I was lucky, the oncology team allowed my Mum to attend the meeting with me. We both knew something was amiss and you can’t stop a tiger mum protecting her cub (or a mother shark defending her “baby shark”…you can thank me for that ear worm later)! I was delighted to see my favourite surgeon; but because of Covid we all had to wear masks and reading body language and facial expressions is really difficult when everyone is masked up – so trying to gauge whatever news was coming was proving bloody difficult.
My surgeon (as amazing as ever) asked me about how I was and how I was healing – all good. He came out with the best sentence, that it was nice to ‘operate on someone so young’ – it was not meant in an offensive manner and I laughed my socks off. Obviously I do not wear the ‘I’m 38 and have bowel cancer’ badge with honour, but it is nice to know with all the bulges and soft edges I acquired there was still some elasticity in the old bod.
The great news with a surgeon like mine is that he puts you so much at ease, I was much less nervous because of the banter and being able to talk openly. He used the analogy of cars to describe my cancer, which had gone to histology post-operation. Apparently, you get the Maserati cancers (aggressive, kill you quick), and the Fiat punto’s (slow, not too offensive). My cancer apparently was the Ford Mondeo of cancers, a good old bog-standard cancer, nothing too specialised, just a plain old average Joe of cancer. I wasn’t sure whether to be offended or not, but then figured that a run of the mill cancer seemed a pretty safe option. Its not like cancer, or any of its treatment is shiny and glamorous!
Whilst I was thinking in my head, what the Department Store equivalent would be of my cancer (B&M vs Home Bargains/ Debenhams vs John Lewis) and musing away to myself, Mum asked a really good question, why or how did I get it?
It was explained to us that bowel cancer is massively on the increase in younger people, and that there is no direct causal link as to why. It’s still unclear whether it is environmental or dietary, but the surgeon said that when it came to me, it was just sheer bad luck.
I asked whether I had to change my diet (become tee-total or go vegan ☹) and he explained that as much as western diets were getting sloppier, even if everyone changed their diet, the decrease to this type of cancer would be small and actually he recommended I just try to live a healthy, happy life.
Furthermore, tests had shown that I had no genetic pre-disposition to this disease. All this news was a major relief, although I wonder what karma made me contract cancer.
The next piece of news was the kicker, out of 44 lymph nodes tested (now I had no idea there were lymph nodes near the bowel – I should have read up on this disease more in advance and felt really freaking stupid), only one had shown signs of cancerous cells. Therefore, the surgeon was recommending that I have chemotherapy to increase the chances of my survival long term.
I was still unsure what this news meant, I couldn’t fathom if I was cured and this was a just precautionary, or if there was likely to be some spare cells left randomly stalking my body. Chemotherapy was said to be optional – I can tell you now, when your mother is gripping your hand like a vice, it is not optional (I jest, sort of). My choice was to live in fear for the rest of my life knowing I didn’t do everything I could to kill this motherfucker, or spend the next six months getting further treatment. For me, it wasn’t an option, not really – just get the bloody treatment.
It was explained to me that the treatment would be ok, like repeated low doses of weed killer on cells to kill everything off. Me being me interpreted that as ‘I will feel a bit fluey’ but ok. I said goodbye to my surgeon, the last time I saw him and felt ok about my decision. It’s only six months – and it’s low dose chemo – a pile of piss compared to what I had been through and waited to be referred to oncology to meet my Chemo specialist a few days later. How hard could it be?