The good news is that we know that the cancer exists. It was found by accident: part of a comprehensive screening for something else. The scan, ordered by a rheumatologist as part of screening for the prescription of a bio-therapy drug, showed a lesion on the left lung. Not my left lung, but my husband’s.
We heard by way of an unsolicited visit from our GP. He knocked hard on the front door 2 days after his [the doc’s] birthday. As I opened the door to him and looked at his face, my first comment was, “Hello. I guess you’re not here to thank me for the birthday card?”
Being the lovely man that he is, Dr. D. kissed me on both cheeks before replying, “Your husband, he has a cancer on his lung,” before heading upstairs to find G. ‘Well,’ I thought, “Don’t go airbrushing anything. Break it to me gently, why don’t you?” (or words to that effect, like “oh bollocks!”). Dr. D busied himself doing standard doctory-things while he relayed to us what he had been told by Dr. F.
“It is only small this cancer, but we must investigate. You will receive a call from a lung specialist soon.”
Well, that was a while ago. And we did.
Fast-forward several weeks. The MacMillan ad that features a man standing cold and alone in an icy, windswept arctic scenery describes perfectly the fear and isolation that someone facing cancer feels. I know, I’ve been there (and it wasn’t cancer, though the stats suggested that it was). What it doesn’t attempt to portray is just how daunting such a statement is for family, friends and carers too. The people irrevocably involved, but on the periphery. The support team.
I, I suppose, am lucky by some standards. We live in France. G doesn’t speak French. I do, after a fashion, so the doctors and nurses talk to me. Sometimes without addressing G, which isn’t cool – but understandable. G behaves as I imagine many recipients of the news that they have cancer do, particularly when it was found by accident. There’s a fair bit of incomprehension and, dare I say it?, denial. There is no pain, no shortness of breath, no coughing of blood. In short, no symptoms at all. Hence the denial, I suppose. Had it not been for Dr. F’s scan, this silent killer would have lurked and gained strength over time and metastasised to another organ before manifesting itself as advanced and inoperable cancer. In theory, we’re the lucky ones. It was found while still operable. And that’s a whole other can of worms.