At the time of my diagnosis, I was working as a senior lawyer. One morning, I was on the phone to a client and looking out the window. I was running a hand over my chin when I felt a lump. I actually said to the client, “I’ve just felt this lump, so I’m going to see my GP. Goodbye.”
I had to have a needle biopsy the next day and the results of that were significant. It was squamous cell carcinoma and it was metastatic.
The doctors did another couple of biopsies to look for the primary, but they couldn’t find it. They guessed the cancer had started in my mouth, but I have a fair complexion and red hair, so it might also have started somewhere on my skin.
I had surgery to take out most of my molars, then more surgery to remove all the lymph nodes down one side of my neck.
Even though we hadn’t found the primary cancer, I talked about the treatment options with my doctors and we agreed to forge ahead. I was 51 and fit, so we decided on a broad approach with a combination of strong chemotherapy and radiation therapy.
The cancer diagnosis knocked me for six. I went into a deep black hole. The fact that it was CUP didn’t affect me at the time – I actually didn’t grasp what metastatic meant.
I like to think that I’m a fairly optimistic and together person, but after the treatment was over, I struggled with anxiety about the cancer recurring. The fact that the primary cancer wasn’t found added to that anxiety – it was an extra element.
I ended up seeing a psychiatrist about a year after my treatment, but it would have been better to get that sort of help earlier.
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