Today has been hard, today has been scary, today has been the day from hell, but today is not unique, I have had days like these before, maybe in a different state, in a different doctors office, but the message was exactly the same, "the treatment has not worked, your tumours have grown and there's not really anywhere we can go from here".
When I was first told my cancer was back in September 2013, I was told I'd have weeks maybe months, so I did what any sensible human being does upon hearing this news, I ignored it, no I didn't ignore the fact my cancer was back and it was terminal, but I ignored the weeks or months part and for the most part it's worked for me. Since my cancers return, no treatment has ever really worked, but it's maybe given me a month here or there and those months add up after a while.
In between now and then if you've read my previous blogs you would know I've tried numerous therapies and surgeries and each one gave us a little hope for a little while, but inevitably my little army of tumours would march themselves back in to my body and begin to invade again.
November 2014 was the biggest fright of all, I had been in hospital that week with a suspected tumour bleed and the day of my return home from hospital, I was still experiencing pain, but it was bearable. I remember walking from the lounge room, I was slouching from the pain, I slowly walked into my bedroom and then it hit, like a thousand shards of hot molten glass to my upper abdomen, I fell to the bedroom floor trying to scream, but couldn't from the sheer agony of what my body was going through, I couldn't breath from the pain, my partner at the time and mum rushed to help me, but they could tell they're was nothing they could do, we had to call the ambulance.
I don't know the total amount of time it took for the ambulance to arrive, but if it was 10 minutes it felt like 10 hours, the paramedics rushed into the bedroom and immediately cannulated me and started pumping the morphine in, nothing would improve my pain levels, they then discussed whether to administer ketamine (a drug commonly used by doctors or veterinarians as an anaesthetic), luckily for me (for reasons which you will find out later in my story) my cancer type didn't allow me to have this drug. For those of you who don't know me personally I am barely 5ft tall and at the time I was only about 40 kgs (88 lbs), so it didn't take much morphine to send me into a very sleepy state, but they kept pumping the stuff into me.
By the time I arrived at the hospital I was still in enormous pain, even though I had enough morphine in my system to knock an entire football team out. Next thing I remember was everyone rallying around me calling out my name and that was the time I nearly died, (lucky I couldn't have that ketamine) I had so much morphine in my system that I had overdosed. I was told my eyes rolled into the back of my head and that was it, but I came back around.
That night my left foot stopped working because of my pelvic tumours pressing on nerves, at one point I tried to stand up and just fell to the ground,my bladder stopped working for the same reason and I just remember being hunched up in a ball in a hospital room with friends and family members coming from all over the place at all hours of the night. I kept asking was I dying and nobody would say yes, that was of course if they could understand what I was asking, as I was talking incoherent babble due to the amount of morphine in my system. I would start weird conversations in my head and then answer myself out loud, much to the fear of those around me. I'm sure under any normal circumstances my behaviour would have been recorded and submitted to The Ellen show, but because of the seriousness of the situation we couldn't enjoy the comedy gold that was the one woman act, for one night only, the Lisa's dying, but gees she's funny on morphine show, we can look back now and have a laugh. I just wish someone had the foresight to record it, stuff time and a place, for future reference, if I am ever high on any pain meds like that again, pull that phone out and hit record, I wanna see that shit!
That night was a long one, that weekend was even longer, I had radiation for the first time and it was to try to stop my tumour bleed, that was it, not to reduce tumour size or anything like that, simply as a palliative measure. I didn't know it at the time, but the doctors didn't think I'd make it through that night, then they didn't think I'd make it through the weekend, they even brought the priest in, but I rallied and was visited by palliative nurses who told me I probably wouldn't see another Christmas (we were in November). Considering you're now reading this, you obviously know I made it to Christmas that year and the one after that, for some reason my tumours reacted to the radiation and some actually died, others shrunk and my overall disease reduced dramatically.
I've had a few other occasions in between now and then that I've been told weeks, not months, but each time I managed to pull a little miracle out of my ass.
Leading up to this recent scan, I've been experiencing more pain and I've been regurgitating a lot of my food, which I know means some of my stomach tumours have grown and are starting to cause blockages, so I sort of had a bad feeling that the news I was going to receive today wasn't going to be fabulous, but you're never quite prepared to hear those words, no matter how many times I've heard them before, it always feels like the first time, the oncologist grabs you by the hair and slams your face to his knee and then he proceeds to kick you while you're down and repeatedly stomps on your head, all the while everyone in the room doesn't know how to behave.
The poor oncologist delivering the deadly blow, often doesn't quite know where to look or is it me that doesn't quite know where to look? Sort of like that awkward stage when you like a guy and you both do that coy "I'm looking at you, not really, but I am looking at you look", you know the one, well when an oncologist is telling you things don't look great it's kind of like that.
Today there was my oncologist, myself and my mum in the room, my mum was sitting to the left of me, slightly behind me, so out of eye contact and my oncologist was sitting in front of me, but when he's delivering the "things aren't looking great speech", it's as if we're all in different corners of the globe, we're in the same small office, but we couldn't feel any further away from each other. I look in every direction, up, down, sideways, peek at mum, tap the desk, play with my oncologists mousepad, I look everywhere but in anybody's eyes, because if I have direct eye contact, I might just break down and I can't do that, I can't let myself cry, I've cried too many tears over this bastard already and I also wore mascara today that isn't waterproof, so I couldn't let it happen.
I often wonder is there a class that doctors have to take on how to inform a patient that they're dying, do they actually feel anything when they're saying it? If they do feel sad when they're saying it, does it ever get any easier? We spend so much time thinking about ourselves and how we react to hearing the words, that we forget that there's a whole other human being on the other side of the desk delivering the death blow.
The car ride home is never fun either, Mum and I get in the car and we sort of debrief and give each other our versions of what we think was said in the meeting, even though you're in the same room, hearing the same words, you will always have a difference of opinion as to what was actually said. It's funny how human beings can comprehend the exact same words completely differently to each other. I'll tell Mum she needs to let me have the shits at the situation for a while, I'll say the f word, followed by the c word (yep carrot), followed by the f word again and so on and then I'll start to make my phone calls to people, informing them of the shit news and i'll say it all pretty matter of factly, tell them I'm not in the mood to talk about it yet and by that point I'm home.
We actually went and watched a movie after the news today and I was into it for about the first hour, but after that it's a blur, so I'm sorry I can't give you a proper review of "Mothers Day", as I was non compos mentis for half of it.
The rest of today is a series of numb, strange exchanges, tonnes of people messaging or calling, because they care and that's lovely, but I never feel like talking the "day of". Today is a blur, I look at random people and think why me and not you? You're watching the same movie as me and the biggest worry you have is where you'll have dinner after it, while I'm sitting hear trying to digest the fact that I'm dying again, no shrinkage this time, not stable disease, no little miracle pulled out of my ass, no, this time, I have to face the reality again of what "terminal" actually means. What's so special about you that you get to live and I don't? Why me? I don't ask why me very often and tomorrow I'll regret that I even let myself go there, even if it was just for a minute, but today is a "Why Me Day?" and I suppose we're all entitled to one every now and then.
My name is Lisa Magill and I have been navigating the minefield that is cancer since just months after turning 30, people have been saying to me for years that I should put my thoughts into writing and as time has progressed I thought I had left it too late, well here we are nearly 4 years in and for some unknown reason I've decided to start to write today.