Its the anniversary of the diagnosis, should we commemorate it?

This month we will hit 7 years post diagnosis. Its been a long time, and feels like more than that. We have changed as a family in so many ways that we are not the same people. I have detailed elsewhere some of the history of my wifes illness, and you can either look through the previous posts, or there is a summary here:

But the question is, do we commemorate or celebrate? Do we even acknowledge the passing? When she was diagnosed, my wife was very gung ho about it, determined to fight and win. Her first round of chemo was on July 1st, and she bought US flag patterned leggings to wear for her independence day. It didnt work out quite like that however, and they were never seen again. The challenge became harder with every round, and with every hospitalisation and visit with doctors and specialists (we have seen over a dozen different specialists over the years that I can recall, along with countless talented and amazing nurses). So the fighting spirit whilst there, is maybe a little more subdued, less in your face.

We dont usually mention the anniversary. And why would we want to? We wouldnt want to be reminded of what we have lost, what has happened since, but it is an important day in our combined history. We remember happy events like our wedding, birthdays, and so on, and even remember the birthdays of relatives who have died, but this one feels different. This one has a dark cloud hanging over it. An anniversary of the start of the worst time of our collective lives.

Aside from the losses to cancer, a family changes immeasurably due to cancer. It isnt just the patient who suffers, though they suffer the most obviously. Partners, children, parents, friends, colleagues, are all impacted to some extent, whether they realise or not. Children have to watch the horror of their parent becoming sick and losing weight, maybe being physically ill, not being able to do the same fun activities with them. Parents have to watch their own child wither away and potentially die. Friends and colleagues will lose someone in their lives who may have meant alot to them. All caused by cancer. All contributing to the dark cloud overhanging the anniversary.

Fans of Stranger Things would appreciate this analogy, as it can sometimes feel that our lives now have moved into the Upside Down. A world that looks the same, but isnt. It has the same buildings, and roads, but there is a creeping terror on every corner, a spreading horror waiting to catch you, and drain your life away. (If you havent seen Stranger Things, do, it is great, if a little scary for kids).

Definately not one for us to celebrate, though I know some do. Not even a date to commemorate for us, though again I know some do. We will let it pass, not acknowledge the demons entrance, and regroup for the next round of challenges to come. For after a while the cancer becomes so all invasive and impacting your whole life that any opportunity to not mention it and push it away feels like a victory. To remember the anniversary is to give it more life, make it more real, and we dont want that.


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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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