So, it turns out I have cancer.
Yep, the dreaded c-bomb. I’ve got it. And I’m just 31.
Surprised? So was I. What’s scarier is that I shouldn’t have been.
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Let’s face it, we all know at least one person who’s had cancer. Forty per cent of us will be diagnosed with cancer at some point in our lives, and the diagnosis rate is rising in New Zealand.
And that is why I’m sharing my story with you. I don’t want you to feel sorry for me. I don’t want your pity. I want you to get off your asses and get checked out.
Too many of us think we are invincible. We hear about people being diagnosed with cancer and immediately think “that won’t happen to me”.
I was one of those people.
I went for my smear test, a year overdue. In New Zealand, once you’re in your twenties you’re meant to get checked out every three years. I figured my test would come back fine.
I received a call from my nurse telling me the doctor wanted me to come into the clinic to discuss my results. I live 40 minutes away and a cyclone was heading our way so I was trying to put off the appointment. That was, until I started questioning the nurse: “The doctor said I can’t give you any information over the phone – but your results show you have abnormal cells.”
Not what I expected.
Naturally, I texted my best friend and she assured me it’s pretty normal. She’d had the same result before, and so had her sister.
I called Dad to tell him the news and he suggested coming with me to the clinic to look after my 15-month-old daughter Casey.
At the clinic, I sat in the doctor’s office. She started to tell me my smear test results indicate an epithelial cell abnormality that’s consistent with adenocarcinoma in-situ. In other words, I have the early stages of cancer.
I heard myself saying “OK…”, and she kept talking.
I couldn’t hear much else for a few minutes except my inner dialogue. I have cancer? What? How? Hang on, I have cancer?!
I knew the doctor was watching my expressionless face, perhaps waiting for me to cry.
I only felt numb.
I asked her to write down the type of cancer. I can’t even pronounce adenocarcinoma, let alone remember it.
When I asked her about the next step, she explained she’d put through an urgent referral to a specialist and that I’d hear back the following week. From there I’d have a colposcopy. The specialist would take a biopsy and then the cancer would be tested and graded to find out its stage.
Her positive tone was kind – she assured me it’s likely we’ve found it early enough to get it cut out. I hope so too.
Back in the waiting room, I managed a small smile – I knew Dad would want to know what had happened, but I couldn’t tell him there.
“Let’s get out of here before the storm sets in,” I said, rushing to pay and get out.
I started shaking. I explained to Dad that he would have to drive, because I didn’t think I could. “It’s not good news, Dad.” And I started crying.
I fumbled through tears and explained as best I can about what had just happened. He placed his hand on mine. I love that man with all my heart. He’s my hero.
I rang my husband Jono. I rang Mum. I rang my in-laws. They all offered their love and support. After about half an hour, the tears stopped.
I realised this is just a bump in the road. I’ve been through worse.
Dad was in hospital the month before, and I thought I might lose him.
At the age of 18, I was in a fatal car accident. The man I hit died at the scene. I thought I was going to go to jail. It was a tragic accident, and it changed me forever.
At 26, my best friend and fiancé called off our relationship a month before our wedding. We had been together for seven years.
Two years ago, I was pregnant with my little girl Casey and in chronic pain for half the pregnancy.
And now this.
But guess what, cancer – just a heads up, I’m tough. Good luck trying to take me down.
So, like I said, don’t give me your pity. This is just my bump in the road.
All I ask, is please get yourself checked out. Get that regular smear test. Or that prostate check-up. Tell your friends and family to book an appointment. You’re not invincible.
Life is short. Treasure your loved ones. Take action now.
Kylie blogs about overcoming life’s obstacles at Kylie Haack.
– Stuff Nation