On my way home from work I drive by our local cancer hospital. From the outside, it is just a normal building and there doesn’t seem to be much going on inside.
That is, until March 7th.
This time I was inside that very hospital looking out at all the cars driving by, who like me a few days earlier, were oblivious to the battles, challenges, illness and sadness that engulf those inside.
It is almost full to capacity every day with each treatment cubicle, sadly occupied. The nurses and doctors inside that hospital do an amazing job looking after those patients with their expertise, care and professionalism.
My wife Fiona had been feeling unwell for a few weeks. The first diagnosis we had was that she had an infection, but after several weeks the bleeding wouldn’t stop and she was scheduled for a biopsy. We both knew that it was something serious and could possibly be cancer.
I had a business trip planned to the Middle East and my departure date was the day before the biopsy. Both Fiona and I agreed that the trip should go ahead. I landed in Abu Dhabi and Fiona called me to tell me the news. The biopsy results confirmed our worse fears, it was cervical cancer.
I felt so regretful that she had to take that call alone, the fear she must have felt hearing those words and the horrible uncertainty of what was to come.
I returned to Chicago in time to accompany her to the various scans that had been scheduled.
Three days later we had our meeting with the Oncologist to get a better understanding of the course of treatment for cervical cancer.
That’s when we had an even bigger blow hit us.
It turns out that Fiona has Small Cell Cervical Cancer with five secondary tumors around her body. Her liver, lungs and lymph nodes were all infected. Small Cell is the rarest type of cervical cancer and it accounts for less than 1% of all cervical cancers diagnosed. We were told that we had a battle ahead.
Thankfully, we had caught the cancer in its early stages but the diagnosis was still devastating to us.
Without treatment, Fiona would have 6 months to live and probably 18 months with treatment. We were shocked and overwhelmed that this could happen to someone so young and fit. Prior to the illness Fiona was running 7-minutemiles and squatting with 60lb dumbbells. She was forty-three years of age when we got the diagnosis. She is also such a positive and optimistic person, living life as it should, with a warm smile on her face.
The doctor commented that nothing we could have done would have prevented this from happening. It’s just like being struck by lightning.
Like most challenges life throws at you, it’s how you react and behave that makes the difference. We have learned a lot about each other and how vital it is to make the most of every day.
Fiona has completed three cycles of chemo and had a further assessment and scans. The results were very promising and positive with the tumors shrinking in size and activity. Her attitude and fitness levels certainly contributed to the positive results. Needless to say we were thrilled.
We may have won a battle; however, the war is not yet won.
She is on her fifth cycle of chemotherapy with further scans after the sixth cycle. Even at the best-case scenario, she will have to complete another three cycles. Never at any point throughout this ordeal has she ever felt any illness from the cancer but it’s the many cycles of chemo that have hit her the hardest, taking its toll both mentally and physically.
One of the many lessons we have learned from this experience is to be more aware of the feelings and emotions of others. It has taught us to be more tolerant as you just never know what’s happening in someone’s life.
More importantly, when life gives you lemons, you most definitely should make lemonade.