Breaking Bad News

It began with me downing 2 large glasses of orange juice upon returning home after a long day. I immediately felt bloated and had epigastric discomfort. Nausea began to rise and I had to run to the loo, where I retched for several minutes, only bringing up orange phlegm. Over the next few weeks the same thing happened after random meals, sometimes having only taken a couple of bites. I sometimes found it difficult to swallow.

I went to see my  GP, Kara, and a Gastroscopy was requested. It wasn’t as bad as I had expected and I started with just the throat spray. I swallowed the endoscope easily, but it touched the back of my throat and I began retching; despite my best efforts I couldn’t stop, which meant the procedure had to be halted. I was sedated and don’t remember anything until I woke up in recovery. The gastroenterologist told me he had found an area that was abnormal, irregular, and bleeding. He had taken biopsies, but that if the result came back negative, I would need the procedure to be repeated. That said it all really; right there I knew. I would also need a CT scan.

I called my GP’s secretary a few days later. They had the result, it was negative. I would need a second Gastroscopy. She gave me the number for the Gastroenterology Department Secretary, so that I could call and chase. 

I had the CT scan the day after I called. It was in a deserted Radiology department at 1930h. The Radiologist could not have been nicer; I was cannulated for the radio opaque contrast and asked to swallow a lemon flavoured powder, which would make my stomach swell. It was completed in a few minutes; the result would be written by a Consultant Radiologist within a few days. It was Thursday, maybe by Tuesday.

On Monday I called the Gastro Secretary; The result was back. I would need to see a Consultant Gastroenterologist the following morning.

Abbie, my eldest daughter, came with me to the appointment. The Consultant, told us that the scan showed an aggressive Cancer/Tumour extending the length of the Fundus and around the Gastro Oesophageal Junction…

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This I kind of expected, but the ‘FUCK ME’ moment was as she went on to tell us there were multiple Liver Metastases and a peritoneal nodule. This meant that surgery would not be appropriate and treatment would be Palliative…

Silence… and a deep breath. Abbie and I hug; there are tears.

The Doctor talks on… The Lungs, Pancreas, Kidneys and Bones are clear, and I have no ascites (fluid in the abdomen). I will be referred for a repeat Gastroscopy, for further biopsies, and to see an Oncologist.

Throughout this process I have been talking to my children, siblings, close friends and the senior Nurses at work. They have all been bloody fantastic. Work could not be more supportive (I love my job), but talking can be exhausting.

The Endoscopy goes ahead without a problem; I’m heavily sedated this time. I meet the Oncologist with all three children and a Nurse Specialist (who I know, having worked alongside her on Surgical wards for 9 years). The Chemotherapy regime and side effects are explained. The hair loss (including eyelashes,eyebrows and beard), nausea, diarrhoea, peripheral nerve pain/damage and we discuss the risks associated with a drop in my immune system. A loss of memory and concentration worries the children, because they already feel this is an issue 🙂

I ask about prognosis; we already know its not good, but I want to know if I can have some idea of time. I need to plan; I’ve been a single parent for the last 11 years, we live in rented accommodation and the children are still so young; Jacob is only 19 for fuck’s sake.

The answer is ‘ If the Chemo does its job, hopefully a year…’ –  ‘FUCK ME’ moment number two

another deep breath and a group hug…

I’m given a small forest in leaflets and booklets. I’ll be contacted by the Dietician. I get a form to send off for free prescriptions. We discuss how I can best continue to work for as long as possible. The Consultant has been trying to find out if she can get me onto an Immunotherapy clinical trial; one has just closed locally, but she’s going to talk to the Professor running it to see if I can be added. She will also talk to the Royal Marsden…

Immunotherapy is potentially fantastic. The drugs given boost your immune system to fight the cancer. It has minimal side effects, the only negative being that whilst you have the therapy the cancer can continue to grow and spread.

We leave. There are more tears, but we are together. A Year… Better get a crack on.

Over the next few days the children come up with the idea of a Bucket List and we talk about what we can put on it; a parachute jump, a unique family tattoo, finishing the conversion of my van into a camper and getting out in it, going to see a favourite Band, a big family holiday next summer, in Spain, at my Brother, Mike, and Montse’s place…

The sad things that hit me are that I will be a long time gone, that I won’t get to meet whomever Hattie and Jacob choose as partners, and I won’t get to be the worst/best Grandad. I won’t be there when the children need advice and support. But I’m lucky; I have been privileged. I have a loving family surrounding me; I have several other families – my political family, my work family, my dance family – wonderful friendships. I know how I’m going to die, not as I imagined, of a stroke in 20 years or so; I have time to say goodbye, and to have those conversations we should always have.

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Bringing you up to date.. I have been accepted onto a clinical trial involving a combination of Immunotherapy and Chemotherapy; I’m meeting the Research Nurse today for consent, a CT scan and bloods. I will begin 4 weeks of therapy soon after. Chemotherapy will begin in December.

I’m a Nurse, I’ve seen how fragile and random life can be, and I’ve seen death a thousand times. I haven’t had any ‘why me?’ moment, and I have no fear of death.

Why write this and put this ‘out there’? Simple, when I start to look like shit, am grumpy or short tempered, or not as active as I was, you’ll all know why, without me having to go into long, emotionally exhausting explanations.

I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to go to Calais with our group taking aid to refugees and migrants, but I now can. It’s going to be great. We’re taking 2 minibuses with 29 volunteers, and my van containing aid. My Sister Sally and Jacob are coming, and that is wonderful; it may be my last.

I will work, and campaign until I can’t.

Otherwise, I’m well. No pain, and blood pressure etc are really good. Neutrophils and CRP are slightly raised on bloods. I’ve lost weight, though I only know because I’ve noticed my motorbike jacket is looser.

I love a hug, so I’m up for lots of that, but please don’t say ‘sorry’, and don’t bring God or prayers into it. I’m a Socialist and Atheist, and I’m OK. Don’t pity me, I don’t do pity. I’ve had a bloody wonderful life so far; I really have no regrets, they’re a waste of time.

Finally, some advice, if I may:

  • smile more, laugh more
  • Love more
  • Do it today, don’t wait assuming you’ll have time tomorrow
  • NEVER VOTE TORY!

#KickouttheTories #refugeeswelcome #openborders #savetheNHS

Much love, me xxx

24 thoughts on “Breaking Bad News

  1. Sending lots of massive hugs 🤗 and kisses 😘 xxx
    Keeping everything crossed the trials will work. Love Maxine, Annette’s cousin in Failsworth 🦋🦋🦋

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  2. David my darling manager, the best buddy I first called boss when I moved to the UK. It’s very brave of you to share with us your story. For me it is very difficult to take on. When I had no family in the UK you catered for me and make me feel at home. You are in my prayers and continue to strengthen me because that’s what you are good at doing even in the midst of bad news. Much love.

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  3. All I have is such love and respect for you. You are one of the most amazing and inspirational people I know. Use the time left to its full, your kids are amazing and will live life to the full for you. They have friends and family to keep them on the right path. You are loved and respected life can be so shit sometimes xxxxx ❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️

    Liked by 1 person

  4. David my father in law passed away recently and I mvstill grieving
    I can’t handle this bad news I m not strong I m crying 😢 much love and hugs
    I pray for you
    You are an inspiration fir me always will be
    Xx

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  5. Goodness David, shocking news but so beautifully written. Life is short ..
    Fill your days with lots of love and laughter with all those special peeps in your life
    Sending Hugs
    Amanda xxx

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  6. What a good post. I don’t know you but I wish you all the best and hope you get to have some amazing times with your children . They are lucky to have you as their dad . A great example …

    gramswisewords.blogspot.com

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  7. Dave you’re one amazing guy. I’ll never forget how incredible you were supporting me when John had encephalitis & I didn’t know what the hell was going on. You got me through it.
    Your passion is inspiring & I know you’ll get through that bucket list & then some! Sending loads of hugs from Cornwall xxxxxx

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  8. David a beautifully heart felt written piece. You are a man of many parts.The text and photos are amazing. My thoughts and aroha (love) are with you and your whanau (family)from the other side of the globe in New Zealand. Louise sent the link to me – we shall meet soon and have a wine and toast you and your whanau as you embark on the journey of your lifetime.
    I will never forget your kindness and support for me at the JR.
    Kia kaha (be strong)
    Arohanui
    Debs Richardson
    (Ward 6A JR 2003-2008)

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  9. David, Debs forwarded this link to me, I read it last week and ever since I have wanted to send you a note, but not been quite sure just what to say, or how to say it.

    This is one of the most beautifully touching pieces of heart felt writing I have ever read.
    The news has shocked and saddened me, I will be thinking of you and all your family during this tough time.
    You were an inspiration to me when I worked on 6A and even more so now after reading your thoughts and feelings after being dealt such a shit card.

    Enjoy your bucket list…it looks amazing!

    Much Love

    Julia Dunne
    Ward 6A, 2001-2008

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      1. I’m good thanks David, I’m living in Cassington, Kevin ( who I think you met at a Christmas party along time ago!) and I have 3 children, Phoebe and Chloe are 9 and Freddie is 3. I didn’t return to nursing after having Freddie, now looking at my options for when he starts school next year. Im sure lots has changed at the JR since I was there, is it as hectic as ever?!?

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  10. Hi David I have heard through friends of your cancer. …and have found your writings here. I was so much in awe of you during those days at John Hampden you stoically driving the round trip to Bicester, Thame, work each day. Being the best dad you could be. Big hugs 🤗 thinking of you and your lovely children. Met Hattie againat the Milkshed last summer
    Love Becky xxx

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    1. Hi Becky, thank you. Hope you and you’re family are all well. What are you all up to these days? Jacob is on gap time, working at the Milkshed and dancing on tour with Urban Strides. He wants to do apprenticeship with Network Rail. Hattie finished Uni and is also on Gap year – may be doing tefal course before travelling. Abbie is a discharge co-ordinator on 6A at JR – She’s getting married early so I can be present x

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      1. Hi David sorry for my late reply! I have been trying to find this site again! We are ok all thank you. With regret I left the NHS – couldn’t take it anymore- and am working for The Puzzle Centre for young children with autism. Emma 3rd Year Leeds Uni and Ollie just started at Sheffield. Glad you are able to see your children as much as you can and the wedding too. Big hug to you. I am following your posts on the NHS and refugees.

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      2. A child of yours is discharge co coordinator on 6A
        What was she or her Pa thinking – taking that role on? It was a tough job 10 years ago – it would be quite a lot harder now I imagine
        Is Karen Fenn still there?
        Deb

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  11. Hi David, thank you for a compelling read. I had two main thoughts on this.

    Firstly, from a Forbes article, the world spent a total of $1.686 trillion on military budgets. One and a half trillion of killing each other or keeping “peace” with the threat of killing each other.

    They could probably spend a tenth of that to develop a nanobot technological breakthrough that would excise your (and everyone else’s cancer) from your body at a cellular level.

    Maybe one day in the future, I hope within my son’s lifetime, time will tell.

    Secondly, how lucky are we to have a NHS. There are those who would sell it off completely and have us at the mercy of capricious insurance companies who would do their best to deny financial cover when it was needed the most. This is the most important thing to fight for.

    I wish you the best in your treatment. I hope you get to be the best/worst Granddad.

    I’m rooting for you, buddy. All the best.

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  12. Hi David,

    Thank you for a compelling read. I had two main thoughts on this.

    Firstly, from a Forbes article, the world spent a total of $1.686 trillion on military budgets. One and a half trillion of killing each other or keeping “peace” with the threat of killing each other.

    They could probably spend a tenth of that to develop a nanobot technological breakthrough that would excise your (and everyone else’s cancer) from your body at a cellular level.

    Maybe one day in the future, I hope within my son’s lifetime, time will tell.

    Secondly, how lucky are we to have an NHS? There are those who would sell it off completely and have us at the mercy of capricious insurance companies who would do their best to deny financial cover when it was needed the most. This is the most important thing to fight for.

    I wish you the best in your treatment. I hope you get to be the best/worst Granddad.

    I’m rooting for you, buddy.

    All the best.

    Like

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