An unwelcome surprise

Jan 18, 2016

It's been a year since I last wrote, I was starting to believe I would only to come back to the blog as a visitor.

You’ve should have read Julia’s post so you have an idea of whats occurring, if not catch up there first. I write in this blog to help me process and connect with my feelings. It’s also been a great conduit for me and Julia to communicate our inner thoughts in a way thats less burdening than a conversation would be. I digress…

A pain in the back

So Julia’s had back pain and its been worse than normal. Deep down Julia knows this and calls the oncologist to discuss it. I think she’s being a drama queen and tell her off for not going to the GP first! A few of our friends also agree but Dr Shah plays it safe and orders an MRI. On Tuesday we make the journey to Spire Harpenden and I can’t help be nostalgic, the journey may have been a pain in the bum but I enjoyed the time Julia and I had when she was on treatment. It was our time, it bought us closer and helped make me feel useful whilst she had her treatment.

The MRI goes swimmingly and we are a little anxious as we await the results. They gave us a dvd with the images on, how cool is that? Julia looks at it and Googles. “Is that a bulging disk?” That’ll explain it. I look through, Google MRI spine and learn about disks, vertebrae and the like. It all looks good to my untrained eye, which is good.

I hate the QE2

We head to the QE2 on Wednesday, its been such a long time since we were last there. In fact the old hospital seems to have fallen down and a new smaller hospital sits in its shadow. Julia and I like the new QE2 it’s shiny. We potter round to the yellow zone in search of Dr Shah. Julia’s nervous, I can tell, shouldn’t I be nervous? No, it’s just muscular back pain, Julia is being a drama queen and Dr Shah moved the appointment because it was more convenient for him as he has 2 hospitals and a university to lecture at today.

We get called into see Dr Shah, comment on how nice the hospital is. Dr Shah cuts to the chase - he doesn’t have the images but has been told it’s cancer. My mind is slow to react, it’s like I’m watching myself, looking out of my eyes. I can’t comprehend what he just said. He’s still explaining and I see Julia shaking. How did this happen? Treatment went so well we weren’t even having scans to check. We hand over the images to Dr Shah and Julia walks him getting the program started - “it’s IT it’s what we do” says Julia. One vertebrae is the wrong shade of grey. Dr Shah explains that theres a 90% chance it’s cancer and tells us not to hold out for the 10%. He says we need blood tests, a CT Scan and full spinal MRI to confirm and see if its spread. He’ll sort this out and we should see him Monday evening. He says we should be prepared for a hard meeting.

He offers the NHS’s drug cabinet to Julia and writes a big prescription. Julia’s painkiller of choice is liquid Morphine. I’m stunned and in a daze, we’re leaving his office and the news is hitting home. Its so hard and unfair, Julia is white as a sheet and shaking. We head to the pharmacist and are told there’s a 40 minute wait as the Morphine is a controlled drug. We have a coffee and cry in the coffee shop. Julia is much better than me, more prepared and more composed. I’ve been sideswiped, I must have lied to myself as I hadn’t entertained the thought. We’ve been through so much and we were supposed to be out the other side.

Prepare for the worst

I’m not going to lie, the next few days were hard. The hardest I’ve ever been through. My stupid imagination is relentlessly cruel and feelings hit me like waves. I’m working hard to stay afloat in this maelstrom but at times I break. Weirdly, its at odd times, a glib comment by Julia or when doing things with the kids whilst Julia rests, I ask is this how it will be in the future?

Julia shames me with her composure, I guess the drugs are numbing her feelings also and is in a world of sadness of her own. I also know that I have to work hard get past my feelings. I’m not a strong person but I know bottling the tears is not the way, anyway I seem to have developed my own personal spring, so I can’t. Crying is sadness leaving the body and I have to prepare for the worst, just in case it comes, because if it does I have to be strong for Julia and the kids. It’s an indulgence or necessity now that I can’t take later.

Our friends have been great in helping and offering to pick up kids and sending good wishes. We haven’t told everyone yet - we still don’t know what the answer will be. The kids are having to deal with, what must appear to them as a pair of emotionally disfunctional parents! However, they help keep spirits high with their energy and their laughter.


We’ve fallen into the habit of waking up early and not being able to go back to sleep as our minds are racing. Julia’s pain wakes her and I wake as she gets up and takes more drugs to dampen it down. Even with all the drugs she’s taking I’m concerned that she still feels pain from her back, it might fade to the background but its still there.

My head is not in the right place to do any coding, so I tell work whats happening and that I will report in on Tuesday when we have the answers about her back. Work again have been brilliant, allowing me to take time and wishing us the best. I’m so grateful to be working for them, in so many ways they’ve been brilliant through this journey.


Friday, comes and its CT Scan day, but first some of Julia’s friends are keen to see her in person and Julia invites them round for coffee after the school drop off. We bump into Neil and its good to see him up and about after a rather nasty chest infection. Neil, asks what folks are doing and I invite him for coffee. We chat, he asks after Julia and I mention her back and then choke. For a few moments I can’t speak and tears well. Eventually, I get the words out and he’s shocked by the news. Rather than join the Julia and the ladies for coffee we head off to the coffee shop and that coffee was great. Just talking about it for a few moments and then talking about normal things lifts helps lift a burden and raise spirits. Thanks Neil.

In the afternoon, we head back to the Spire and it’s done quick enough. The journey to and from the hospital gives us time to reflect and chat. In the past week we’ve had so many hard conversations. Ones that I couldn’t imagined having just the week before. We are preparing for the worst and Julia is getting her stuff together. We’ve talked about wills, funerals, the kids, life, the future. It might seem morbid and in away it is, but Julia would hate for me to get it wrong - or more correctly she’d hate for me to worry that I’d got stuff wrong. And yes we know there is hope, that it might be muscular and not sinister at all but it’d be foolish to delude ourselves totally. Anyway, doing this and organising things is what Julia is good at. It keeps her busy and is the most proactive thing to do in the circumstances.


Saturday, I ferry Felix to the pool for his lesson and take time out to read whilst he swims. I bump into the Strongs at the pool and there’s talk of a beer in the evening with Adam - sounds good to me.

To keep ourselves busy, Julia and I planned a trip to the IMAX to see Star Wars again. It’s pretty “in your face” cool with the 3D visuals and super sound. I notice Julia looks to be in pain at times during the film, so once its over we ditch the dinner plans and opt for takeaway instead. After dinner and painkillers Julia zones out, whilst the kids cheer for the latest round of contestants in Ninja Warrior.

I head out the pub and its nice to have a few beers. I probably had more than I had planned but Dan, Adam and Marcus are good company. By the time we leave the pub its snowing. Theres always a touch of magic walking through the first flakes of snow. Dan and I have a chat about Julia whilst heading home and for the first time since the news, I feel at peace.

Sunday feeling

I always think the downside to having beers, is you pay for the previous nights happiness with todays. As if happiness is some kind of limited resource. The hangover wasn’t great and I have a touch of the blues. I make a mental note I can’t be having too many, too often as it has a high happiness cost!

Rugby was cancelled, so Imogen decides to make cheesecake. A brilliant plan! I walk them to the supermarket whilst Julia takes it easy. We grab snow from the tops of walls and throw snowballs there and back. I become Imogen’s sous chef - man she’s demanding! Later on I watch the rugby on tv and generally chill. The kids get a little cabin fevered - note to self I need to exercise them more when rugby is off!

The Sunday feeling is hard to bare, there’s some dread about what tomorrow may bring. Finding sleep is hard and moods are low.

Monday, Monday

Apparently, this is the worst Monday of the year, the newspapers say so, so it must be true. We’re on board with that, but we also are hoping for sciatica. That’s in our script, so lets hope it becomes so.

I’m pleased that Julia was up for the school run today. It’s even better that she has the chance to head to the community centre for coffee with friends after.

Julia is currently having an mammoth MRI scan an hour and half (we know how to get the most out of our insurance). I’m in the waiting room, drinking coffee and, well, waiting. There’s an odd bunch in today. I’m not a fan of the man whose been listening to loud music, farting and burping as he has to down a litre of water for some scan.

In a way I’m glad today’s come even though it’s ominous at least we’ll know what’s what. We’ll be able to talk about it with clarity. The kids can finally know why we’ve been so weird and we can be open with all our friends and family.

Anyway, it is what it is and tonight we find out, here’s hoping for the best.