It’s been a long 2 weeks but here we are – waiting again – for an appointment with Dr Inscrutable. This is the NHS and they’re busy but my heart is in my boots as we wait an extra hour. Then it’s our turn. “You have a cancer”. Husband has already clocked the lymphoma booklet on the desk but from my scribes corner I can see nothing. But I can hear. Cancer.
In full it’s Non Hodgkins Lymphoma, which has 30 odd sub-types. “Would you like me to write it down?” Yes please. I‘m grateful when Husband has the courage to ask the questions no-one wants to ask: prognosis. It can’t be cured. What? We’ve only heard of cancers that are aggressive but can be treated, where there’s some hope of a cure. (Sidenote: we know now that incurable doesn’t mean untreatable – there are very effective treatments – weird though it sounds this cancer is not necessarily immediately life-threatening).
It’s indolent (which sounds good to us at this stage) so very slow acting. He may have had it for as long as 5 years. Cue here for massive guilt. Why hadn’t I pushed him to see the doctor more often? He had been pretty good about going to see his GP and getting blood tests but since he felt fine and was ‘just’ told he was anaemic there wasn’t much to go on.
How could anyone have known he was this ill? He felt normal, just a little out of breath if he pushed himself. He concluded he was a bit unfit. Except he wasn’t. He had cancer.
Must. Not. Cry.
Apparently it’s common for people to not feel ill, to not have symptoms until anaemia shows up.
Dr Inscrutable kindly sends us to the specialist nurse for more information and counselling… Husband strides out of the consulting room, declares “Oh crap” to the deserted corridor and immediately asks “Are you ok?” “Me? Who cares about me? You have cancer” is in my head but I mumble something vaguely affirmative which he probably doesn’t hear anyway.