I was 17, and life was great. I had left school and was working on getting some business/office qualifications at Polytech, since I still wasn't 100% certain where I wanted to go career wise. I was relatively fit (unlike today!! haha) and played a few different sports, indoor cricket, volleyball, and soccer. So, when I woke up one morning and had a weird feeling in my stomach, I didn't think much of it. I had had a particularly rough/hard game of soccer the day before, and had accidentally got a kick to the stomach as I fell in front of the guy who kicked the ball and got a bit winded........so thought it was probably just because of that.
However this "weird feeling" began to get more and more painful over the morning. I still laugh now thinking how in those early stages I thought to myself "Hmmm I think I need a poo" LOL ... so off I went to sit on the loo... and while pushing my stomach...trying to pinpoint the location of the niggly pain, I felt something weird..(NO IT WASN'T A POO!) ... I felt a distinct fist-sized lump just under my rib-cage (and yes, I used to be able to feel my ribs back then (just) !). I thought this was a bit weird, but I was only 17 and hadn't had the years of Anatomy and Physiology training I have now.... so just thought..."Oh, wonder what that is".
No... no poos, but still with the weird increasingly more painfuly niggles in my gut. After about 2 hours I began to get a bit worried. Then another hour on and I realised this was getting much worse much quicker... I needed some help. I tried to phone my Mum but she was crazy busy trying to organise her staff and out on a meeting, My Dad was in Australia visiting my brother at the time, so it was a quick call to my Nan and Papa who just lived around the corner. I'd made a doctors appointment and needed them to come get me in an hour, so they were more than happy to come and collect me.
This is the point where it gets a bit hazy.... I remember pacing around the house... thinking "is this bad enough to go in now...instead of an hour?" pace pace... "am I just being a sook".. pace pace... "Oh the hour will go quick enough, I can wait it out"... crawl crawl on the floor... and then the next thing I remember is my Nan and Papa trying to haul me up off of the floor.... I'd passed out, and the hour had gone, and they were here to pick me up... (literally)... they were in a panic and wanted to call an ambulance, but I didn't want to be dramatic..so off to the duty doc we went, at this stage however I was writing around in agony and NEEDED help.
On arriving at the doctor, they got me delivered straight to hospital, where I remember (funnily now) panting like I was ready to deliver a baby... I am a bit embarrassed to think of what I must have looked like at that stage.... panting, begging for help and screaming I want to die fast please... PLEASE!!
The next 3 days were pretty much a blur, but the doctors had found a very large "mass" where I had shown them I felt the lump.... the weird thing was this was not where I was experiencing the pain.... so they did tests, bloods, gastroscopys, MRI, Cat scans, xrays, ultrasounds, you name it.....I got it. Thank the good Lord I also got some MEAN pain-relief. (Hence the blurry 3 days).
I was transferred between Kaitaia and Whangarei hospitals as they decided on this and that test........all I can say is thank goodness I can't remember a lot of what went on!
By day 12, they were still not sure what they were dealing with.........but my pain had finally come under control and I was now only on pethidine, so they decided I could go home for a few days, and then they would schedule some surgery just to "have a look" at this "mass" that they were unsure of....nobody had even mentioned the obvious ... so when I asked if it was "Cancer", the doctor laughed at me and said, "no this is very uncharacteristic of Cancer" I remember thinking "whew... thank goodness". It was only a week before this ordeal that some teenagers from Canteen had done a rally through our town and I had remembered thinking "oh those poor kids"...
So home I went for a few days, enjoying my thinner body ... my pants falling off me,.. woohoo.. great side effect! haha.
My Dad and brother flew home from Aussie, and it was so great to have them there for support.
D-day arrived, and into hospital I went for my "small laparotomy".... (or so we thought then). They just wanted to have a little look inside, and possibly take some biopsies to see what they were dealing with, so I should just be in theatre a little while, and just have a couple of incisions when I woke up. Sweet... no probs! "Just in case" though, I had to sign the form to let the doc "take over" if he felt the need to do more surgery etc... (we all know the forms!!)... so off to theatre I went.
I woke up in the most horrendous kind of pain imaginable....to this day, I still remember that moment clearly! My Dad was on my left, my Mum was on my right, and it was soooo obvious they had been bawling their eyes out... and it was around about now I had discovered there was a catheter hanging out of my nether regions...LOL I remember feeling the tube..and following it ...and going "what the hell is this????" lol The charge nurse started to explain... "Oh love, that's a catheter, it drains your....." "Yeah I know what it does..but what's it doing there" I cut her off mid sentence...... the thought of anyone going anywhere near my "bits" while I was asleep disturbed me more than the pain in my gut.
I remember coughing and the pain............ and then feeling that huge dressing across my stomach... it went from one side of my stomach right across ... to the other side.... no wonder there was such pain!!
I was in a side room, and then when the doctor arrived with his entourage, and half of the nursing staff, that small side room became quite claustrophobic. He closed the door and started with......... "I think we might have something to worry about"............... UH OH!
blah blah blah blahhhhhh "tumour".... blahhh blahhh blahhhhh "looks like it may be malignant"....... blah blah blahhhhh "may have to start chemotherapy immediately"..... that's basically what I remember about that consultation. Nothing really sunk in.... I can't remember saying anything.... and I didn't cry, though my family did.........not just a little cry but a really big ugly cry.... .......fade to black....
To say I was a stunned scared seventeen year old at that point is an understatement. You hear cancer, you dont think immediately of all the people who go on to make good recoveries....you think of death. When you're gonna die, what its gonna look like...feel like.... and you're left feeling just stunned... and helpless.
Suddenly your faith takes on a whole new look...