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  • Writer's pictureAnson

The diagnosis

It's definitely weird being diagnosed with cancer. On the one hand, completely shocking, but on the other, kind of expected. Maybe it's the fatalism in me.

I first suspected something was amiss when some swollen glands in my neck did not go down after having a bit of a cold towards the end of last term (Dec 2019). After New Year, I filled in an on-line request form to see my doctor, not expecting an appointment for a week or so. But very quickly I got a call asking me to come in and see a doctor right way - apparently a lump in the neck for a man in their 50s is a red-flag. My doctor referred me to a ENT consultant at Homerton, who was very open and honest and said that they would start doing tests to rule out cancer. By this point of course, you start to fear the worse.

Within a week I was having an ultrasound of my neck and throat, and a fine-needle aspiration (FNA) biopsy was carried out by injecting into the swollen lymph node a fine needle to withdraw some fluid to check for any cancer cells (😳). I was not due to see the consultant for a couple of weeks, but very quickly I got a phone call from the hospital to ask me to come in as soon as possible (which happened to be on my birthday) where he told me that the cytology from my lymph nodes showed cancer. The following day I was already booked in to get a CT scan and an MRI, to determine if the cancer had spread.

Undoubtedly the worst week was waiting to see the consultant at The Royal London hospital to get the results back from the CT scan and MRI; these would tell me if the cancer was localised, or if it has metastasized (that is, developed secondary tumours elsewhere in the body), and of course this is where you try and not to think of the worst outcome. At Royal London, tissue samples for a biopsy from my right tonsil was taken there and then in the consultant's office (😳😳) and I got to meet with a Macmillan cancer information nurse, who was able to give me more information on likely treatments etc.

Biopsy results came back through within the week, confirming the diagnosis of oropharyngeal cancer (in my case, of the right tonsil). I was also told that the MRI scan showed the cancer had not spread to the rest of my body. Inside I think I yelled the biggest "yay" of my life and grinned at David.

There is no doubt that I'm going to have a difficult spring and summer coming up. But perspective is everything, and really, it could be a lot, lot worse. Everything is manageable; everything is doable.

So the purpose of this blog? I think in the main as an outlet for me, where I can process major changes that are going to happen physically and psychologically. Forever a scientist, I'm really interested to know more about HPV-induced cancers; I knew that they can cause cervical cancer in women, but I've never heard of them causing cancer in men, yet they their prevalence is increasing rapidly. Also, I run. A lot. Mentally and physically I want to see what I can push my body to do, within reason, while on treatment. And finally, my memory is bad; this blog will hopefully act as a diary so that I can chart change, be hopeful, and also to allow friends and family to be kept up to date with progress and developments.

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