Telling the people you love that you have cancer is the most horrible, hateful and hardest thing ever. I had never seen my grandparents or dad cry before, and it was heart breaking to see them distraught. It was worse than hearing the news for myself, first-hand.
If I look back, I’m sure I only told three people about my illness: my best friend, my mum and my boyfriend. It’s impossible to imagine how the people you love will react and impossible to imagine the way it makes you, yourself feel, knowing that you are the one causing them to feel this way. It was torturous to watch them hear that you have cancer. Good for me that bad news travels fast in our little town so I didn’t have to tell many people.
Once everything had sunk in – I had lymphoma, a type of cancer and I wasn’t going on holiday at the end of the week – things moved quickly. Even though it was heartbreaking to watch my friends go on holiday without me, I knew I couldn’t risk going. For once, I would put my health first. I would be a week behind with all my appointments if I did go, and what for – cheap booze and clubbing and let’s face it, I’d be the one who’d come back with a tattoo on my forehead. As it turns out, in that week I had seen my consultant, been to Manchester for my Pet CT scan and I had another CT scan in Bangor Hospital.
There will be other holidays. There’s only one Megan D, and my health was much more important than a trip to duty free, a piss-up and a sun tan.
Things were moving fast. I had all my scans and a biopsy done within a week, which was scary because I’d heard that the NHS was renowned for being slow so this meant things were bad. But you can’t rush results so it was just a waiting game. We knew that I had Lymphoma, but there are 2 types – Hodgkins and Non-Hodgkins and within those types there are different kinds. Very complicated and I won’t bore you with the details! The biopsy confirmed that it was Hodgkins.
Then came another appointment with my consultant and so, another chance for me to sob my eyes out. In fact, it’s only very recently that I go to appointments and don’t cry! Like a Nicholas Sparks film, there’s just something about my consultant that sets me off as soon as I see her…
After a couple of nail-biting weeks, waiting for results and numerous heart aching trips to Manchester for injections and emergency IVF/egg-freezing treatments, I finally received the results of all the scans and tests.
The scans confirmed I had a tumour sitting between both of my lungs but leaning against my right lung and on my wind pipe. The mass was 10x9x7cm, between the size of a grapefruit and a water melon. I wasn’t entirely sure how that was possible: scary indeed. But this was the reason behind my constant breathlessness. The tumour had spread to the right side of my neck and to my lymphnodes. I also had a mass on the side of my neck; I could actually feel it when the doctor stated it out.
Finally, I had answers, though not at all what I had expected. The skin condition started over a year ago. I’ve been pale and breathless for a very long time too. I dread to think how long that watermelon-grapefruit tumour has been just lodging in my lung cavity like an uninvited squatter. Within two weeks I was starting my chemotherapy.
I didn’t talk much about it to anybody, as I was scared. Helplessly and impossibly scared about what I was about to embark on and it was easier to block it all out until I had to go through it.
I knew about all the side-effects as I’d witnessed my mother go through breast cancer over five years ago. I saw her disintegrate both physically and emotionally in front of my eyes for months, and now, that would be me. I can still see the effects of cancer on her today and I dread to think how it will change me, change my personality, change my body and change my future.
I was no longer going to University to study nursing. I had to face all my friends leave home, to go and have the ‘time of their lives’ while I lay at home losing hair and twiddling my fingers. I was taking a gap year, and I wasn’t even doing anything worth talking about. I would love to be able to just work or do anything other than stay in bed all day.
To be honest there are no leaflets or past-experiences that can prepare you for cancer. Each battle is ferociously personal. I have a box full of leaflets under my bed, unread. As silly as it may sound, I have not felt the need to read them – I’m very ill and to get better I need to grin and bear the treatment and fight like hell. Besides, my friends and family can offer me more compassion, reassurance and hope than any leaflet can – and an almighty hug when things get a little bit tough.