I have cancer. Even writing it or saying it out loud seems so unlikely. Part of me naively thought that my family had had it’s fair share of cancer but of course, when it comes to cancer there is no fair.
When I first experienced symptoms, I honestly thought I just needed a good fart and all would be well. But what began as a tender tummy one relatively uneventful Wednesday afternoon was known to be cancer by the following Wednesday. Or, as the radiographer’s report put it so succinctly – a gynaecological malignancy, ovarian in nature.
It was so surreal at first I almost laughed. I was 33 years old, I’d graduated from uni in May, we’d booked our flights to travel to Europe in November/December and with Naomi having found work, financially we were looking pretty good. Of course now was the time I’d have cancer.
It was the 22nd June 2016 after a gastroscopy, colonoscopy and laparoscopy that I was given the diagnosis of appendix cancer, or to be specific, stage IV mucinous adenocarcinoma of appendiceal origin. The fact that all of those words are unknown to the spell check gives some indication of the rarity of this delightful disease. It had to be a rare one…
Prior to surgery, my colorectal surgeon pointed out the offending disease on my CT scan. Even though I knew it had spread through my abdomen it was more extensive than I expected. I asked the surgeon straight out what this sort of presentation was likely to be and he was honest – that typically it was cancer, it was just a matter of origin. He expected it would be ovarian, appendix or primary peritoneal.
When I originally Googled ovarian cancer, I was scared. It’s known as the silent killer for a reason – the stats aren’t particularly good. After my appointment with the colorectal surgeon I Googled appendix and primary peritoneal cancer. I almost hoped I had ovarian.
When the biopsy results came back and appendix cancer was confirmed, I’d had time to come around to the idea. Mostly I was frustrated that I had to have a rare cancer with shitty survival rates.
When I tell people I have appendix cancer, it’s a real conversation started. Medical practitioners of all varieties are intrigued because most have never come across it. Family and friends were in disbelief. Honestly, who would believe that an organ deemed to be almost useless could develop cancer?
I have learnt through all my research that appendix cancer is what killed Audrey Hepburn. When my partner found the meme below she looked at me and said “I don’t think they meant get appendix cancer”! I laughed.
Although I’ve had to stop work for chemo treatment, our lives have never been busier. Planning family stuff around chemo side effects, attending last minute appointments in other cities, Naomi’s work, the little dude’s school and activities not to mention seeing family and friends.
Add to that the mental and emotional stress of the diagnosis – end of life planning, discussing your partners future without you in it, accepting that you’re unlikely to make old age.Some days we find ourselves tired from simply spending time in our own heads. Thankfully Naomi has a good sense of humour because that’s how I deal with these things – inappropriate humour. Like the night us and her cousin turned my funeral arrangements into a full blown production, but that’s a story for another time!
Despite the somewhat uncertain outlook, we’re trying to plan for our future. Surgery will be coming up as will more chemo. We’re hoping for the best but accepting of the reality.