It's July. After months of limbo we're finally settling into our new Sydney routine. After 3 1/2 years in California we'd made the difficult decision to move back to Sydney, primarily to be closer to family. I actually moved the family back in January so that Ada, our eldest, could start school with all the other kids. I then worked back in California until March, split my time between Sydney and Mountain View in April and May, and finally relocated permanently to Sydney in June. I'd taken a couple of weeks of paternity leave in June (our son, Ellis, was born in December) and then started my new role with Google Australia on July 10th. We'd been excited about buying an acreage on the outskirts of Sydney to create a family farm with my parents & Madés' mum, and after spending most weekends in June and July scouring Sydney, we'd begun to settle on Kurrajong as our preferred location (our second tier options included Razorback & Mount Somersby for those interested).
Life was great. And here's how quickly it turned to shit...
July 20th - I visit my GP because I'd become concerned about some bleeding. He thinks my description is worrying enough to book me in for a colonoscopy.
July 24th - I do the colonoscopy at a day surgery and the doctor tells me right after the procedure that he can see a cancerous legion in my sigmoid colon. He tells me to visit him at his surgery later in the week for next steps (once he gets biopsy results back to confirm).
July 27th - Legion seen in colonoscopy is confirmed as being malignant by the biopsy results. I'm referred to a gastro intestinal surgeon to have the legion removed. I'm also asked to have CT scan before I visit the surgeon.
July 28th - Luckily I married into a family of doctors and we get a personal referral to one of Sydney's best GI surgeons, Prof John Cartmill. Prof Cartmill agree's to see us the next day. He reviews the CT and colonoscopy results with us. The CT seems to show the cancer might also be in nearby lymph nodes how it appears to show now further spread. He orders an MRI and a PET CT Scan.
August 2nd - I do both the MRI and PET Scan in the morning and meet Prof Cartmill at 2.30pm in the afternoon to review the results. He tells me that the PET Scan, which is much more sensitive, has picked up two cancer spots (what they call "secondaries") in my liver in segments 5 & 7 and has confirmed the presence of cancer in several of the lymph nodes surrounding the primary tumour (we're not calling it a legion anymore) in the sigmoid colon.
For those that don't know cancer well (I didn't), there are four stages.
Stage 1 - this usually means that a cancer is relatively small and contained within the organ it started in.
Stage 2 - this usually means the cancer has not started to spread into surrounding tissue but the tumour is larger than in stage 1. Sometimes stage 2 means that cancer cells have spread into lymph nodes close to the tumour. This depends on the particular type of cancer.
Stage 3 usually means the cancer is larger. It may have started to spread into surrounding tissues and there are cancer cells in the lymph nodes in the area.
Stage 4 means the cancer has spread from where it started to another body organ. This is also called secondary or metastatic cancer.
So, within 2 weeks I've gone from the good life to what initially seemed like stage 2 cancer diagnosis and then a stage 4 cancer diagnosis, and let me tell you stage 4 is very, very different to 1 and 2. It's not good, but more on this later.