A few months ago I had a bit of bladder pain when peeing. I didn’t make much of it and eventually the discomfort ceased. A couple of months later the pain started again. It wasn’t intense. But it was always there.
My girlfriend convinced me to see a GP. He asked for some extra tests and in the ultra-sound it was clear there was something in my abdomen that wasn’t supposed to be there. A 5cm round mass just above the bladder, with a few smaller structures (ascites) spread around the abdomen. Right after that I had a CT done to have a better look.
The differential diagnostics was wide, nobody knew for sure what it was but it wasn’t very alarming, combined with cancerless blood markers. Nevertheless I was referred to hospital the next day for what It seemed to be emergency surgery. This thing had to be removed.
I don’t mean to have a dig at the Australian public health system. It’s very good and I consider myself lucky to have Medicare. I was in hospital for a few hours and the staff decided I didn’t need emergency surgery as I didn’t have any symptoms. It was just the tumour.
I was discharged with a referral for an MRI and an appointment with a surgeon in a month. I had to chase those appointments as they weren’t booked for me and my case seems to have been lost in their systems.
After a month I had the MRI done and finally god the appointment with the surgeon for two weeks later. I’ve never seen the MRI, just the report, a few days later. And only through my doctor. The access to personal health information is my biggest complaint about the public system. I can’t see my tests. I couldn’t send them to my parents, who are health practitioners in Brazil, to help me make a decision.
When I finally saw the surgeon he seemed very surprised with my case and I was under the impression he hadn’t seen it before. He said it was very complicated and I’d probably be referred to Brisbane for the surgery. I left the appointment a bit pessimistic about the prospect of having surgery performed in multiple organs.
Throughout the process a friend who’s a surgeon suggested I see one of his friends and get everything done private quickly. He insisted I had a laparoscopy from the get go. It’s a key-hole exploratory surgery to see what’s going on and potentially remove the tumour if possible.
After that sad appointment I decided to go see Dr. Brian Meade, a specialist in mysterious peritoneal cysts, in Brisbane. He didn’t have an opinion about it was, but he seemed way more confident about what to do. I spent about 20 minutes with him asking every possible question I could think of and we booked a surgery, which was affordable, for 5 days later. What a difference!
I wanted to propose to my girlfriend in November in a trip we have booked but the prospect of cancer made me expedite things. I bought a ring on Friday, called her parents on Saturday and on Sunday we went to see the sunrise in the morning, after a massive day of work for her.
Luckily It was a beautiful day and she didn’t mind waking up at 515 in a freezing morning to go to the beach with me on the day before my surgery. We surprisingly found a sofa in the middle of the beach. Totally staged by the universe for that occasion.
I popped the question, she said yes and we had a video conference with our parents and her sister, in England in Brazil. Of course the ring didn’t fit and we’ll only get it back from refitting in 10 weeks. But It was a happy day, making the anticipation for surgery way less miserable.
The surgery was booked for Monday afternoon and I still went to work in the morning (it was only my third week at EB Games), as it would be better to have my mind occupied in the morning. I’d have a lot of free time to think the next day and in the post-op.
I arrived at 230pm but due to complications in one of the surgeries, I was only taken to the operation theatre at 630pm . The surgery happened at 730pm and two hours later I was back in my room under heavy pain killers. Three cysts were removed. Samples were taken for biopsy.
I woke up several times during the night but I wasn’t in pain. In the morning I was already walking. And at 11am I was discharged. It felt good during the day and I even went for a short walk to a lake near her place. It was an illusion.
On the next day the pain was much much worse, I couldn’t stand for more than five minutes, coughing was a nightmare, any movement that involved my core even slightly was very painful. I took paracetamol and an anti-inflammatory but didn’t want to take a strong opioid they gave me, knowing about its risks. On Friday the results finally came. The tumours showed no sign of malignancy. Phew!
I stayed at my girlfriend’s for another 5 days until she finally dropped back home. She was the best at looking after me, preparing food, helping me shower, giving me my meds and making sure I only moved the minimum amount possible/necessary. Oh, and I can’t forget to mention she bought us an Xbox, which meant lots of hours playing Fifa when she was at work and Overcookin’ when she was home. Such a cool little game for couples!
All of this was happening on my third week of work, which I missed. On Wednesday I had tested driving and sitting for a long period so I decided to try and go to work. Fortunately it wasn’t too bad. It was great to be back. It was a great sensation to be back to work only having to worry about coding and not with a cancerous cloud on top of me.
I had a lot of time to reflect about life during this big scare. I’ve always appreciated the small things and I’m inherently grateful for everything I have. Friends, family, Australia, Meghan, a great job all material things I need.
But thinking about death made appreciate everything even more. Every day when I go out I think about how beautiful everything is. I’m way less inclined to argue about anything. I have more love and tolerance for people and I want everyone to be well. I want to help others and build community.
And above all, I can definitely be blamed for not being a family man. Family was never a priority. Clearly. I haven’t seen my parents in seven years. But the experience made me appreciate family again. Not only I got way closer to my parents but I’ve also spoke to uncles I haven’t spoken in a long time.
I want to enjoy the opportunity I was given to live on this earth fulfilling my potential as a good son, husband, friend, employee, someone who loves life, people and contributes to society. Life is short. Every day is a blessing.
OH, AND DON’T FORGET, GET PRIVATE HEALTH.