This story started 3 years ago, on Friday 13th November.
This story has been one of the most defining of my entire life and believe me there have been other stories that rank highly for heartbreak – but this, well I’ll simply tell it and see what you think…
It was a seemingly ‘normal’ day at work, punctuated with student meltdowns, juggling demands and generally getting to find which way was ‘up’ in a new job. As the day wore to an unexciting end, I began to get visual disturbances. Bright, cracked and distorted vision heralding a migraine. I shovelled my go to off the shelf medication in and drank lots of water … but my vision simply worsened.
I had to walk the short distance home as my car was in for its MOT (I was due to collect it later) but as I left the school premises, I felt unsteady on my feet, my balance was completely off, and I looked to all intents and purposes like a drunk wending her way home. I was frightened of falling into the road, so I walked as close as I could to the hedges although this meant that I was falling into them – but better privet than Prius.
I got home, the girls had been home a while and as I tried to tell them what was going on (a severe migraine) they tried to tell me of their adventures also getting home – but I really couldn’t concentrate and began to feel nauseous. I tried to rest on the sofa, knowing I had an hour or so before I needed to collect and pay for the car. I did attempt walking to get it – I could never of driven it – god only knows what I was thinking – but I met my son at the end of the street and he helped me back home. I climbed the stairs (literally hanging onto each step) and got into bed hoping sleep would dispel the nausea and pain.
I can remember my youngest daughter telling me the pain in her leg had gotten so bad that her teacher had given her a lift half way home, but I literally couldn’t concentrate on anything – my brain was so fried with the headache. I curled up in a ball and willed myself to sleep.
In the morning, I awoke and felt much improved, the pain was lessened, although I felt as though I’d been binge drinking and had severe hangover type symptoms.
I’d checked on M early and she was struggling with the pain in her leg and as we had an x-ray appointment at the local hospital that afternoon, I decided to keep her off school as I certainly wasn’t fit for work. So, I let her rest in bed.
My memory fails at how I got my car back from the Garage. I know my husband drove us there and I drove mine back – so I’m assuming it was in the morning as he then went off to work. My eldest two children went to school and I went to check on M.
She was awake and described how her teacher had driven her part of the way home and that her leg really hurt. I looked again at it and for whatever reason my ‘mummy sensors’ went into overdrive.
The history had been that she had come home from school one afternoon and said she had a lump on her leg, I looked, and it seemed like a mild swelling, so I said that she had probably bumped it and hadn’t realised and that it would bruise up and it would be fine. She continued complaining of twisting her ankle as her leg gave way, but I put this down to divots in the school field, but as the bump hadn’t bruised, I’d phoned the GP surgery had a telephone consultation in which the GP suggested bursitis was the probable cause.
After a week of treating it for that but it was getting no better, so I arranged a face to face appointment. The GP said she had ‘no clue’ what it could be but would refer us to our local hospital for an x-ray and a soft tissue scan. The x-ray could be arranged within the week she said, but the ultrasound would be a matter of weeks to schedule.
So, this was the Friday that we had our x-ray appointment in the afternoon.
To this day I don’t know what or why I suddenly began to panic about her leg, but all I knew as that I wanted her to have this x-ray … NOW.
8 hrs later just was not going to cut it for me.
I phoned the NHS helpline and tried to get a second opinion about whether I could just take her to A n E. They were helpful and thorough and were about to tell me to take her to hospital when the call handler changed her mind and said that we needed to go back to our GP practice and if they felt M warranted Accident & Emergency, they would send us from there. They even made the appointment to see a doctor at the surgery within the hour. I was beyond frustrated and just wanted to get it checked out. I phoned the surgery and the receptionist advised that she understood my concerns but reassured me that the GP we were booked in with had a strong paediatric background – so I relented.
I phoned my partner (now husband) and asked him to come home from work as I was convinced something was really ‘off’ now. He acquiesced and once home, we trundled off. He tried to lighten the atmosphere by making jokes about everything. It was annoying at the time, but possibly what we needed. We walked into the consulting room and met a pivotal character in the story. K, asked M about her pain and symptoms, asked to have a look and after doing so wheeled her chair back to her desk and picked up the phone, dialled a number and said “ I have a child in the practice who needs to be seen by the on-call radiologist now, no I don’t’ care if its lunch time, this child will be seen, ok, thank you, I’ll send details across to you now”
At this point I thought “oh fuck its serious – her leg must be broken, I’ve been making my child walk around on a green stick fracture – what sort of mother am I that I didn’t realise”.
K now turned to us and said that we needed the leg x-rayed – little did we know then that she had her strong (and correct) suspicions as to what the problem actually was.
We drove to hospital, my husband dropped us and went to find a car parking space, M and I found X-ray 1 and went in, registered we were there and were then rushed into a scan room and she had her x-ray’s.
I looked fiercely at the screen as I stood behind the safety glass but couldn’t see any fracture line so was slightly relieved. The radiologist then said we could go. I was slightly bemused as there seemed to be a contradiction between my GP’s speedy response and the relaxed attitude in the scan room. Just as we were leaving the scan room we walked into J and told him the scan was all done – he of course had just paid for several hours of parking on the car – so we decided that we may as well stop for a coffee at the Costa in the hospital..
We eventually finished our drinks and drove home, confused but slightly less concerned. Within 60 minutes though that feeling dissipated into abject fear.
K, phoned and said that we now needed to go back to Hospital – this time to the Childrens Paediatric Assessment Unit and we would be met there. I asked if I would need to pack a bag, she advised that I could do, but to keep it in the car. I literally had no idea what was happening but went into mum mode. J would drop us back at hospital and wait for the eldest two to come home from school and come back to us once they were settled.
The next bit is a blur. I remember the PAU, I remember the crying babies, the junior doctors, trying to alleviate the tension for M by the age old parental tool of distraction, getting frustrated by the lack of information, then the fear as M was requested to give samples (having never had a blood test before) and was given a hospital ID wrist tag.
It seemed like forever until J returned and then another life time until we met T – another main protagonist in this tale. M and I had joked about which Dr would come and see us and as we saw T, she said … “that will be him ‘Dr Disney’ look at his tie mum”. She was correct.
Eventually, he took all 3 of us into a side room, and said in his straightforward Teutonic manner “we suspect that M has a type of bone cancer, she will need MRI’s and bone scans, she will have to have a biopsy to confirm which type we suspect it will be” … he then went on to show us the scan – I don’t think I really looked – an atomic explosion seemed to have gone off in my head and all my senses were dulled. At times of great distress my physical reaction is to think I’m going to be sick – I never have been yet – but my mind is more focused on visually searching out a receptacle in which to vomit rather than cause much more fuss by puking on the floor.
J said I kind of went into full panic mode, but I don’t remember that – I had just (as had M, who at the time was 11yr old) been completely blindsided and it was taking me all of my effort to not collapse on the floor.
I recall M being taken out of the consulting room by a nurse, so T could talk to the cogent adult in the room (no, it wasn’t me!) about the plan for the next stages of investigation. I was genuinely listening to him, and I was taking it in, but it was as if it wasn’t happening in reality – although it very much was.
Next came phone calls to relatives and again this times gets blurry … no one knows what to say or do when you pass on the fallout of a cancer diagnosis … but this part of the tale is as far as I’m going today. It’s been hard going over the events and interesting which aspects are blurrier that others. but it has been cathartic.
So much has happened in the last 3 years … but they are other stories, potentially to be told on another day.