First Treatment

It wasn’t long after the diagnosis that we had met with a very specialised cancer doctor. Unfortunately my wife has a form of cancer caused by asbestos (so we found out later), a mesothelioma of the peritoneum. This is usually associated with the lungs (people breathe in the asbestos fibres), but here the tumours were forming on the wall of the cavity surrounding all the organs in the lower abdomen. God knows how that happened.

We were told there were a couple of approaches to try and get rid of this. One was surgery – a ten or twelve hour operation to open up the cavity and remove all the tumours. But the scans seemed to show this would not be possible – the bulk of disease appeared too great.

So that left chemo.

Now I had only ever met one person who had had chemo, and so wasn’t all that aware of what it entailed.

I soon found out.

My wife was very brave – she had a special outfit picked out, to show that the disease was going to be beaten. And she went with her mother for the treatment, six hours in the ‘chair’.

I don’t recall the specific drug, but it was tough and strong, and should help to reduce the cancer.

But the chemo also destroys everything else around it, and has severe side effects. In my wife’s case, hallucinations, great big bloody dragons in our room, watching over us. And a lack of appetite on top of the vomiting – they say to bulk up before hand, but the disease had made that hard, hence the rush to get the chemo started.

And then there were the mental impacts – eventually certain foods, and clothes would have adverse memories attached to them, and even walking into the hospital was a struggle. It was devastating, watching her lose weight, strength, happiness.

For six rounds – once every month, this went on. And not even knowing if it was doing what we hoped and reducing the disease. All we could see was the deterioration of a person.

My wife has cancer? A surprising diagnosis

My wife can’t have cancer? The build up to her diagnosis and horrible first hearing of that word

It was in late 2015 that my wife started to have some issues – her stomach was becoming bloated, and she had some abdominal pain at times. Nothing serious, so we thought, and we put it down to a food intolerance. We did start trying the different tests – gluten, wheat, lactose, anything that might be the cause, but nothing came back.

So into March 2016, she had been finally referred to a gynaecology specialist, and he did a laparoscopy. This is keyhole surgery, and the aim is to drain of some of the ascites – a build up of fluid in the abdomen – mainly caused by irritation. The cause of the bloating. This could then be sent for testing – trying to find the markers in the fluid.

While waiting for this to come back, she developed a sore shoulder – what we thought was an injury from being lifted onto and off the surgery table. On a torrential evening, we found out that that wasn’t the case – our local GP (God bless him) took one look, and referred her to a specialist who hospitalised her and within hours had her on a drip for a Deep Vein Thrombosis. She was lucky – the clot was in an artery leaving her heart, and only a small clot entered her lungs, however she was left on daily injections of blood thinners for nearly two years. Never, ever dismiss something as minor (a mistake we have made time and again). And apparently blood thickening is a side effect of her disease.

The tests did come back. At first, we were told that the markers they were looking for were clear. I learnt however, that the disease is a tricky customer, and that not all types will show up in certain markers.

We did then have a meeting with the doctor who had performed the keyhole, and both went along to see him. Meeting with a doctor is strange – most of the time it is you, maybe your partner, and the doctor. However on this occasion, there were a lot more people in the room. And this was because the diagnosis was of cancer. My blood went cold at the word, and to be honest I didn’t hear much else, but all I can remember thinking was


As if, by not saying it, it wasn’t real. But they couldn’t stop. And in a blur we were then thrown into a whole new world.

The rest of the day flew by in a mix of further talks with nurses to try and explain. I didn’t take in much. Each chat would be in hushed tones, all very calm, when inside I wanted to scream, my back slick with sweat. I wanted out, wanted to leave all of this mess behind. How could they be so matter of fact about all this?

I cried in work the next day telling my team. I didn’t want her to die, I still don’t.


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