Friday, 4 April 2014


The white awareness ribbon at the start of this blog is the symbol for lung cancer awareness. I only knew the popular pink ribbons, pink is actually for breast cancer awareness.
Yes there's a lot of things I don't know about cancer. Before cancer consumed me, I was designing, writing, and taking photographs for three websites. I also wrote for ezines on anything from travel, cooking, photography, relationships, family traditions, holidays, etc. The one topic that never crossed my mind writing about is Cancer. It's ubiquitous now! taking over my life. From day 1 of getting diagnosed I have been made AWARE. I'm aware of it's nastiness, the graciousness that comes out of it, and the overwhelming information that I have to decipher and deduce, and aware, that there are hard decisions to be made.
I'm a planner and an organizer. I pay much attention to detail. I like being in control. This fortuitous episode meant I cannot control everything, or even unnerving, that I have no control of my future.  I am abashed.
This was so unforeseen. I have been healthy. I had no vices. My diet was not perfect, but I followed the rule, everything in moderation. Writing about cancer never caught my interest, and although I have close friends dealing with it, I just never thought I would be next. We all say it "this thing does not happen to me". On my way to the X-ray, I said to myself "it can't be bad, you're already dealing with a lot of stuff, you can't take them all", but alas, I did!
So, why am I back online? I need an outlet. I now know that bottling up your emotions is not good for your immune system. I'm usually the person who is at the receiving end of the vent and loving that I can do that for people I care about. I am aware that everyone's got challenges which is why I hardly open up. I don't want to burden anyone with my own. The other reason is I am very private. I've set up Facebook and Twitter business pages but I never had a personal one. That culture of transparency just doesn't click with me. I will use this forum to counter my chemo brain too, I refuse to let that go.
With this blog I hope to provide myself with an outlet and at the same time share my experience and new found knowledge on Cancer. Finally, I wish to raise awareness about lung cancer and cancer in general. I don't claim to be an expert, by no means, the cancer world is so immense and complicated, I can never claim that. We've heard it before, "Cancer comes like a thief at night". Let's put our security systems on so he can't get in. Being aware is being on guard.

The Shift

It's been almost a year now since my world shifted. April 30, 2013, as I scan through the quaint shops and specialty food stores along Fulham Road in London, I make a mental note of which ones I can browse after my X- ray at the Chelsea and Westminster Hospital. I have been feeling breathless since February and I have been coughing involuntarily for more than a month, my GP sent me in for the X-ray - just to look. I check in to the radiology department, change into a gown and wait. I look at the time, it's been two hours, really, how long does it take? I have been reading but still, 2 hours! It's my first time ever at a UK hospital facility so I have no idea what waiting times are like. It's 6 pm and I say to myself, the shops won't be open and this waiting is getting ridiculous. Finally someone approaches me. They can't find my doctor's requisition form, apparently reception forgot to forward it and that's why I was not called. By this time, I'm tired, hungry, and really frustrated but not surprised at the mediocrity of the reception staff, I do get a lot of bad service in London. After the X-ray, the radiologist gave me a knowing look and then asked me to wait. he then brings me to A&E. After getting admitted, they put me in an isolation room, fitted me with a cannula, my ops recorded, and blood test taken. This is now 8pm, I call my husband to let them know what's happening.  I could have asked for dinner as I realise I haven't eaten in hours, but I was too concerned about what's unfolding I have lost my appetite. After waiting for nearly three hours, a doctor finally comes to see me. He mentions there are abnormalities on my lungs and that they have to observe me further. He asked if I travelled to Asia recently as they think it could be Tuberculosis. I tell them I've only been to Amsterdam and Paris in the past year. After more ops and blood samples, I'm told to wait for a room to be available, I'm going to get confined. I look in my bag and I see one book, which I take out to read, my wallet, tissues, and my mobile phone which is running out of juice! So there I was reading The Biology of Belief by Bruce Lipton, hungry but refusing to eat, bored and sick of the forced confinement in an isolation room, wondering what the heck is wrong with me. It was about 1 am when someone came in to say they finally have a room for me. They wheeled me on the bed, the halls were dark broken only by the flashing fluorescent lights on the ceiling. We pass through wards, and as we stopped near one that was right outside my new isolation room, I can hear moaning, and little cries of pain. It was frightening, sad, and eerie. I ask the nurse for toiletries and to charge my phone. I thought I could never sleep but I was simply exhausted. 
May 1st, and I am awoken by breakfast. White toast with butter and jam, and a cup of Kellog's corn flakes and milk. I look at the Costa Coffee Kiosk through my window and asked the nurse If I can grab a cup of coffee and some proper breakfast. She reminds me that I'm on isolation. A team of doctors, all lung specialists and some students came in to do more tests and talked to me about my symptoms. It was the longest day ever! 
The next day saw more tests and interviews. By the afternoon of May 3rd, they took the isolation sign off and staff were coming into my room without their masks, clear clue that they have ruled out Tuberculosis or anything contagious. So what's wrong with me? Around 6pm, and this time only one doctor and a nurse came in, to ask if I have family and if I want them there when he tells me the results. I was like "oh no, I don't like the sound of that", I call my husband, the house is only 10 minutes away, fortunately. The kids came too but the doctor wanted to talk to me and my husband only, so he gets the students to entertain the kids at the waiting room. The doctor starts by saying all the results have come back and that Tuberculosis is indeed ruled out and so is asthma, or diabetes, or anything to do with the heart ( I told them my family history). He kept on and on about the tests, so I just interrupted him with my blunt "is it cancer", awkward silence…. "do I have cancer"? he nodded, and my tears just started rolling fast. 
They now need to determine where the primary cancer is and obviously its stage. I was given the option to go back home for one night, keep my cannula on, and come back for more tests the next day. I was not ready to tell the kids so I recomposed myself before we called them back in. As I walk into our home, it felt like my world shifted, big time! I was looking at everything differently, everything felt odd. I was floating in a different universe and all of a sudden, the future is uncertain. 
I was up early the next day for my 11 am Bronchial Wash at the hospital, they have to get a sample of the fluid in my lungs. After the procedure I was told I need to be confined again for more tests, and scans. I get a nice private room this time. They suspect the primary could be thyroid or lung. I also get news that I have pulmonary embolism. Embolism results from deep vein thrombosis, a blood clot in the deep vein of the legs or pelvis that breaks off and migrates to the lungs through the bloodstream. I know where that vein is and when I got it, I thought they were just varicose veins and I had planned on getting them operated on because it hurts and it looks bad. I was lucky to have had it this long without exploding. I was a walking time bomb! I was put on blood thinners immediately. I was sent home the next day equipped with injection know how and boxes of Clexane.