My wife Tam was recently diagnosed with cancer. That’s so fucked. But then I thought “In six months I’ll be able to own this joke”:
Me: My wife got burnt the other day.
Me: Yeah, they don’t fuck around at the crematorium.
The above should illustrate two things about me:
1) I’ll need humour to get through this
2) I swear
It’s a lot to come to terms with, in a short space of time.
Here’s the latest:
I’m not a medical professional and treatments described here may not be suitable for anyone else. If you take medical advice from an IT professional you’re an idiot.
Writing about this is therapy for me. There will be so much I can’t control over the next few months and I need to focus on what I can control. Also, it’s from my perspective and you’ll likely discover I’m a less than perfect human being. Judge me as you will – fucks given = zero.
What type of cancer does she have?
Stage III Nasopharyngeal (say: nay-zo-fair-in-gee-al) carcinoma aka NPC, which is a type of head and neck cancer.
Stage III: A noninvasive or invasive tumor that has spread to lymph nodes on both sides of the neck but has not metastasized (T0, T1, or T2; N2; M0) [See TMN Staging system for further information]
It’s quite rare – 1 in 100,000. That’s how we get our luck. Yep. More common in men than it is in women. Didn’t help us either.
Why couldn’t it be something easy to spell, like breast? FFS!
How did we get here?
Tam’s been unwell for a while, since my birthday, maybe a little before.
FYI, those social events we skipped, we weren’t blowing you off!
She was sniffling all the time, had ear pain and was getting way too many headaches. She thought it was related to her gum problems.
Like me, she doesn’t like doctors.
Also, there was a large lump on the left side of her neck, which refused to go away. This is a typical presentation for her type of cancer.
I urged her to get a scan and eventually she took herself off and they biopsied the lump and they told us it was NOT cancer.
We were so relieved, as you would be.
Then the doctor phoned her back and wanted her to have an MRI urgently, which took place on the 23rd of January.
That’s rarely good news and sure enough, the MRI picked up a tumor.
On Saturday 1st February she had the tumor biopsied under a general anesthetic at Ramkhamhaeng Hospital where we were given the grim news that it was cancer and had spread to her lymph node but thankfully no further.
She was initially devastated at this news but is now coming to terms with it.
I feel her pain and would take this cancer in an instant if I could.
The reaper looks and laughs – no deal.
Tell me why
Why? – Spending time trying to work out why is wasted. It is what it is.
I personally believe it’s because she never took to Tabasco sauce. I go through a small bottle every week and truly believe Tabasco kills any known pathogen.
She’s lived a pretty clean life – eats plenty of fruits and vegetables, doesn’t smoke and only drinks to excess when I drag her out to the bars until the wee hours. We stopped doing that a few years back.
She doesn’t deserve it – no-one does. Like the Turtle said – “She’s such a gentle soul.” She is, she really is.
Circle the wagons
The day after we got the news we undertook the traditional Aussie response – a BBQ.
When in doubt – meat, metal, and fire. Oh, and beer. Lots of beer.
Luckily we caught the Shee brothers on their way back from Koh Chang before younger brother Phil flew back to Old Blighty to enjoy what was left of the winter.
I was happy to entrust the cooking to him and he didn’t disappoint, whipping up a feast including some fish he had caught himself. What a talented lad!
Thanks, mate – those leftovers lasted for days. Saved us a bunch of cooking.
What we know
We know the tumor is large and in a sensitive area. We don’t have time to test out Belle Gibson’s The Whole Pantry – We are already in the midst of the first round of Chemo which was administered during an overnight stay at Chulalongkorn Hospital last Thursday.
She will be treated at Chula which is one of the leading cancer hospitals in Bangkok.
I’m thankful for the following:
- Our marriage is as strong as it’s ever been. One of her first thoughts was I would leave her. Saddened me to hear that. We’re in this together, wherever it leads. I don’t know how I’d go on without her, I really don’t. We’re not there, yet.
- We have medical coverage so we’re not worried about having to find the money for treatment. This is a huge weight off both our shoulders.
- Her cancer has not spread beyond the lymph nodes. Outcomes are typically better under this scenario.
Let’s not sugar coat this, folks
The 5-year survival rate for this type of cancer is 50% – 60% depending on which medical papers you choose to read at night. The 10-year survival rate is 46%.
Of course, I have a cunning plan – I will round up 100 people with the same type of cancer and shoot 40 of them to improve our odds.
I don’t believe in false hope. Or God. If the tumor responds to treatment and her cancer goes into remission I’m hoping she is healthy for the next 2-3 years. I think that’s a good outcome. Anything beyond that’s a bonus.
I think once you’ve been delivered a cancer diagnosis the Sword of Damocles is always hanging above your head.
If you’re reading and want to send her some words of encouragement please do. I’m sure she’d love it.