In March I was diagnosed with oesophageal cancer. I only became aware of this when one weekend I experienced severe pain in the upper right quadrant of my abdomen. Doctor Google told me this was most likely gall stones so on the Monday I trotted off to see my doctor who felt the same. He sent me off for blood tests and an ultrasound. I had the bloods done immediately but had to wait until the Wednesday for the ultrasound. My doctor gave me a call to say the blood test had indicated the possibility of gall stones. I had organised an appointment to see him for the Thursday afternoon of that week. I dutifully had the ultrasound and felt that the sonographer seemed to be very thorough. That afternoon I received a phone call from the my doctor's surgery asking if I could come in for an earlier appointment. I started to feel a little concerned at this stage. I promptly turned up in the Thursday morning. My doctor informed me that I did not have gall stones but they had found several lesions on my liver. I took this news in my stride and he organised a CT scan for me to be done that day. The report from the scan identified the lesions on the liver. Two large ones and several smaller ones. I might add that the pain I had experienced on the weekend had almost gone and I was only experiencing some discomfort. There was also noted a thickening at the base of my oesophagus, some enlarged gastric lymph nodes and a lesion on my right adrenal gland. Of course the CT scan also identified a few aging issues, slightly enlarged prostate etc (I am 54). My doctor sent me to a gastrologist who felt certain the primary cancer was in the oesophagus because of the thickening but he was going to do a gastroscopy first and also a colonoscopy if he couldn't find anything in the oesophagus. All this had happened within a fortnight so I felt grateful that things were moving quite quickly. Anyway, he only needed to do the gastroscopy and he showed my the pictures of the tumours at the junction of my stomach and oesophagus. Still no real feeling of shock from me. Maybe it felt surreal. Though, I did then realise that I had experienced a feeling of a lump when swallowing a few weeks previously. So my diagnosis is Stage IV oesophageal cancer, classified as incurable and recommended for palliative care. I am now on my second cycle of chemo. One day of Cisplatin and two weeks Capecitabine (3 tablets twice daily) then a weeks rest. At this stage I am only experiencing some discomfort around my liver. Before chemo I was taking pain killers to alleviate the pain as it recurred a little especially when I had a sharp intake of breath. I have hardly needed any pain relief at the moment. I did initially lose my appetite but the oncologist told me to take half a tablet of steroids daily and this has definitely helped, though I rarely feel hungry. I also supplement my meals with Sustagen. I have lost about 10 kilos but I seemed to have stabilised now.
So, that's the experience of the last couple of months. I have taken sick leave from work (Assistant Principal of a primary school). Fortunately, I have rarely had a sick day in my 30 years of teaching so have accrued 268 days of leave!!! I also have to young children. A boy, 6 and a girl 3. I came to fatherhood late.
The thing that seems to puzzle me the most is that I have a disease that could very likely take my life quite quickly yet I don't feel that I am going to die. I didn't get emotional upon diagnosis. I didn't feel devastated. I didn't feel sorry for myself. In fact, I find my friends and family are feeling it more than me. To me, I just feel like I have contracted a disease that I need to get better from. Is this a strange feeling or do others have this same feeling? I really don't think I am going to die from this cancer, despite the odds I read of survival for Stage IV not being that great. I'd be interested to know how others felt. Maybe if I felt in pain and had trouble swallowing etc my thoughts may be different. Even the chemo doesn't appear to be effecting me too adversely.
Anyway, the end of my ramblings. Congratulations if you made it this far.
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