Gosh, I don’t even know if I can find the words to write this post. I feel very, very numb right now and also a little bit in denial that this is even happening.
But, for a really long while now I’ve felt like I should share our story and let you know what is happening to us. I mostly want to share it to explain why things have been a little bit quiet on Life Unexpected recently and I also want to share it in case it might spark action and potentially help to save at least one other persons life.
I’m going to apologise in advance if this post sounds quite disconnected. I’m kind of writing it from a place of shock and I’m just going to pour it all out as quickly as possible.
I recently shared on Instagram that my fiancee, Aitan, had found a cancerous lump. We first made the discovery a few weeks ago now and honestly, the journey since then has been completely surreal.
Aitan actually had his surgery yesterday to remove the lump. The surgery went really well and he’s in recovery now. But what happened next we’re still trying to process. Just before the surgery the Doctor sat us down and shared Aitan’s scan results. They explained that the cancer has already spread and that although the surgery removed the lump, the cancer is in the lymph nodes in his abdomen and he also has several spots on his lungs.
To say we are all floored is an understatement. I’m not sure if any emotions have even processed in my mind yet and our whole family is kind of struggling to accept this right now. I feel kind of like a robot just going through the motions and I can’t even begin to imagine what is going through Aitan’s head right now.
Even worse, we’re still not sure if that is even it. More tests are going to be done shortly to let us know. But chemotherapy is imminent and the next year of our life together is, to put it bluntly, going to be terrifying.
A Message To You
I’m writing this today, because we both feel like there is such a huge message here that we really need to share.
Mostly because Aitan is not exactly the most likely candidate to have cancer. Not only is he 22 years old, but he is the healthiest person I know and even the Doctors were a little bit taken a back by just how healthy he is.
Before I get into his story, I really need to say to anyone reading this. If you have a lump or a bump that you are unsure about and you think it might be nothing, please, please, please go and get it checked. Don’t feel silly about going to get it checked, don’t feel like you are wasting anyones time, don’t put something off because you’re embarrassed or because you think it might be nothing.
Please just go and make sure! Get peace of mind straight away. It might be nothing, yes, but it could also be something more. The earlier you catch something like this the better. Also please don’t be naive enough to think ‘well, this can’t happen to me’. We thought that too.
I mentioned above that Aitan is the healthiest person I know. He clean eats, he rarely consumes sugar, he goes to the gym, he takes vitamins, he doesn’t smoke, he never eats junk foods and he never, ever binge drinks. He gets enough rest, he looks after his body and he is also so, so young! In fact, he is pretty much the last person I would ever imagine to have cancer and yet this is happening.
The scariest thing is, he was sitting on this for a while, thinking it was absolutely nothing and it was so insignificant. We don’t even know how many months it’s been (maybe even a year) since he first noticed that he had a growing lump. It was literally a chance conversation he had with a work colleague that became the spark to take action.
Literally a few weeks ago he fell into a random conversation with a work colleague. They got speaking about the UK healthcare service and about his colleagues fathers experience with a certain strand of cancer.
The conversation clearly spooked Aitan enough to come home that night and to head straight to google. When I probed him about what was up, he was very lost in his thoughts. I definitely didn’t expect him to say that he thought he might have cancer. In fact, when he did tell me, I thought he was joking.
Then he explained the random conversation that he’d had with the guy he works with. He told me that he’d googled the strand of cancer that his colleagues dad had experienced and that all the symptoms seemed to match what he was experiencing himself right now.
That whole next 24 hours definitely felt like it lasted forever. It was the weekend and the general doctors surgery wasn’t open. We thought it might be silly to go to the hospital based on a hunch, so we waited until Monday morning and drove to the Doctors, literally just in time for the doors to swing open for the day.
I’m so shocked how fast things have moved since that first consultation. Straight away the Doctor confirmed that it was a lump and that it was likely to be cancerous. There and then he arranged for more tests to be done. We thought that the whole process would take months! But, within a space of a week, Aitan had to attend a whole variety of appointments at the doctors. Some a lot less pleasant than others. Then, just yesterday he went in for the surgery.
That very first appointment was less than three weeks ago now, but honestly, it feels like months have passed. We are definitely so grateful to the NHS for how swift this process has been and also for how supportive, kind and compassionate the nurses and doctors have been.
The next road we have to go down is chemotherapy. I’m so grateful that the option is there to get this treated. But, at the same time I know how terrified he is and how terrified we all are. Not knowing when this will be over or what the chemo is going to be like for him, is kind of hard to cope with.
Not only is he dealing with the changes in his body, especially post surgery, but we don’t know how is body is going to react in the next few months and he is still very much in shock that this is happening to him. I have to be honest, this whole experience so far, has been very surreal.
The hardest part of this has been sharing it with people. How are you supposed to tell people something like this? Even your close family?
It took Aitan a while to even find the words to share with his close family and friends. When you say the word out loud…cancer…it just sounds so bizarre. It’s not exactly something you can casually drop into conversation over a coffee… ‘Oh hey, I’ve got cancer’.
And then there is telling people that it has spread. Telling his Mum who has to watch her baby go through this, telling his Dad, his brothers, his friends, his family. No words can describe those feelings and to be in that position where you have to say those words out loud and watch the people you love so much just crumble, it’s so horrific.
Our journey has just begun and I’m already really struggling to watch someone I love so much go through this. I wish I could swap places and do it all for him because I feel incredibly helpless right now and I honestly don’t know how to be. Aitan is the closest person in the world to me. He is my best friend and my life partner. Yet, for some stupid reason I’m struggling to know what to do.
What do you even say to someone going through this, what can you do to make things better?
I’m trying so hard to be his support system and be brave and strong. But I’m really, really struggling to get it right. Without meaning to I think I’ve been both a help and a hindrance, overbearing and insensitive. It’s hard to know when to laugh and it’s hard to know if it’s ok to cry.
If there is one thing I have learnt in the last few weeks it’s how important it is to build a strong unit around yourself. His friends and our family have been so incredible. Despite all of us collectively just wanting to curl up in a ball and cry! You really can’t go through things like this as a one man band. You need others to be there for you too.
That is where we are at with our journey so far. I have no idea how things are going to look next month, or even in the next six months. Right now we’re just going to take things one day at a time.
If anyone has been through something similar and you’ve had a really positive outcome, please reach out to us. I know we’d both love to hear some really good things right now. Or if anyone knows any mind frame books we should read to help keep us strong through this, again please let me know. We are going to do everything we can to stay positive.
Just before I end this post, I just want to reiterate to anyone reading this. If you have a lump or any kind of health niggles, please don’t hesitate to speak to your Doctors. Not only that, but speak to your partners, speak to your family and speak to your friends. Make sure that no one else is sitting on anything that they think might be nothing or that they’re too afraid to share.
The lump that Aitan found was so small it could have been missed. The fact that it has spread so much and so fast is extremely frightening. Please do not take the risk. Please go and just check, no matter how small, no matter how insignificant you think it is.
I don’t even know how to end this post. I do need to say thank you though. Thank you so much to everyone who has reached out and supported Aitan so far. He has some incredible people in his life. Some of his friends and some of our family are just absolute angels and I know that he is (and I am too) eternally grateful to all of you.