It’s over a year since I wrote anything for this blog. Life can change in an instant they say. It did for me on 28th June 2017. I was diagnosed with cancer and there followed a whirlwind of treatment, hospital appointments and the oh so different level of care I experienced, from the sublime – the level every sick person deserves to be treated as – to the down right disgraceful in a ‘centre of excellence’.
Despite having four larger than regular size babies, I have never had piles. So when lumps appeared at my anus, I thought I was dealing with piles. I tried treatment with over the counter meds for a couple of weeks without any improvement. If anything they were getting worse. I saw a locum at the surgery. He didn’t examine me but simply provided a prescription to use to reduce and ease the piles. On my second visit to the gp as I was now in significant pain, I was referred to a bowel consultant in Cork. It was private appointment and there was a three week wait.
I knew of the consultant as he had been my late husband’s consultant and was ‘the best man for the bowel.’
I had participated in the national bowel screening programme the previous year and there was no recall for that. As I had had an upset stomach since returning from Spain, a matter of a few weeks previously, a further stool sample had been sent off from the surgery, and that came back clear.
Nevertheless there was something happening that was not right. The level of pain escalated as I ticked off the days waiting to see the Cork consultant. I took to standing in the shower in the early hours of the morning attempting to soothe the pain with warm water.
I couldn’t lay in bed or sit in a chair without experiencing a significant level of discomfort. The pain was such that the painkillers would only cloud the pain for a short period of time.
I was examined by another locum at the surgery on the Monday before my Wednesday appointment with the consultant. This kind man told me that the lumps were certainly not piles. He firstly double checked I couldn’t be seen any quicker by the consultant and then prescribed much stronger pain relief.
I was hardly sleeping at all with the pain I was experiencing and the thought I was dealing with a cancer had danced in and out of my mind. I just needed to be told what I was dealing with.
Eventually, Wednesday 28th June 2017 came and a friend drove me to Cork. She had an appointment for her teenage daughter at another hospital. We were a cheery little group on the drive up, stopping to buy chocolate in Bandon, and laughing at needing the injection of sugar to keep the three of us going.
I was dropped off at the consultants’ private clinic and waited only minutes before being called in.
I suspect my consultant plays squash. He is so full of energy, so direct and I can’t imagine him sitting for hours, for instance watching a play or a film at the cinema. He asked me a few questions and then I was on the examination bed. ‘You poor woman!’ were the first words he said to me. He repeated them, and then said, ‘This is very serious, very very serious.’
I asked him, ‘Is this cancer?’
‘It is I am afraid. It is quite advanced and we have to fit you with a stoma as soon as possible. We can’t treat the cancer until we do that.’
‘I have only had symptoms, like the piles, for a matter of weeks.’ I commented. I didn’t add that I didn’t know what a stoma was. I suspected that in the weeks that followed I would soon find out what a stoma was.
I was right about finding out what a stoma was. But I was wrong about the timescale. it would not be weeks – I would find out in a matter of days.
So if anyone has a lump or lumps which they think might be piles, please take it seriously and have it checked.