Yeah right.

Dad gets kicked out and after a quick press of my pain pump, I’m hauled up from my bed by two nurses, reluctantly and painfully. One nurse goes in with me, disconnecting lines and carrying my bag of pee as she wheels me in on a chair… can hardly keep my head up and nausea has already started to creep in. Again I start to feel resentful that my condition is so much worse than I was prepared for. Resentful to whom? I have no idea……I’m just feeling pretty damned sorry for myself by now.

Hospital gown whipped off, suddenly I’m aware I’m naked and there’s a big mirror in front of me. I slowly lift my head as the nurse splashes and soaps me gently all over my body. All I can see is this frail person, who I’m sure isn’t me. She has a very pale face with big black bags under tired puffy red eyes and she’s slumped like an old lady in the chair. She’s got lines coming out of her neck and her arms. Her belly is swollen and there’s a huge blood-stained dressing across her tummy. She looks so sad.

Suddenly I’m next door in my room again and there’s general panic around me…. a nurse is pumping my arm full of something from a syringe, my Dad is there holding my hand and I’m pushing him away. Pushing my Dad away, what has possessed me? I can’t think straight, the nausea is consuming me. I hear an Irish lady’s voice saying she knew getting me up was a bad idea. Just let me lie down, is all I can think. There’s a conversation about how they need to try to get me to sit in the chair…..I’m too sick. Just let me get into bed again! This is pretty much how it goes for my first few mornings on the ward, and I would pay for it later in my lungs. The problem is, after major abdominal surgery, your lung often collapses and the only way to re-inflate it is to move and breathe deeper! I was given a little breathing gadget too to inflate my lungs, 3 balls that you would have to try to pull up with your breath and hold for 3 seconds, sounds easy….no. Physios came and went, tried to get me on my feet for a walk and soon enough my head would spin, blood pressure plummet and nausea would creep in.  I would only manage any sort of mobility in the afternoon, usually with the help of my Dad or James doing his evening Breathing Boot Camp sessions – he would walk backwards ahead of me as I shuffle with my zimmerframe and later without, telling me to breathe in, breathe out, chest up, look at me! I’ll tell you something, that is one good man I found there….I didn’t think it was possible to be loved so unconditionally. All he cared about was me getting better……. during my dark insecure moments in the last few weeks where I would worry he must be fed up with me by now, he would reassure me: ‘nothing matters to me apart from you and you getting better….everything else is just noise!’. It takes a very special kind of person to support someone so selflessly through chronic illness. I’m so lucky I have someone that special.

James

Someone that special, can also be that naughty! James would arrive early in the morning, chat up the young trainee nurses to go get him toast, even eggs! He would then arrive on the evening, take over from my weary Dad after a day ‘on watch’ and he would chat up the nurses again to get him wine! He even managed to get a red wine delivered to him whilst I was in ICU….then the charge nurse arrived the next morning and saw the empty glass next to my bed, well you can imagine the reaction!! In my drugged state, I couldn’t even think of a good story as to why it was there, shame really!

James misbehaving

James also developed a ‘special’ relationship with my lovely Irish nurse, who’s jolly nature kept me going for the week. The first morning she met him, half way through munching on toast he shouldn’t even have, he introduces himself as Horrace. Poor woman, believed him when he refused to back down. I’m lying there cringing and clutching my pillow as the giggles escape and my tummy muscles burn with pain. He knows exactlly how to make me laugh, and never tried to avoid it. Despite it being a very rough week, I remember so many funny times with James. They do say laughter is the best form of medicine! You go through a roller coaster of emotions, and sometimes you don’t know whether to laugh or cry…..James and I certainly went through both of these emotions together. Squeezing onto the bed beside me to cuddle me before he left in the evening, it shocked me to see the tears well up in his eyes and roll down onto the pillow. It was as tough for him as it was for me. It certainly was a week that inevitably brought us infinitely closer……but a week I hope we never have to repeat.

Every day my surgeon and my anaesthetist would visit me morning and evening without fail. They would check how I’m feeling, check pain relief, check bowel movements. The problem with heavy painkillers, particularly opiates such as morphine, is they slow down your bowels. Even though you don’t feel hungry and you’re only managing small bits of food…..after a week of no movement, you begin to get panicky. Laxatives at-the-ready…..and everyone cheers when you have your first poo! It’s quite amusing, nurses and doctors ask those questions: “passing wind?”…..”any bowel movements?”. At first it’s a bit embarrassing, but soon enough you’re happily telling the nurse or anaesthetist the detail of these things, often in front of an awkwardly listening visitor who really doesn’t want to hear about it. You get quite blasé about sharing graphic information…..you’re lying there with your bag of pee with your catheter pipe in full view for goodness sakes, pipes and lines coming out of your body from every angle, nurses popping in and out to take blood in front of people, you forget eventually what is acceptable for public viewing and hearing, and you don’t really care any more!

Thursday evening my surgeon came as usual to visit but this time we knew it was with the pathology results of my tumour. After being resected, it had been sent away for testing and my surgeon had hurried the process, knowing my Dad would be leaving after the weekend to go back to Spain. We were all naturally anxious to hear the news and the atmosphere was pretty tense. Even he looked pretty emotional as he relayed the news….made me realise how dedicated these people are to the well-being of their patients. He told us that the whole tumour was encased in a sort of membrane, which he carefully cut around leaving the whole thing intact. There were no signs of damage to the exterior of the tumour, leaving almost zero possibility that any was left behind. Even the part they were most concerned about, where it was growing into the vena cava, he managed to cut cleanly around it, with no chance of any cells being knocked off or left behind.  Quite an incredible bit of surgery and we were all obviously delighted by the news. He said the next step would be to see the Endocrinologist who would take care of my ongoing follow-up, to investigate why it was there in the first place, carry out genetic tests and ensure regular screening against any recurrence. That c-word lurking again in my mind, I had to ask the question that had been haunting me….did I/do I have cancer? You could see how difficult it was for him to answer this question….but ultimately he said I had a primary cancer and he was absolutely certain he removed all of it before it had the chance to spread any further than my vena cava. Therefore cancer gone. Despite being such a traumatic experience, I think we all realised right then just how incredibly lucky I am. Every cloud has a silver lining.

That night Dad and James stayed for dinner with me as a little celebration.

Celebrating

The week went by like that, and I can honestly say I would not have gotten through it without the support of my surgeon, anaesthetist, the nurses, my friends who visited, the gifts and flowers that were sent (James said it was embarrassing to see my window from outside – mine was simply overrun by the colour of all the beautiful flowers sent to me).

Flowers

But that week, I must say, that week was a week I can never thank my amazing father enough for. He really has the patience of a saint. He sat and witnessed things that a father should never have to witness, he sat patiently as I slept, reading his iPad quietly to himself.

Dad

 

The day he had to leave was a truly awful day. We had all hoped that I would be able to go home before he flew away but I just wasn’t quite well enough. So he came that morning, as usual….but then had to say goodbye a couple of hours later. I cannot express how much my heart broke…..and I could see his was breaking too. After a teary cuddle, he finally left me there sobbing, the kind of tears that choke you……to get on a plane to go all the way back to the other side of the world. Again, guilt consumed me – why could I not be stronger? How could I let my Dad leave seeing me so upset?

If you’re somebody who has chosen to live so far from home and family, you’ll appreciate the pain we both felt. At times like this, you need your family. I was so lucky my Dad was able to travel so far to be with me. Again, every cloud….

The next day I pleaded to go home. I had had enough, and it wasn’t the same without Dad there. I just couldn’t look at the corner of the room where he had been sitting all week without feeling upset. James had taken that next week off work to be with me, central line was out, the epidural and catheter had been out for a couple of days, I was a bit more mobile and all my lines had slowly been taken out over the week one by one.

Central line out

I was almost human again and it was time to go home.

2. The C-word

Pheochromocytoma……….what the hell is that??  

The surgeon gave us a brief overview as James and I sat there trying to take it all in. Basically, a Pheo is a rare type of tumour arising from the adrenal gland. So rare, in fact, it seems I am 1 in a million per year who get diagnosed with one of these in NZ. Yeah, I know it’s NZ, more sheep than people blah blah…but you think of that stat compared to other types of tumours that arise even amongst a small population…..you get my drift. That term ‘one in a million’ always seems to carry a positive spin, something related to luck. Quietly I think to myself, bloody great…..the one time I am one in a million it’s not related to anything lucky, no lottery win for me then! The consultant gives us the low-down of what the adrenal gland is for – basically, a tiny gland located just above both kidneys, it has a very important function as part of the endocrine system (which is the system involving all of the glands and the hormones they produce eg hypothalamus, pituitary, thyroid etc). The Adrenals produce hormones related to stress and blood pressure. When pheos grow in the adrenal, they over-produce these stress response hormones and common side effects resulting from this can be severe headaches, palpitations, sweating, high blood pressure. Instantly my mind races back to those headache attacks in 2012 when I was diagnosed with cluster headaches. I tell him immediately about this… there’s no proof but there’s a strong possibility they might be linked to this tumour. Perhaps this was when it started growing? Some people with pheos are asymptomatic though, I certainly am now and have been for two years so perhaps there is no link. But it’s strange, I felt a very small glimmer of something…..you might call it relief, weirdly enough, that there might finally be an explanation to that awful, inexplicable period of my life that sent me running away Down Under.

What next then? He says it will have to be removed. Resected. Can it be done via keyhole/laparoscope? No way. In fact, he won’t be able to perform this op, it’s out of his expertise. So in true Kiwi style he tells me about ‘a really good mate of mine who’s one of the best liver surgeons in the country’. Err….hang on. Who said ANYTHING about my liver? My liver is just fine, thank you! He wouldn’t elaborate any more, just told me that the liver surgeon would give me more detail about the procedure at the appointment he had arranged for me on Thursday.

It was at this point we had to say goodbye to this man who had looked after me so well to this stage. You do start to feel a little like you’re being pulled from pillar to post, sent to so many different people in search of an answer. You start to feel a little comfort when you see someone regularly, like they know your story…..an expert on your problem, therefore you’re safe. So more anxiety kicks in at the thought of meeting someone else who is apparently the true expert who will deal with this alien inside me.

More waiting. Monday to Thursday seems to take weeks to roll by…..time seems to be at a hideous, cruel standstill. I must say, those weeks before surgery were the longest weeks in my life. Made more bearable by going to work and seeing my smiling girls, and copious amounts of wine and cuddles from James in the evenings. I’m not normally an every-night drinker….always cherish my few cleansing booze-free nights during the week….but all of a sudden normal routines don’t seem so important, because ‘normal’ doesn’t seem to exist any more. You stand in front of the mirror whilst cleaning your teeth, doing those ‘normal’ things, and you can’t help staring at your tummy wondering how it’s possible that thing could be in there. You shower, squeeze your side under your rib cage trying to feel it…nothing there. You drive to work, blasting music to quiet your thoughts, tears rolling silently down your cheeks. You go to the gym, go to the pool, wonder if there’s any point. You spend time with friends, try your best to smile when you’re crying inside.

Thursday finally arrives and within 5 minutes of meeting this guy I was convinced. Straight to the point, a spade’s a spade….he gets out a large plain notepad and starts drawing these pictures of what he plans to do during surgery, talking constantly with such ease and confidence about something that looked pretty bloody complicated to me! Immediately I realise why a liver surgeon is needed. My Pheo is so big that it can’t be removed with a laparoscope…..so big he will need to completely remove my liver (effectively like liver transplant surgery) in order to even get access to the thing. He then starts to explain to me that the tumour has some sort of tongue shaped part that seems to be growing into my vena cava. The rest of the tumour does not appear to be invading any organs, thankfully, but this part he clearly has some concerns about. I quietly watch him draw my insides with this amazing upside-down skill and talk about the procedure like it’s as easy as baking a cake (not that I’d know, not much of a baker). I felt numb, like I’m on the outside looking in. Tears once again roll down my cheeks, but no real crying….more like tears of resignation. This is really happening. To me. In my moment of silence all I can feel is James’ reassuring hand on my knee and all I can see is the pen moving on the paper of my liver genius. I hear nothing.

Upside-down sketches

Near the end of the consultation, he nonchalantly refers to my tumour as a ‘primary cancer‘. I beg your pardon?? These two little words seem to hang in mid air and everything else he says after this point I don’t hear….another bombshell dropped by a medical professional without even realising it. My mind goes into overdrive. Stupid, you might think…..but during this whole time I’ve not even dared to mention the C-word, like I might jinx myself. Of course it’s always there lurking in the back of your mind but you never dare say it. My world starts to close in….thinking the worst as usual, the flood gates open and panic starts to set in.

Finally, he hands me a hospital folder with documents to complete and tells me he will operate in 10 days. But during that time he wants a lot more tests and scans done and for me to meet with the anaesthetist he has lined up for the surgery for some pre-operative treatment. Apparently the anaesthetist has a very difficult job to do because of the nature of the tumour. My Pheo is like a sponge full of adrenaline….in fact it has been secreting 10x too much adrenaline than is normal. When they touch it during surgery, there’s a high risk of squeezing it and allowing dangerous levels of adrenaline to be released, sending my blood pressure to possibly lethal numbers if it’s not controlled. So it’s not just a regular anaesthetist who’s needed.

There was me thinking they would be able to simply go in and cut it out, alien gone, drama over. No such luck.