Today was my first day at Velindre Hospital in Cardiff, the plan was to see the cancer specialist and get some specifics regarding my treatment plan and the tumour itself.
We set off just after 8am and headed up the M4 into a foggy pink sunrise, quite a nice scene to drive to all things considered. Although not massively into portents of the future I now feel that the adage "red sky in morning, shepherds warning" may have been particularly apt today.
At Velindre I was taken in to see the consultant who would be in charge of my care and recounted the last few weeks for her so that she had a complete picture of how events have unfolded. She then asked exactly what I had been told regarding the tumour and asked if I was the type of person who preferred to know all the details or the type who liked to know the bare basics. I am definitely of the ilk that prefers to have all of the facts available to me and told her such.
Then she started to talk. Some went in, some did not. But certain words smashed into me like cinder blocks to the face. Words like "incurable" and "prognosis" being the most reeling of the bunch. Despite everything that has happened over the last few weeks I was not prepared for her to tell me that the cancer is incurable, that it will be the tumour that shortens and eventually ends my life, and that based on the current data available to her she would estimate I have between 3 and 5 years to live.
I couldn't look at my father, I couldn't show how I was feeling. I asked a few questions about the upcoming blood tests and held it together. I closed my eyes. She described how my treatment plan involves a 6 week course of radiotherapy during which time I will also start chemotherapy. Following this I will have the tumour re-assessed and move onto a purely chemotherapy based treatment plan. The combined effects of the treatment are likely to leave me weakened but she agrees that I should try to live my life as normally as possible, nights out, gym sessions, the lot. At least this is positive, I don't know how I would have dealt with the instructions to become a lazy recluse subsisting on tablets.
After the consultation was over and arrangements had been made for me to return next week to have my radiotherapy mask fitted my dad and I left the hospital and headed home. In the car was the first time through all of this I have felt down, and I began to get a bit upset, thinking of all of the things I have yet to accomplish that now seem like impossible pipe dreams, but resolved to hold it together. If I am going to get all upset all the time how do I expect my family to be able to hold it together?
As soon as I got home I explained the situation to my mother. I sincerely hope nobody reading this ever has to explain to their own mother that they may only have a few years to live, it is one of the least pleasant experiences I can imagine. The stress of this had left me in a strange place, full of pent up confusion and aggression, so I went to the gym. I lost count of how many reps I was doing but just stood there with a bar, overhead pressing until my arms could lift no more. The best therapy is one part music, one part absent-mindedly pushing a weight towards the sky.
Today has left me with one main thought. For much of my life I have been told I can't do things: I was told I wouldn't be able to cope with the workload at Cardiff Uni, yet I received a first class honours degree; I was told not to be disappointed if I didn't get selected for the Commonwealth Games, I competed there just months after shoulder surgery. This is just one more chance to prove other people wrong. The average person may only be expected to live for half a decade at best, but I am not the average person. See you at my 50th.