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Wednesday, 26 June 2013

January 2013: Diagnosis Confirmed

The last few weeks of 2012 had taken us on a roller coaster ride, with new medical issues seeming to come at us from all angles. Only 48 hours into 2013 we had a phone call from the hospital asking us to come in the next day to talk with the Respiratory Consultant who had been studying the results of the fluid drained from Suzie's chest. On our arrival Suzie was immediately taken for a chest x-ray and then we waited for the consultant to see the results. We were led into his room where he showed us the x-ray and pointed out where it clearly showed an amount of fluid already accumulating again in Suzie's chest. He then, very gently, explained that the cells found within the drained fluid had been confirmed as secondary cancer cells and that they indicated an advanced stage of cancer that was extensive and incurable. More tests and scans were needed to identify the primary source of the cancer and it still wasn't known if any of this had any connection at all with Suzie's on-going neurological issues. Whilst deemed extremely unlikely, we were told that there was a very slight possibility that the presence of cancer cells in the body could, in some cases, cause neurological symptoms similar to those Sue was encountering. We were already due to see the Senior Neurologist a few days later but we were warned that, even if the neurological symptoms were found to have been caused by the cancer, the possibility of them being reversed was unlikely. If, on the other hand, they were being caused by a totally unrelated illness then we were no further forward than we had been 12 months earlier.
That last paragraph doesn't even come close to expressing the depth of emotion that Suzie and I found ourselves facing that day. We were both devastated to realise that our future together could be so limited. Suzie was especially struggling to cope with the fear and anxiety of acknowledging just how ill she was, and she was terrified of what the coming weeks and months might hold. All I could do was to hold her, cry with her, and reassure her that I would be beside her every step of the way, no matter what we had to face.
More scans and blood tests etc. went ahead a few days later and we then met with the Gynaecologist who had assessed the results. He diagnosed Stage 4 Primary Peritoneal Cancer. When we got home I looked up the definition of this on various websites and I have to say that, on each one, my eye was immediately drawn to the word 'rare'.... That was my Suzie for you! She couldn't have something 'normal' like other people. No, she had to be different!
We met with the Gynaecologist who explained that there was no evidence of any single 'mass' of cancer, therefore surgery wasn't an option. (This was an answer to one of Sue's prayers!) Instead, the Consultant and his team recommended six three-week cycles of IV Chemotherapy. We were assigned a specialist Oncology Nurse who would act as our first point of contact if we had any concerns, and we found her to be very kind and helpful. She acknowledged the seriousness of Suzie's illness and confirmed that it would never be 'cured', but she said that, with successful treatment, it may be possible to control it for a significant amount of time. This was what I'd been desperately longing to hear.
We rounded off the day by taking a detour and visiting the Hospital Chapel after our consultations had finished, and we spent a very special, though rather emotional time there thanking God that we had, at last, been given a diagnosis of something specific that could potentially respond well to the right treatment, and asking for His strength to deal with the weeks ahead.
In the last few weeks and months we had certainly learnt a great deal about the value of love and dear friends. We had also learnt a lot about the fragility of our human life on this earth… and Suzie and I were certainly learning to value every precious moment that we could spend together. We must cherish each day as a gift from God and strive to make the best we can of every single moment.