Yesterday I didn’t have cancer

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Yesterday I didn’t have cancer.

Today I have cancer

II know that’s not really how it is. But that is how it seems. How long have I been walking around with it without knowing? A few weeks? a year? I have no idea. But what you don’t know can’t hurt you can it? If it wasn’t for a weird set of circumstances and accidents that I won’t go into now, I still wouldn’t know. I’d still be walking around, happy and healthy. Blissfully unaware if a dark little secret hidden deep inside of me.

So now I have cancer. And it’s not a good one. Not that any cancer is good, but frankly I’d have been happier with a melanoma – they’re very popular in New Zealand. Or even a testicle – at least with a ball there’s an element of built in redundancy.

It’s in the esophagus if you want to know. My esophagus to be specific.For those who weren’t paying attention in biology class, that’s the pipe that connects your throat to your stomach. I discovered all this yesterday, having been summoned to the hospital to see a gastroenterologist called Mark at 10am. The pa who rang me seemed very concerned that I should bring my partner with me. I knew that wasn’t good.

Like most people with a vigorous imagination, I had already played this scenario in my head many times over the years. You know. The “Give it to me straight Doc. How long have i got?” scene. Except in my mind’s eye – as in the movies – it all happens in an oak lined consulting room, with bookcases and leather and gilt framed certificates on the wall.

The reality of course was nothing like that. My personal big scene played out in a nondescript grey room off a green linoleum corridor somewhere in the bowels of the rear end Auckland Hospital – where else would you put the Gastro Unit?

Dr. Lane looked the part however. Spectacles and a reassuring grey beard, and short sleeved green surgical scrubs. All business. And he’s a professor. It said so on his card. After the brief exchange of pleasantries and introductions, Professor Lane said “You’ve got cancer of the esophagus Lindsey.” Blimey” I thought. “Don’t beat about the bush!” I didn’t even get the chance to say “Give it to me straight Doc.”

The Proff. then went on so say that that was probably the only thing I would remember from that meeting, and he was largely right. Jo scribbles copious notes as he talked, and showed us some pictures of my cancer – which to my untrained eye just looked like any other picture of random pink insides. He then drew a crude diagram on his notepad in blue biro. a vertical tube leading down to a kidney shaped blob. “That’s your stomach” he said stabbing it with the biro. Then using the pen as a scalpel he made two expert incisions with a well practiced flick of the wrist, one at the top of the tube, the other beneath the stomach. It’s called a Barnes-Catmur operation he said knowingly over his spectacles. I eyed a wooden outline of a torso on the wall behind the Prof.attached to it was a pink and blue plastic model of the human digestive system from mouth to anus. The big pink stomach was right in the middle, nestling on top of an untidy bundle of intestines.

My biology lessons all came flooding back. I think I might have said “Fuck me.”

Today I have cancer.

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  1. Hi Linds, When I got the message from Jo I went and looked it up in a book I bought when I broke my Shoulder. We do not realize how complicated the human body is. Oesophagus is not an easy word to say. As you say the Dr came straight out with the word Cancer, but they see so many patients so have to come straight to the point. It is so nice to have family and friends to be with you and it is so much better to speak about it. They are able to do so much more these days than they could years ago. I thought your description of what happened, although not nice for you, was rather funny. You have a wonderful sense of humor keep it up. Love M xx

  2. Tricia Hollingum says:

    Hey Linds!! Have just been sent the blog links by Jo. So wish I could give you a huge hug and an “I know the hell you are going through” look. I can still remember the horror of the surgeons words to me when he said I had to have a mastectomy, I thought, no way are you taking my boob off, they are my best feature for god’s sake!!!! I had a real urge to push him away and give him a slap for saying such an outrageous thing. (So unlike me eh?)
    It’s going to be a long road ahead my friend, for you and the girls. Face it all with courage and utter bloody mindness
    and embrace every beautiful day that is given. It’s time to slow everything down and breathe. Glad to hear you are getting some help with meditation. Love you, big kiss honey. Tricia xxxx

    • Linds says:

      Hi Trish, thanks for the sage advice and words of encouragement. Your right, every day is beautiful. They always were, I just never took the time to stop and notice. Not a mistake I will be making again.
      As for the lady-bumps, they were always outstanding, and I’m sure still are. Hi to Sam and The Director of Doing. Linds x

  3. Brent Nicholas says:

    They say bad news travels fast Linds & as our paths haven’t crossed in recent times I guess they are right.
    Sorry to hear of this unexpected adversity mate.It always seems to strike those we least expect & those who least deserve it.
    In my family the 4 cleanest living & purest souls all copped it,whilst a foul mouthed,alcoholic, chain smoking ex ma in law is 86 not out..I’m happy to report my beautiful cousin fought hard & had 11 good years when they had given her 6 months.
    I’m not sure of your prognosis but I assume its challenging.My advice is to listen to them & take their advice,More importantly look deep inside & listen to yourself & take your own advice.Almost certainly you already know how to handle what lies ahead, best for you.
    Midori & I married in a 2600 year old Shinto Shrine in Kyoto last year.My wife is the most intuitive & spiritually deep person I have ever met.Zen personified.We have a Shrine at home.She (& I ) will be praying for you my friend.All that good Karma & generosity you shared with all of us is coming right back at you.

    Love & kisses to you Jo & Rebecca,

    Brent

  4. I’m new here. Of course, I figured something was up when you posted that picture of your toes waving in the hospital, but I had no idea, really. Since then I have read your blog cover to cover. Shit, Linds! Aside from that, I just want to say Hi from Berlin. Your words are so brilliant. Thank you for sharing them.

    • Linds says:

      Hi Christine! Thanks for stopping by. Great to hear from you, you were always one of my favorates. What are you doing in Berlin? Do you live there?

  5. patricia says:

    Taking a leap here – a friend shared an incredible book with me “Dying to be me – my journey from cancer, to near death to true healing” by anita moorjani – http://www.anitamoorjani.com – I don’t know you, just read your incredible piece on advertising and had an inclination to share. feel free to tell me to “f*** off” – will understand. though thank you for your brillance. keep sharing your amazing voice.

    • Well then, please fuck off. It’s tough enough for Linds to fight this cancer battle. Don’t make it worse by having him entertain your magical thinking. Stop using people as your guinea pigs.

  6. Chris says:

    Hello. I work in advertising. I stumbled onto your ‘A Short lesson in Perspective’ post through an industry friend via a social network. It wasn’t anything I haven’t heard, said, thought, experienced or imagined before, but the fact that what you wrote was all too familiar to me was what was so powerful about it. So I read your bio. You have cancer. My grandmother had cancer and passed last year, right before I got married.

    So here’s where I get to my great point.

    My grandmother was diagnosed with lung cancer for about a year and half before she passed, she probably had it for a lot longer than that, she smoked her entire life. She died not from cancer, but from pneumonia.

    So my point? as far as I can remember my grandmother never mentioned ‘the cancer’, she lived with us, and I never heard her say anything about it. She complained about normal things like the drafty window and the heat in summer, she would tell me how great a girl I have and how excited she was to attend my wedding. She never made it, and now I’m starting to get a bit teary, but yeah, the point. The point is that life can either suck, or it can be great, and up till the point where my grandmother passed I was the constant pessimist. I’m still pretty pessimistic, but my grandmother taught me, inadvertently, to have a greater perspective on things, and your post, the one I found via an industry friend had brought back a lot of feelings about my own life in advertising and outside of it.

    This message is already longer than you probably care to read, but I’d just like to end this self-indulgent keyboard mashing with saying thank you for writing and at the very least your message has helped one stranger regain his perspective.

    thank you.



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