A very good friend of mine has ovarian cancer. She is brilliant and articulate but that seems to be forgotten now she is a patient. This is how she described her Christmas Eve encounter with an oncologist on her blog http://unixhag.blogspot.com
"The doctors have all discussed your scan results again, and we have some very good news for you! You won't have to have the biopsy we had scheduled! The oncologist can be quite sure now, from your history and this scan, that it is cancer, so there's no need to put you through the biopsy. Isn't that great!"
"Um... hang on... last time you were here you were telling me that the biopsy is a quick simple procedure that is no big deal and now you're talking about it like it's something to be dreaded. And sorry, I don't get it, what's the good news part about discovering the early return of my ca... AAAARRRGH"
It's so annoying when you're in the middle of making an important point and sudden blinding pain interrupts. It stops you making the point and completely derails the conversation, which inevitably picks up again somewhere on the other party's point of view side.
"So you can go home this afternoon, and be home for xmas. Do you have someone to pick you up?"
"Not sure, I can phone around. What's today?"
"It's xmas eve."
"Oh, right, I see, that's what home for xmas means, of course."
Cast your mind back to the afternoon of Christmas Eve. Cars, shoppers, kids, drunks everywhere, crowds, bumper to bumper traffic. A mad scramble to buy last minute supplies before everything closes down for days. Everyone on earth is in a mad panic. Those who are working are busting to get home, leaving as early as they can, closing facilities early and adding to the traffic stream. On top of all that, it was over 30 degrees and humid. The road between my place and the hospital is a 20 minute bottleneck. Do I have someone to drive me home? I don't think so, or maybe yes but at what cost.
Home for xmas, that's a big deal, yes. Face to face with the practicalities, like the good news about the cancer returning prematurely, when you get down and look at it it's not so thrilling. (Yeah, I'm such an ungrateful wretch.) At my week-abandoned home I have no milk, bread, veggies, nothing to sustain me over several days of shops being closed. On this day, at this time, stocking up is probably impossible. The presents I started gathering lie incomplete and unwrapped. Incomplete I can fudge, nobody expects too much from me this week, but gee, if I'm gonna be going along for xmas and exchanging gifts, what a drag if I can't wrap them properly. Ever tried buying wrapping paper at 6pm xmas eve? Or milk, or pain medication for that matter?
Oh, sorry, the jubilant doctor was quite correct. Turns out I did find someone willing to spoil their xmas eve rush to get me home, and the pain did subside long enough for me to drive to the local shops without collision, and I was able to find a chemist and also bought a bottle of milk just before everything turned into a ghost town. I was able to scrape together enough bits from my hoard to wrap the presents fine. And I didn't have to worry about food because, and here's more good news, in this state I can't eat anything!
"... and this type of bowel obstruction can't be corrected surgically, so we'll start you on chemotherapy as soon as possible. The chemo clinic is pretty well booked out but hopefully we can get you in around the middle or end of January."
Oh thank my lucky stars, only up to 40 days more of this pain, plus however long it takes for the chemo treatments to subdue the cancer. They're giving me a 6 month course of it. They say that if the chemo doesn't work, don't worry. There will be a check after 3 months of chemo, and if there's been no change they have many other chemo drugs they can try, so I guess we keep starting that six months again and again until one works. And how much time do I have? Ah, forget it. They will do whatever they will do, for their own shrouded reasons, and there's nothing I can do to change any of that.
Meanwhile, thanks for the morphine, it was lovely, but where's my take-home supply? Yeah, thought so. Patience is a virtue. Sorry, I don't need no stinkin' virtues.
Cancer Council NSW would like to acknowledge the traditional custodians of the land on which we live and work.We would also like to pay respect to elders past and present and extend that respect to all other Aboriginal people.