I was diagnosed with Chronic Lymphocytic Leukaemia in February 2008. The cancer was identified following routine blood tests before a spinal surgery. My first reaction was of shock, followed quickly by false bravado which masked a severe depression. I’ve since discovered that this is common in newly-diagnosed cancer patients. Around Christmas 2008 I began passing a lot of blood in my urine and had considerable pain in my right side. But I put it down to a kidney stone. When this was investigated it was discovered (2009) that I had a tumour in my right kidney (transitional cell carcinoma) and needed an urgent Nephro-ureterectomy (removal of kidney, ureter and bladder cuff).
Unfortunately, with TCC there is very likely that it’ll return in the bladder or remaining kidney. However, I have an excellent Macmillan urology nurse specialist (Patricia Thompson at Ulster Hospital, Belfast) and I am screened regularly (including the highly unpleasant flexible cystoscopy!) to keep an eye on things.
I suppose I have settled down towards a more accepting state of mind regarding both cancers. The leukaemia is incurable but my last haematology check-up indicated that it is still progressing slowly though steadily. For me the worst part was having to tell my children. I lost my father to cancer when I was twelve and will never forget the feeling of desolation and horror I experienced when he told me the bad news.
There are days when I am so tired I wonder if it’s worth going on. But I'm stubborn and a wide streak of black humour gets me through. On the positive side I've met some wonderful, caring and inspirational people along the way.