My name is Teresa White and in May 2007 I was given the devastating news that I had peritoneal cancer with possible secondaries on my liver. This came as such a shock to me, as I am sure a diagnosis like this does to anyone, especially as I’d had no pain, just a slightly bloated tummy and a swollen right leg. With this diagnosis comes a whole host of emotions. When the news was first given to me I cried for about three days and made myself feel really ill and then I woke up one morning and thought right!
I am alive and I don’t feel too bad so I am not going to waste any of my now very precious time being miserable. This has been my philosophy all the way through and has helped me to remain focussed and positive about my future. When I next saw my Oncologist, my scans had been discussed at a meeting with the Radiologists, who thought that the secondary cancer on my liver may not be cancer at all and could be something called a haemangioma – this was the first bit of encouraging news I’d received. The plan was to have three cycles of chemotherapy and then another CT scan to assess the response. I started the chemotherapy on May 19th 2007 and I have to say that although having chemotherapy is not pleasant, it was not as bad as I thought it would be. I tolerated the treatment without any sickness, but did suffer with extreme fatigue and muscle weakness, which made walking impossible at times. After three cycles of chemotherapy, my scan revealed a complete response to the peritoneal cancer and absolutely no change in the liver, which meant that it definitely was not cancer in the liver – this was a huge relief! I continued with my chemotherapy until I’d had six cycles, the last one being on 2nd September this year. My end of treatment scan looks every bit as good as the mid treatment scan, so that means I am in remission!
I think I have found this much easier to deal with than my husband and daughter. From the very beginning they worried about me continually and both found it very difficult to talk to me about my cancer.
It was at this time that I spoke to Dr Andy Haynes, who is a Consultant Haematologist and a very good friend and I am also his secretary.
He is on the advisory board for an organisation called the ‘Maggie’s Cancer Caring Centres’ and suggested that we visit one of these centres to get some help in dealing with the emotional and psychological effects that a cancer diagnosis can bring. There isn’t a centre in Nottingham where I live, so we travelled to Edinburgh to visit the first ever Maggie’s Centre to be built. This was an amazing experience for us and it helped us tremendously. We took part in a relaxation class, where we learned different relaxation techniques and positive visualisation, which is so beneficial in helping relieve the stress that a cancer diagnosis can bring. We met other cancer patients and shared experiences with them and we had a counselling session with a trained counsellor, who understood the emotional and psychological difficulties we experience with cancer. Since our visit to Edinburgh, I have become involved in fundraising to build a Maggie’s Centre in Nottingham.
It has been an incredible journey for me and my family and has made us all have a very different outlook on life to how we were before cancer. Every day is precious and we now do the things that we want to do and not the things we feel we ought to do. I try and keep my life as stress free as possible and in many ways I feel I have a much nicer life than the one I had before cancer.
From the start of my cancer journey, I have been in contact with my very good friend Elaine Brown – we haven’t actually met, but have been in almost constant contact ever since. She has given me such a lot of advice over the last few months and has helped me along the way. I will leave it to Elaine to explain how we came to know each other!