Friday, July 25, 2014

The Curveball

Saturday 19th July

My boss Nick is one of the most incredible people I have ever met-both personally and professionally.  He has that amazing gift for finding the positive in every situation-but not in that horrible patronising 'Oh well it could be worse' manner, but in a way that makes you feel that 'you know what, everything is going to be ok' kind of way.

At an impromptu team meeting last Tuesday morning, Nick helped me explain to my colleagues that I had indeed received a curveball the previous evening.   I will never forget the compassion he showed me that day and have no doubt he will continue to show me.

I am writing this post on Saturday 19th July, hoping and praying I actually never have to actually post it.

On Monday 14th July, Mike and I met with my doctor for the results of my recent biopsy and he told me I have cancer.

Cervical cancer.  Which had also spread to my lymph nodes.

The doctor gave me a copy of the biopsy report, which I looked at and didn't really understand-except for the frequent repetition of the word 'carcinoma'. 

The shock has been paralaysing at times over the past week.  My mum was the first person we told.  I couldn't skype her because I couldn't bear for her to see me upset and I couldn't bear to see her heartbreak when I told her I had cancer.  So we did it on speakerphone, Mike and I trying to remember everything the doctor told us, a call pierced by the odd sob by me not really comprehending what was happening.

I then told two of my best friends-Danielle and Sylvia.  The call to Danielle was almost hysterical at times.  I sobbed whilst she comforted me 3500 miles away.  It was a more sombre call to Sylvia, I was tired and drained by that time.  I then just composed and sent a whatsapp message to some of my closest friends, turned my phone off and went to bed.

The next morning I asked Mike to come to work with me so I could tell Nick.  I figured if I got upset it would be easier for Mike to comfort me than Nick.  I have a brilliant relationship with Nick but crying in front of your boss is always awkward.  We met in Costa, I wanted to be away from the actual office.  Nick was of course brilliant and helped me tell me colleagues who have also been brilliant.  In fact everyone who I work with has been amazing-the two most senior guys in our business both called me personally on Tuesday night to offer their support even though one of them was on holiday in the US.  Aqil, our director here in Dubai has been incredible, everyone has bent over backwards for me.  I am incredibly grateful.

I met with BUPA last Thursday who again were amazing.  I drew a lot of comfort from that meeting in terms of the financial costs of cancer treatment in Dubai.

I'm on autopilot.  Keep thinking to myself 'this MUST be a mistake, a horrible horrible mix up'.

Tomorrow (Sunday) I am going for an MRI scan and a PET scan which will be sent back to my doctor for him to assess the grade/stage of the cancer.  In our meeting on Monday he said that he felt he would have to remove my lymph nodes going up towards my kidneys and was 80% sure he would have to remove my cervix and uterus in full.  And possibly some of my vagina.  I might need chemo.  I might lose some nerve sensation.  He has a 90% survival rate amongst his patients with this type of cancer.  He was saying all the words and I was nodding and writing them all down on the back of an envelope saying 'I need to remember to tell my mum', but not really believing this was happening.

I guess it will take a couple of days for my doctor to get the report and review it before we meet him again.  And I will continue to work until I have the results.  It's Ramadan here and then the Eid holidays next week so that may delay any surgery-if it turns out I need it.  I am sure, sure, sure that I won't-that this is a mistake.  I'm 34 with no history of this type of cancer in my family-why is this happening to me?

Am sure some of you might be questioning why I am not coming back to the UK-it's an option given my medical insurance but my Doctor here is amazing, I want to be at home with my things around me and Mike and my cats.

Everything is happening fast.  But the waiting is killing me.  I am either absolutely fine and positive.  Or absolutely petrified but still smiling.  And a range of feelings in between.  You need to be quick to keep up with my emotions at the moment.

Everyone who I have told has said 'stay positive'.  I purposely hadn't looked online at ANYTHING.  Self diagnosis is always dangerous.  I didn't even know what my lymph nodes are.  Until last night.  I got the report out and googled some of the terms.  It wasn't positive news and I could feel the panic rising in my throat and I lay on the bed and sobbed for the first time since Monday evening.

So, everything lies on the MRI tomorrow.  I have almost convinced myself it will be totally fine but I just want to know.

I have had some absolutely incredible support from my friends in the UK this week.  I don't want to name names because I am bound to forget someone but you will know who you are.  I have also had some incredibly touching support from people who were virtually strangers.  And zero support from some people I would have expected it from.  I still haven't told everyone, am kind of holding off until I know this is for real.

But it's these things that make me realise how hard it is to be away from family and friends.  Since Monday only two people have actually given me a hug and said it's going to be ok-Mike and Nick.  Everyone is sending virtual hugs and love and by no means is this a criticism, just an observation.  If the surgery does go ahead my mum will be coming out but if I could transport all the people who have supported me to Dubai for daily cake, pop and giggles I would in an instant.

Sunday 20th July

I had the MRI scan today, pelvis and abdomen with and without contrast solution so that meant yet another cannula in my hand and yet another green and yellow bruise.  I'm not scared of needles really but I have had numerous blood tests and cannulas over the past two weeks and am a bit like a pin cushion.

I was in the MRI for an hour and a half-I hadn't appreciated how small and how noisy it was.  It was like a cross between being in a very bad techno disco and Dubai Marina 10 years ago when it was a construction site.  Admittedly I did freak out for the first minute but I settled into it and the only real problem was the heat of the camera things they drape across you and a numb bum.  And I kept getting told off for twitching my feet.

When I went I had to sign some insurance forms and I noticed the diagnosis was 'cervical carcinoma'.  That bloody word again.

I feel really anxious about my results getting mixed up with someone elses and am just absolutely desperate for answers now.

I am really really careful not to let my thoughts run away with me at the moment because when they do I just start to panic and think the most random thing.  When the girl in the Nespresso store casually said 'see you soon' as I was leaving I couldn't help thinking 'will you?'.

24th July

Mike and I went back to the doctor yesterday and got the MRI results.  They confirm his initial diagnosis.  To cut a long story short in the next week I will be having a radical hysterectomy and my lymph nodes around my kidneys removed.  After that, my doctor will confirm if I need chemo/radiotherapy, but seems confident surgery will be successful.

I don't know how I feel or what I want to hear even though I have had unbelievable support.  Everything seems relatively positive but I have obviously had certain decisions taken away from me-I'll never have a child of my own.  My mum and dad have been utterly truly amazing and my mum is flying out on Thursday by which time I should have had the surgery but still be in hospital.  She's apparently going to learn to bake-god help us all.  But seriously I will never be able to thank my parents enough for what they do for me.

Whilst I am sure I will be ok, I am not sure what the future holds or what the future of this blog is in the short term.  I have always been a very honest and open person hence the reason for posting this but this won't become a cancer blog.  People come here to read about make up, not cancer.

I have a few draft posts for my blog I might continue to post over the next few days but once they run out I think there might be a little break.

I have been keeping in touch with people via whatsapp mainly and if you would like to keep in touch please message me for my number.  I'll try and keep tweeting and instagramming (I am so obsessed with instagram) and have actually set up a new twitter account called @teamstace that I might tweet my progress from rather than my @expatmuaddict account.  Feel free to follow!

When I posted about my initial operation 1) I never ever ever thought it would get to this, I just wanted to highlight the importance of having regular smear tests but 2) I was so happy people actually booked overdue smears after reading it.  That honestly made my day.


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