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September 30, 2009

Cervical Cancer: A Diary - Part 6

Eventually as is inevitable the 7th of September rolls around. I am due to go into the hospital on this day and my op is scheduled for the 8th. My dear friend (she knows who she is) takes me to the hospital early in the morning. I am armed with a bank guaranteed cheque to pay upfront for both the operation and my private ward. This is the only way one can guarantee a private ward at this particular hospital. So in we go to the admissions desk. There’s a long queue. Big surprise. So we sit and wait… and wait… and wait. Eventually my name gets called. I mosey on over to the reception desk and inform the rather surly clerk that I would like to pay for the private ward in D4. She looks at me unimpressed and asks to see the cheque. Glancing briefly at it, she informs me that she cannot accept it as it’s incorrectly made out. Apparently the name of the hospital is not the logical title to put on the cheque. She asks if I can have the cheque changed. I have a brief panic attack and eventually agree to go to the bank across the road to attempt to do just that.

We walk out and it’s pouring with rain. I have a week’s luggage in my hand which is getting rather heavy now. We go into the bank and make our way to enquiries. I have to fill in many forms and answer several thousand questions for them to change the cheque for me. Eventually we hit a glitch in that I don’t have my id book with me, only passport. At this point 30 minutes have passed and I begin to lose it. I have been sitting at the hospital for about 2 hours and now this happens. It’s all too much. I tell the cashier to forget about the cheque and storm out. My friend suggests that her fiancĂ© does an electronic payment and that I can pay them back later to save time. I agree to this very generous suggestion and back we go to the annoying clerk. We tell her that I have to see the doctors at 11am and seeing as it’s now 10.45 can I please just go up to the private ward. She eventually agrees so up we go.

I arrive at Ward D4 (private ward) and it’s another fight that I have with the secretary. She can’t let me in unless we have proof of payment. At this point I am all out of fight and I burst into tears. She takes pity on me and tells me to go to the ward and get into bed. She will sort out the payment between my friend and the doctors. I breathe a sigh of relief and do just that. It’s now about 12 noon and I’ve been at this godforsaken place for four and a half hours. I phone my friend who says the payment has been made and the proof faxed through. So all is well on that side.

To be continued...

September 26, 2009

Cervical Cancer: A Diary - Part 5

During this two and a half week period of waiting I investigate some alternative cures. The first person I speak to deals in a therapy called oxygen therapy. It’s basically a tablet that you take over a period of months which will apparently reduce or totally kill off the cancer cells. The guy I speak to is very exuberant and chats to me for almost two hours about his product. He is unable however to give me any guarantee. He mentions a Dr Warburg who won the Nobel Peace Price for his work with cancer treatments and says that this treatment is based on that work. It all sounds very impressive and I am quite interested to hear what he has to say. The treatment is however quite expensive. He also has a lot to say about the medical profession not knowing all there is to know about cancer and states that the operation they have prescribed for me is ‘barbaric’. I tend to agree with this at that moment.

The other alternative treatment I seek out is referred to me by a very good and trustworthy friend. This person has an EMF (electro magnetic frequency) machine which scans your entire body and is able to diagnose any problems with health and emotional disorders. I go to see her and she is wonderful. She has a machine that she recommends called the Rife machine. This works the same way in which an opera singer would crack the glass by singing a really high note. That same frequency logic is used in this machine to break down the cancer cells. Her treatment would be a lot cheaper than the oxygen therapy or the operation and would take 4 months to complete. I am interested and excited but not entirely convinced. I tell her I want to think about it and go home to weigh up my options.

On the one hand I am so petrified of the operation that any alternative seems extremely attractive and on the other the alternative therapies would take a bit longer. It feels like I am gambling with mine and my daughter’s lives. I go home and speak to friends and family and pray about the situation. I ask for a sign.

Eventually from the strangest source, my sign comes. I watch an episode of Private Practice in which a woman is diagnosed with ovarian cancer. She too dabbles in alternative treatments which go wrong and she eventually opts for the surgery. I weep as I watch this and it is then that I know what I have to do.

September 24, 2009

Cervical Cancer: A Diary - Part 4

The next two weeks are dedicated to my birthday celebrations. At age 40 plus, I tend to have a marathon birthday meaning it goes on for at least 10 days. With this particular shadow hanging over my head however every now and then I catch myself thinking should I be doing this? I am planning a birthday dinner and some other minor run-up parties. The weekend at end of August is my birthday party. It’s very surreal. Everyone gets a bit wasted except me and it’s kind of strange to watch my friends get rat assed as I watch the shenanigans. Usually I would be right there with them.

My party continues through to the Sunday when more people come and celebrate with me. I have a really good weekend. I go back to work on Monday but then start to fall apart a bit so take some time off work to recuperate. The stress of work combined with the looming operation becomes a bit much so I take some time out to retreat from the world. I have never been to hospital before this other than to give birth to my daughter which was totally uncomplicated natural birth with no drugs.

I have NEVER had to undergo any surgery before this so I am understandably petrified of the unknown and all that might go wrong. During these two weeks I am a mess – emotional, up and down and all over the place. I take my hat off to all my friends and family who stick by me in this time.

September 23, 2009

Cervical Cancer: A Diary - Part 3

Eventually the 19th of August rolls around, 5 days before my birthday and I have the meeting with my doctors. I have to just interject here that I have the most divine doctors. I have a team of 5 people working on my case and they are all without exception, amazing. There’s Dr Heinz, the surgeon, Dr Sparkly Eyes, the gynae oncologist, Dr Young & Pretty, intern gynae understudy and 2 random others (names have been changed to protect the innocent) whom I did not meet with on a regular basis. My doctors are all very intelligent and extremely well qualified and keep me informed of everything every step of the way. They also have a great sense of humour which helps me cope through this. I am literally trusting them with my life after all.

After waiting for what seems like an eternity, it is eventually my turn to meet with the doctors. In I go and it’s Dr Heinz who breaks the news to me. The good news is the cancer is stage 1 and that it’s operable. The cancer is nowhere else BUT in my cervix and has not spread according to the test results. The bad news is the recommended operation is a radical hysterectomy. He explains the ins and outs to me while I sit in a blur of terror not really taking a word in that he is saying. I am half happy that it is operable and half totally panicked about the thought of a knife cutting into my insides. I ask him whether I should be panicking at this point. He looks bemused and assures me that this is a normal reaction but that he is very experienced and that I am in the best hands possible. I walk out on shaky legs to tell my friend the news. The operation is scheduled for the 8th of September. He did have an opening earlier but that would’ve clashed with my birthday plans and I told the doc that me and my uterus wanted to have a party, thank you.

September 22, 2009

Cervical Cancer: A Diary - Part 2

My previous post I realise was a very matter of fact telling of what happened. It does not detail how I felt or what was going on underneath the surface. I awoke at 5am today and tried to make sense of that and wondered about ways of trying to convey this. I think the best way to describe it is to compare it to the five stages of grief or loss. My first reaction to the doctor’s initial phone call was ABSOLUTE denial. This can’t be happening to me. I am sure this is nothing serious. This must be a mistake – all is fine and well. Things like this don’t happen to me.

Denial continued way into the first visit with the doctor who TOLD me this was not cancer. I only felt real anger when I realised that his diagnosis was wrong and that he should not have opened his mouth to say those words.

Bargaining happened in my two week waiting period before I had to go and see the doctors again for my final meeting. When the call came through from the doctor’s office confirming that it was cancer, my reaction was to cry and then to run (to the nearest bar). I met up with a friend and drank copious amounts of wine and smoked up a storm. I phoned my nearest and dearest to break the news to them but it was as though I was talking through a fog. This was not actually happening to me, it was surreal. I spoke to God that night and many nights thereafter praying for a miracle.

I think depression hit me on and off throughout the process. The rest of life seemed absolutely trivial. I would go online and read about people’s unremarkable lives and get extremely angry and jealous that they got to carry on as usual while I had this burden to bear. I was very sorry for myself and cried at the drop of a hat.

Acceptance – this is where I am now. I know that whatever happens, good or bad, this experience has changed me for the better. It’s made me more spiritual, more aware, more me. It was meant to be and is part of the path that I have chosen. This writing about my experience is also part of the journey. Walk with me, listen to me, be there for me.

September 21, 2009

Cervical Cancer: A Diary - Part 1

I have decided to journal my experience with cervical cancer. This is part 1 - much more to follow.

Sometime in June

My desk phone rings. It’s my gynae’s secretary informing me that Dr Olivier would like to speak to me. He tells me that the 2nd pap smear in 2 months has come back with ‘abnormal cells’ as a result and he would like to request a biopsy to be done in hospital. I agree not thinking this is anything to be afraid of just yet.

A while later I contact him to find out if this has anything to do with cancer and he assures me that this is to ‘rule out’ that possibility.

The appointment is set for six week’s time when I will have a biopsy and a colposcopy procedure done. This will remove any weird growth that has invaded me causing me to bleed intermittently. The day dawns and I go to the hospital. I am not prepared for all the waiting. My appointment was for 8am but I eventually only see the doctor at 10am. He first takes a look at my Pap smear pathology results and tells me in no uncertain terms that this is NOT cancer we are dealing with. I feel great relief. He examines me and informs me that due to the size of the growth, the removal thereof will have to be done in theatre. I get dressed and he makes another appointment for me to come back for the procedure. Great. I am happy that this is going to be taken care of quickly and efficiently. He also tells me that the final results of the biopsy will be ready in 6 weeks time.

Around the end of July, I get another phone call from my gynae’s office. He tells me that they have found cancerous cells in my biopsy test results and that I have to go and see the hospital as soon as possible to go through a number of tests. So from the 31st of July to about 4th of August I spend much of my time at the hospital undergoing various tests from blood through to cystoscopy (where they put a camera up your bladder – extremely uncomfortable!) They take about a litre of blood from me, they poke, prod and photograph my insides. I begin to feel a little like an alien having just landed on planet Earth. All the tests are to discover whether or not the cancer has spread and how far along it is. Throughout all of this I am very calm, numb even. I think I am in shock and not quite sure of how to deal with this. Once all the tests are over I am due to meet with the doctors for them to inform me of the way forward. That day dawns and I am extremely nervous. The doctors see me and once again perform an internal exam. They then say I need a further test called an MRI to determine how big the tumour is. The final test is scheduled for the following week and then I am due to meet with them in 2 weeks time. It feels like a lifetime away. I go for the final MRI test and it’s very trippy – a total out of body experience. You are placed in a tunnel apparatus with headphones on to try to drown out the noise of the machine. This doesn’t work and the constant bang-bang of the machine goes right through you. It’s extremely unpleasant.

I then go home and wait out the two weeks. During this time, I act normally. I go about the business of work, life, caring for my daughter. I see my friends – we have dinner parties, I go shopping. On the surface all is fairly normal. Underneath I am a seething mess of panic. I am praying that the cancer is not at an advanced stage and that the best result I can hope for is that this is operable and that no radiation or chemo is necessary.