by Jenene Delahoy

I have this analogy about cancer.

It’s a one-way road.  

A single lane highway with no exits.  You can’t stop or turn off the highway halfway through when you’ve had enough and don’t like the journey anymore.  You cannot pull off to a nice roadside hotel for a drink and a rest. It is a road, a crazy ride at a fun park that holds no fun and you simply cannot get off.

You’ve got to see it through to the end. Tickets, please!

I am so sorry you have been diagnosed. I am sorry you found yourself on this same road and ride too. You can truly know you are not alone and my wish for you as you read these lines is that you feel a comradery, a connection of same.

For those who are wondering how do you know if you have cancer?  I am not sure there is any one single answer to this.

For me, looking back, I was feeling sick and fatigued for about 2 years prior to diagnosis.  

I was working full time and just feeling tired all the time. I put the tiredness down to the fact that I had a 2-year old that had to be dropped off at daycare by 7.30am every morning and picked up by 6pm every night.  

Roadworks were happening the entire trip from home to work which meant my journey to and from was 1 hour instead of 20 minutes.  I stressed out so much getting to work and then getting to the daycare center by 6pm of an evening that at one stage I detoured out of bumper to bumper grinding to a halt traffic and sped down the emergency lane of the highway, and I felt like my heart was going to explode and I was going to have a heart attack.

I am also an overachiever.  I pride myself on doing a really good job at work

  It makes me happy. I noticed that I was making little mistakes and that would distress me because I didn’t know why.  I would forget things and miss details that I never missed before.

I also noticed that food wasn’t satisfying me.  I craved a delicious meal full of nutrition, but it didn’t help.  I still felt ill. Then I lost weight. I loved that. Those pre-pregnancy jeans all of a sudden fitted perfectly.  No body issues here!!!!!

I put it all down to being a working mum until the day I sped down the emergency lane with my chest pounding and my body screaming STOPPPPPPPPPPPP!!!!!!!!

My daughter was beginning pre-school in February, so I decided I was going to quit work and become a full-time mum.

 

 

 

 

 

I also went to the Doctor.

The doctor took blood and tested me for bowel cancer – considering my mother died at the age of 32 from cancer of the bowel.

All tests came back clear.

She never tested me for breast cancer.

That was 6 months prior to my diagnosis.

I ended up at the gynecologist with cysts on my ovaries that were the size of a baby 5 months into the pregnancy.  They were benign, and I had to have a hysterectomy.

That didn’t surprise me as we have a family history of all females on my mother’s side eventually having to have a hysterectomy.  The Doctor would, however, leave my ovaries, so I didn’t spiral into menopause.

Between the time I was scheduled to have my operation, I did have a creamish discharge from my left nipple.  It wasn’t a tremendous amount. Just a little like a pimple that burst.

On a subconscious level, there was a thought that went through my head – cancer –

But that was it. A passing thought. Funny how something so incredibly life changing can be a passing thought. A niggle.

I had my tests, and they were clear, so I didn’t pay much attention. Deep down, in retrospect, I recognize the body knows itself very well if we listen carefully. I am still not sure how this is achieved, but I have an inkling it indeed does.

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The night before I was due to go in for my operation I checked my breasts just to make sure I was ok.

It was then I felt it.

A tiny pea. So small. Surely it was nothing.

Paying attention to the tiny pea was not my focus.  Don’t ask me why. The gravity of what was growing and invading my left breast did not even put a blip on my radar.

I made a mental note and decided that I would deal with it after my hysterectomy.

Looking back I should have probably alerted the Doctor to my finding.  

I should have recovered and been out of hospital within a week of my operation. We all have “shoulds” don’t we? It is a profound word of retrospect that can create regret and angst. But you know what? It just is.

Close-up portrait of young female surgeon doctor or intern wearing protective mask and hat.

So was I out of hospital within the expected week? Not me!  I was 3 weeks in the hospital, and my Doctor nearly resigned from medical practice he later told me.  My body was not recovering. I had to have a blood transfusion, and my poor Doctor did not know what was happening and why. 

Eventually, I was released from the hospital, and when I was feeling a bit better, I made another appointment with my local GP and went in to have the lump checked out.

But it didn’t end there.

I was referred to have a mammogram and an ultrasound.

When I rang the surgery to get the results that the receptionist said that they were all clear, but I should come in any way.

So I did, and they were anything but clear.

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I was referred to a Hospital however because I was feeling drained I just couldn’t be bothered going.

It still didn’t register for me that I was playing Russian roulette with my life- I was in a life or death situation and oblivious to it.  I canceled my appointment with the hospital 3 times. Then one day I went to cancel for the 4th time. But the phone call would not go through. The telephone went dead. I could not get through to the reception desk, which meant I could not cancel. So I figured I had better go.  

 

The journey began…and so did hope.

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