Cancer Warrior: Anita

Anita 2020 VIN Cancer

Part 1

Just when we thought our war with Cancer was over it strikes again. But unfortunately this time it’s not me. It’s Anita.

All our concern has been focused on Coronavirus. My last article was directly aimed at been extra cautious not to ignore other possible issues like cancer. Little did I realise how close to home that meant.

An unexplained rash! Something private and somewhere private but no matter what creams were used it wouldn’t go. This prompted an appointment with a doctor. Almost an impossible task during the COVID 19 crises. But Anita got to see the doctor. After an extensive examination the doctor (GP) refers Anita to a specialist “ I don’t like the look of this”

But off home we go. 48 hours later Anita has an appointment- that appointment happened Thursday 2nd of April, first introduction – the appointment was in CUMH. CUMH is Cork University Maternity Hospital. But it’s not quiet that well named. It deals with all things fanny, sorry meant female. With Coronavirus restrictions in place I couldn’t go (yes there just maybe a God). So off she goes and the situation as we saw it suddenly changed from a rash to a form of skin cancer.

A consultant Gynaecologist Oncologist was called in and proceeded to do a number of swabs & biopsies. He advised Anita that she most definitely had a form of skin cancer. He wanted the biopsy results back before full diagnosis but he did say that the probability of surgery was high. The form of skin cancer is called VIN Cancer. The consultant order up an MRI and this was done on Good Friday, awaiting results. The MRI is more aimed at pinpointing exact location of the nearest lymph node, this node is removed during surgery as a precautionary measure This is a substantial operation and most likely will be followed by radiotherapy. All this will happen within the next week. As CUMH are not conducting operations at the moment they intend to do the operation in Bon Secours Cork, the same hospital that I have been treated in since 2014. The consultant is a leading gynaecologist oncologist and recognised as one of the leading researchers into VIN. Yet another rare cancer

Just an extra note: As above I could not accompany Anita as there is a restriction in hospitals. We did not realise that the appointment would include a biopsy, we thought they would do swabs etc. The biopsy included a stitch- Even though this was painful Anita drove herself home. I was in work when she called me. Fighting cancer is difficult enough but been told when your on your own “You have cancer” takes a different type of mind set.

We’re confident about our ability to beat this but in normal times we would be looking at a lengthy hospital stay to help with Anitas recovery but with the current Coronavirus outbreak we are actually more concerned about Anitas exposure in hospital, following any operation our immune system becomes compromised, so a faster release from hospital would be the bigger hope.

All this and I have also been isolated. My COVID test came back as negative but because I’m still showing symptoms and immunocompromised the test has been classed as a “False Negative” basically meaning that I may have this disease and been instructed to isolate. I can’t leave my home for any reason. I have been instructed to stay away from Anita as we can’t afford to delay her treatment, I can’t even drive her to the hospital. Lucky for us the house is substantial. Anita now sleeps in the master bedroom which has its own bathroom and I am in one of the guest bedrooms. We have two sitting rooms. All the hard work in renovating is paying off.

I will be trying to get Anita to write a continuous blog about this. As you all know I am a person who encourages awareness. This particular site is more aimed at Lymphoma Awareness. But unlike most forms of Cancer this is in an area that is very private & personal. Anita has agreed to allowing me to write this and as you can see we have excluded details.

Time to take the gloves off

Of course even though this saying means so much to a fighter preparing to go flat out unfortunately in reality with Coronavirus been so active it’s more a case of

Put the surgical gloves on

Anita 2020 VIN Cancer Part 2

So from initial diagnosis on the 2nd of April to completion of surgery took less than 20 days. That includes biopsy results, MRI and scheduling an operation like this during the pandemic COVID 19. A great achievement by the medical team. In relation to the COVID 19 test Anita is negative- home and social distancing works, don’t doubt this please we have seen this work following my Stem Cell Transplant in 2017 and here we are again . BUT Anita is home now and comfortable. 

Mentally & physically this has been a difficult month for us. We’re strong willed people but after 6 years of my war with cancer and 3 terminl diagnoses, the sudden impact and realisation of the Coronavirus- knowing that I was on the type of danger list that I never expected to be on with a failed COVID 19 test and medically told to isolate at the same time that Anita is diagnosed & operated on for VIN Cancer is pushing our mental and physical levels to their maximum.

Topped with all this is the job I have since late 2018. We’re stretched as about 25% of our business had been medical and 5% hygiene products- with COVID these figures have changed. Between medical and hygiene were now at 75% pushing a lot of urgency into PPE as HSE distibution agents. Of course the fact that I have been medically isolated means I can’t leave the house. The only exception was to leave and collect Anita and that was granted because we live 40 minutes from hospital. I am still cocooned till the 3rd May as it puts me in the house all of the coming week but this doesn’t really help as much as people think. I actually want to be in the warehouse with my team, I’m known to jump in and do whatever it takes (hence the manual handling and forklift license renewal) the team are well used to seeing me offloading trailers, stacking pallets and doing whatever it takes, but the team is strong and I can do so much from home, I want to be able to go to the shops but to protect Anita, my team and others I can’t move. I do expect to have a second COVID test as I still have symptoms. Anita will be cocooned for the next 2 to 4 weeks and  permitted out for medical appointments only but not allowed to drive till June, we are still not sure if her team intend to liase with my medical team as I am immune compromised.

As a family unit to have both of us diagnosed with cancer over 6 years and Anita been diagnosed this April during a Pandemic placing both of our immune systems as compromised is next to unimaginable. We are strong and these challenges make us even stronger, our ability to turn a weakness into a strength comes from our “We can beat this” attitude. We will now await the results from Anitas lymph node biopsy ( just a quick note on this. The VIN operation was one particularly operation which was performed by the gynaecologist oncologist he then done a second operation to remove the nearest lymph note which was to the left groin – this is both a precaution & essential as the results will show any further spread. This is a deep lymph node and requires much more invasive surgery) 

Strong physical and mental approaches with a first class dedicated medical team produces exceptional results.

Anita you have proven yourself to be a warrior at an exceptional level.

Together we are stronger

Can’t end this without posting this photo again. How very true is this and as the year progresses let’s hope we have reached the peak.

We would also like to thank everyone for their messages of support and encouragement during the past week.

I remember on my first day of ICE Chemotherapy The devil whispered in my ear “you are not strong enough to withstand the storm” that evening I shouted at the devil “I am the fucking Storm” and now I can proudly say that Anita is a force not to be underestimated. You really have picked the wrong couple to mess with…

Just a noted addition from Anita

As Ian has said above thanks everyone for the support

But a particular Thank You to the medical teams in CUMH and Bon Secours Cork. The care staff, the wonderful cleaners & caters ( who kept the tea flowing), the nurses who Ian has always called Gods Angels on Earth, the doctors, my amazing gynaecologist oncologist and the HSE.”

Thank You

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