In the space of one week which included two visits to my GP, an ultrasound scan and then a CT scan, the life I had been living up till then suddenly vanished. At the end of the first visit my GP told me “I suspect you have cancer.” A week later he was phoning me to tell me that the CT scan indicated pancreatic cancer that had spread to my ovaries.
I have decided to write about what is happening to me as part of processing the awful truth that my life is about to end much sooner than I could ever have imagined; I have begun my dance with Mr D.
But let’s go back to the beginning, the beginning which is actually the beginning of the end.
I went to see my GP Dr G on Friday 2 October 2015 with my symptoms. He listened carefully, examined me, weighed me and ordered tests, including an FOBT (faecal occult blood test for bowel cancer) which I had refused to have up till then because no-one at the Waitemata DHB pilot could tell me what the false positive and false negative rates of the FOBT were.
Twice during that consultation Dr G referred to his suspicion that I had cancer. The second time was when I stood up to leave and he looked at me and said quietly but firmly “I suspect you have cancer.” I like doctors who give it to you straight! While I didn’t necessarily believe that I had cancer, I had begun the week-long process that ended with the confirmation of his diagnosis of cancer.
His words that day were a gift that enabled me to prepare for what was about to happen. Six days later I was in his surgery telling him that I still didn’t really believe that I had cancer, but if I did I would prefer bowel cancer to ovarian cancer. He replied, “You don’t get to choose.” The following day I was telling him I would prefer ovarian cancer to pancreatic cancer. He told me quietly but firmly that I needed to spend the weekend talking to my family.