Like with so many things in my life, I had planned to release my blog earlier but life doesn’t always work out the way you want. Distinct lack of confidence also contributed to my lack of writing. Today though, I am stronger. I am wiser . I am braver. I am ready to share my story.
How did I arrive at this point? The short answer is, I got cancer. I had relocated to South Africa at the end of July 2019 after spending two years in the U. K. studying a post grad and training to be a Primary Teacher. Not long after arriving, on the 8th August 2019, around 2 pm South African time, after having a run (which was totally unproductive and exhausting) I received a call from my GP in England. I had made the telephone appointment after the practice receptionist had contacted me regarding ‘my CT results’…… queue mass panic and hysteria! Funnily enough though, it still hadn’t crossed my mind that I could have cancer. Despite constantly Googling my symptoms, I never once Googled bowel or colon cancer. Let’s carry on with the phone call, has anyone ever given you bad news? That soft, apologetic and hesitative tone of voice, “Hi Joanna, (pause), I have your CT results here, erm (pause), and erm is there somebody with you?” Oh fuck, what the fuck? I actually shouted at the poor GP “Just tell me! What is it?” GP repeats, “Are you alone or is somebody with you?” “No, my mother-in-law is here, what is it, just please tell me!” By this point, I was all but passing out and my heart felt like it would leave my chest. A cold wave was passing through my body and this inexplicable heaviness weighed on me, like nothing I have ever felt before. The GP continued, from this point on, I do not remember his exact words, it was something like I am sorry but you have bowel cancer and it has spread to the liver and lung. He told me that I had several lesions in my liver and one in my right lung. I couldn’t breathe. I looked at my mother in law and said “I have cancer, he says I have cancer and it’s spread”. Pretty quickly, I handed the phone to her as I just couldn’t process what was happening. All I really heard was that I had cancer. From that day forth, life was never the same. This was just the beginning.
Of course, I rang my husband, crying that I have cancer. He came home immediately, he just hugged me and told me everything will be ok. I called my mum in the U.K. again, crying that I have cancer, she cried too. It’s no lie when people say it’s a blur. I remember crying and this feeling, so dark like all hope was gone. I kept looking at my daughter thinking, I don’t want to die, I can’t leave Arabella. In the space of a short phone call, it felt like my world was collapsing. I had no idea about cancer. The only experience I had of cancer was through both my grandmothers who died in their 80’s. I made the huge mistake of searching stage four bowel, well that was it, I had convinced myself even more that I could die. Damian and I must have gone over that phone call a hundred times, picking it apart, trying to find clues. My response was to take action, we were communicating with the UK surgery, to get my results emailed over to my surgery here in Johannesburg, staff in the UK were brilliant and the CT results were swiftly emailed. We soon had an appointment with the GP, for the next morning.
Our GP, Dr Neville Moodley, recommended a surgeon, Dr Reshma Maharaj and he called her immediately from his room with us. His proactivity and kindness comforted me and Damian so much. We had our next appointment with Reshma and despite being terrified, I was happy that we were getting the ball rolling. I am someone that likes control so being diagnosed with cancer, almost instantly made me feel helpless, so arranging appointments gave me back an element of control. The waiting was the worst time, that is when you begin to learn to take control of your mind, to purposely think about your thoughts, you have to learn to find the positives or you’re already dead.