MarySmith’sPlace – Cancer diary #02

September 13: I am still stunned – and deeply touched – by the number of messages of support and good wishes both on the blog and sent privately since I posted about my cancer diagnosis. Thank you, all.

I met the oncologist on September 07. I didn’t sleep much the previous night and couldn’t settle to anything in the morning before the afternoon appointment. I felt as I imagine a prisoner in the dock might have felt when the judge donned his black cap to pronounce the death sentence.

My friend Willow who blogs HERE, has a wonderful pair of kick-ass, confidence boosting red shoes. I don’t have red shoes but I have some black ankle boots with similar properties so I wore them and before getting out the car at the hospital I reached into my bag for some confidence-inspiring lippy. Then remembered I was about to put on my mask.

The DH came with me and we asked to record the discussion. It’s just as well we did because despite there being two of us listening and asking questions and my note-taking (which dwindled when the names of drugs I can’t spell started being bandied about) by the time we got home we’d forgotten a lot of what was said. It’s been so helpful to listen again so there’s my top tip for anyone about to have a similar discussion with a doctor – record it.

She started with a résumé of how all this began and what had been done, how I was feeling physically, how things had changed. I admitted I do feel my fitness levels are definitely dropping, mainly because the weather has been so crap and I’ve not been walking so much, never mind what’s going on in my lung.

At least the cough I’ve had since the bronchoscopy has more or less gone, thank goodness. It was one of those dry little coughs which if I’d had to listen to someone else doing it I’d have become so irritated I’d have had to leave the room. The only sour note in the entire discussion was when she said she was sorry I’d had such a traumatic experience with the bronchoscopy but other people don’t. I felt like saying that actually, it’s only because I’m so gobby I do say what it is really like for the patient.

She examined me and showed me the tumour and affected lymph nodes and went on to list my options. I can choose to do nothing, in which case I may have a few months. I don’t know at what point during those few months I would become really ill and not have much quality of life left.

The other options are chemo (again those names of drugs I couldn’t spell – pemetrexed and carboplatin) to shrink the tumour followed, if this happens, by radiotherapy. Or, I could opt for those drugs plus pemobrolizumab, which is an immunotherapy drug. There would be no radiotherapy although at some point I could stop the immunotherapy drug and have radiotherapy but couldn’t go back on the drug again.

I said I couldn’t decide there and then and needed some time to think. She agreed and suggested I take until the end of the week. She asked the cancer specialist nurse to give me a B12 injection and a prescription for folic acid and some steroids to be taken the day before, the day of and the day after the chemo and to book a slot for the end of the following week so if I decided on one of the treatment options everything would be in place. Oh, and I’ve to self-isolate as has the DH.

We didn’t discuss it that night. Even the next day, the DH and I sort of mentioned it in passing but we did talk more about it later. I’d agree to speak to the nurse on Thursday as she doesn’t work on a Friday but by Wednesday I’d made my decision and was planning to call her, because on Thursday I was meeting my friend Sue Vincent at Cairn Holy – except that Sue never left home after being told her X ray results needed further immediate investigation. She has ‘something’ in her left lung; my ‘something’ is in my right one – we’re a pair of bloody bookends!

The nurse phoned me on Thursday; I told her my decision was to go for the standard chemo followed by radiotherapy. She said she’d see if there was a slot available for the end of next week. In the meantime I should organise for bloods to be taken. On Friday, I phoned her colleague who checked and said, yes, there was a slot on Friday 18 at 11.30 and I’d need an ECG done before so could I come in earlier.

All being well, my next update should be after I’ve had my first dose of chemo; a step into the unknown. I’ve never in my life wanted to do a parachute jump – my stomach goes into freefall just thinking about it. And now I feel as though I’m about to jump out of a plane hoping that a) there really is a parachute strapped on by back and b) it actually opens.