My wife and I survived the first round of Bad News and the cancer returns again. What happens now?
The two of us thought that we had hidden ourselves from this nasty, angry cancer.
We knew that after the first bout of cancer our lives had been turned upside down and life would never be the same again. One of my friends nicknamed my wife, 'Cleopatra - Queen of Denial'. We loved that. We chose to live in denial. No good worrying what might happen and when it might happen. We got on with life. We decided that my wife was going to Live with Cancer again, not concentrate on dying with cancer.
We rarely spoke about the constant check ups over seven years. Every six months my wife would visit the oncologist. We held our breath each time the tests came back. Our adrenaline had dropped and emotionally relieved by the good news, we would eat some more comfort food.
There were clinical trials offered to my wife, so that the doctors could prolong her life with new tested drugs. We were so fortunate that women who had had cancer before my wife had tested these drugs.
What a legacy these women (and some men) left, which helped my wife live longer.
We loved the doctors and the nurses. They are medical magicians trying to experiment and find a solution for the cancer, my wife's type of breast cancer. There were oncologists, pain management doctors, physiotherapists, podiatrists, breast care nurses etc and a General Practitioner (GP) who supported my wife's choices and hundreds of questions. So many dedicated people. We were so lucky to have had the care we did, keeping her alive so long.
If you are not happy with a certain doctor or nurse, have the courage to seek another opinion. We only had one case where the doctor did not suit my wife's idea of treatment. My wife had excellent knowledge of medical terminology due to her profession and asked hundreds of questions as usual. It was her way of coping with the cancer. This young doctor did not like that approach nor our dark sense of humour. We discretely asked for another doctor. No formal complaints. No drama required. You don't have time or emotional strength for it.
Once again, we went to a six monthly check up, holding our breath and praying that the last six months had been 'cancer free' (another word for "We can't find any signs of cancer").
This time the news was not good. The oncologist showed us some medical report, blah blah cells, blah blah spreading, blah blah blood test. Our hearts sank. We need to do some MRI blah blah tests. We stopped listening because our emotions were on the roller coast ride again and we wanted to emotionally vomit.
I was there when the MRI was being performed. My wife's scan showed her whole body light up from the tiny cancers all through her. The cancers were like little white Christmas Tree lights. It was eerily beautiful and scary at the same time.
Here we go again. What are we going to do? Our child was with a family member, so we cried and cried. I found the courage again to say good-bye to my wife. It hurt even more. She said good-bye to me. We told each other that we loved each other again.
Then we came up with another plan. This time, our close group of friends had stuck by us. I started the communications again: I used the words 'terminal illness', 'there is no cure' and 'the cancer has spread everywhere' and 'we're not up to talking about it'.
Our child was now ten years old, so we told him about everything (See Telling Children section).
We knew what this news meant. It meant that palliative care was on the horizon, which we could now see from our crazy roller coaster ride. It was coming up to our twentieth wedding anniversary, so we decided to spend a month living and celebrating our marriage in Paris, France and then concentrate on what to do next.
Again we revisited all of the Difficult Discussion Topics. Had my wife changed her mind about anything? Was there anything else that she wanted to do? Once all of that annoying cancer discussion had finished and was organised, we got on with our lives.