“Stoma” he said. “We have to talk about stoma.” Stoma? Isn’t that a little hole on a leaf for plant respiration? I’m sure I picked that up during a botany class. The only problem is that this was the gynaecologist talking, the one who’s about to cut me open to remove whatever has taken root on my pelvis. Oh dear. I knew, when I was first told that there was a chance the cancer had relapsed, that they had taken out everything disposable four years ago. There’s not a lot left in there that I don’t need. I suppose I could spare a kidney at a push and maybe the appendix could go. Other than that, I’d like to hang on to all my bits, thank you very much.
There had been a minor moment of relief when the oncologist showed me the CT scan with something showing in the pelvic area. Nothing enormous, not spread everywhere, didn’t seem to be attached to any major organs, operable they thought. That relief evaporated a few days later when the surgeon began to talk about the bowel. The bowel which might just have to come out, to be replaced with a snazzy little bag. The must have accessoryof the colorectal ward. Panic, panic. My life revolves around activity – diving, running, swimming. This sounded like the start of the end; was everything going to grind to a halt? Would I be able to dive again? It seems it was a good job that last autumn I ticked manta rays off the list of Things I Still Want to See. Whale sharks are still on the list, though.
And then there was the waiting list. You’ll like this. It turns out that, however urgent my case might appear to be, as it’s a relapse I go on the waiting list with everyone else. Urgent but not priority. First time round there’s a NICE guideline that says suspected ovarian cancer has to be treated within (I think) 31 days. Second time round it’s not so nice and there are no such timescales. The waiting list locally is 8 to 10 weeks. We came away from the consultation with the surgeon and I did the maths. Six months ago I had been clear. It was already four weeks since the positive blood test and there was a tumour showing on the CT scan. Another 10 weeks would make over 3 months since the blood test, another 50% of the time since the last clear result. If they were talking about the bowel coming out now, it seemed like it would be a surefire certainty by the end of September.
It was then that we went to dig out the health insurance that had come when my husband changed jobs a couple of years ago. And what’s this unknown creature? A helpful insurance company that doesn’t quibble; half an hour on the phone and they told us to go ahead and arrange a date with the surgeon! Cue more tears, this time pure relief. I feel like I’ve got corporate sponsorship; me and Hannah Miley, sponsored by Xodus. I’m not expecting a medal but a few more years would be nice.
So it’s all sorted and I’m going under the knife next Friday. They really should have put in a zip, maybe a stylish velcro flap, several surgeries ago. I see the colorectal people tomorrow in the knowledge that they will prep me for the worst. I’ve been diving a couple of times, just in case it’s the last time. I don’t really believe it is though, even if I do end up with a bag. What’s a dry suit for, after all?
As I said in another post, shit happens. And every time it happens for the rest of this week, I’d better make the most of it. I’d better enjoy wiping my bum for the rest of the week. After all, it might be one of those trivial daily activities that we all take for granted that I might not get to do again.
Photo credit: R~P~M