My original symptom was an ‘irritated‘ bladder — it is difficult to describe but the closest I can come up with it that it felt like it was vibrating all the time. In March 2010, after several months of bladder discomfort and many trips to my GP, I was referred to the gynae-urinary clinic at my local University hospital with suspected bladder prolapse.
That day changed our family’s life.
The doctor did a preliminary external examination and immediately sent me for an ultrasound. I sat in the waiting area with the expectant mums not really knowing what was going on (have you noticed how hospitals just move you from one waiting area to another in a vain attempt to hide just how many other people are waiting as well?). My GP had told me I would probably need a small operation to repair my bladder, that was all.
The sonographer called me in and carried out the ultrasound — external and internal — and looked very grave. I just assumed it was her inscrutable face; you know the one, where the technicians carrying out these assessments just have this face that doesn’t tell you anything at all, be it good or bad. She asked me to take a seat back in the waiting area.
Then I saw the doctor rushing past — I knew straight away from the look on her face that it wasn’t going to be good news. I don’t know how I knew, I mean she didn’t even look my way and she could have been dealing with another patient but I knew. She came back to speak to me and said that there was a large mass on my ovary — I can’t remember now whether she said ovary or ovaries. She was referring me to another consultant and luckily his clinic was on now and she had got me an appointment in it. I thought to myself how lucky that was as it would save me another trip to the hospital. I never once thought it was because she wanted me seen urgently, despite what I had thought earlier when I saw her pass me in the waiting area.
I waited and I waited in the next waiting room until it became empty of all but me, the very hassled looking receptionists and an elderly lady waiting for her transport home. A nurse called me through to the consultant and she stayed in the room. That’s when I started to become worried — especially as her name badge had ‘Macmillan Nurse’ under her name. Macmillan Nurses give advice and support to people with cancer … what was she doing here? Oh wait, the consultant is a gynae-oncology surgeon.
That was probably the point that my hearing started to go. I mean, I could hear the words but they were closing in on me and just sort of buzzing, if you know what I mean, like a wall of sound … ovaries … very large mass … cancer … surgery … waiting list … hopefully a cancellation … definitely within 4 weeks in keeping with the current guidelines … go for a blood test now so it’s all done …
It was a lot to take in, as with all bad news, I’ve blocked a lot of it out now. I remember that the rather overweight consultant with a jovial bearing looked grave. Why does everybody look grave? Were they all imagining me in mine? That is my overwhelming memory of that day —- I thought everyone was looking at me like I was a ghost, like I was already dead…