Me, My Lump And I

 Me My Lump and I

 

wedding photography shropshireMaybe it’s because I’m an old softy at heart…maybe it’s because I have two daughters of my own…but whatever the reason….this moment, between daughter and father is one of the most precious moments of a wedding day. I step into the shoes of the Father every single time….I take the image I would want, perhaps not for me, but for her, to love and to share time and time again. To see her Father standing there, looking with eyes filled with tears of love, gazing upon the most perfect vision of his daughter….what a moment.

 


 The Journey
I am sure, once you’ve read through this post, that the reason for posting the above image will become pretty clear. You see, I’ve been in a little bit of a dilemma recently, not to sure what to do, or whom to share some news with….but after much careful consideration I have decided to put it out here….or there…or wherever…you get the idea.
 
I consider myself to be fairly fit working a 12 hour day, sometimes back to back and even several times in a week, takes stamina, and being of a certain age, that stamina is, amazingly, still there (ask my couples…haha) the running of a studio, and all that entails, commercial shoots, lifestyle shoots and so on, makes for keeping me young, fit, and relatively healthy. Add into that my enjoyment, my love, for my craft and the dedication to my art, then you may start to have a fuller idea of what I give to all my couples. In short….my Heart and soul, as well as all my energy.
 
 
So when I discovered a smallish lump in my chest wall way back in February this year, I did what most would do and rang the Docs, made an appointment and went to see them. Early diagnosis is imperative were the words which echoed around my head as I recalled the horror of hearing my own Father’s late diagnosis of Stomach cancer. A hideous and insidious disease that laid him to waste within a few short months. That was some 15 years ago, and his illness is still very raw in my mind, seeing the power of cancer at it’s worst is an incredible and horrific experience, one I hope no one reading this ever has to face. So after seeing my doctor began this journey, followed by reassuring words that my lump was “probably” nothing more than a fatty cyst I was sent along to have an ultra sound scan. This happened about 4 weeks later, the chap performing the scan told me to, essentially, get my arse back to the doctors for further investigations. It was NOT a fatty cyst, indeed he mentioned Lymph node to me. This sent shock waves throughout my mind, my whole being shuddered as the news hit home. Blood tests, core biopsies, surgery and more scans later we had a diagnosis. This all took around 3 months. Backwards and forwards to and from the hospital, enduring the pain, the sheer agony of a benign diagnosis, to be replaced a few days later, with a maybe, and all this was happening as we made plans to go on our trip of a lifetime to the Maldives.

shropshire photographer in the MaldivesPeaceful and amazing…even with a possible diagnosis that may have changed my life, this place offered the freedom to relax and unwind and try to make sense of the past few weeks….to embrace the idea of a positive result and make plans for what may be about to unfold.

shropshire photographer in the Maldives“Three Posts”

Wading out into the warm Indian Ocean, camera precariously balanced on a tripod…the water chest deep, I fumbled, guessed a few settings, pressed the shutter and prayed.

 

 

After returning to the UK my next appointment had arrived.The results were in and I was nervous.

 

Before I push on much further let me offer up some reassuring words. As you have undoubtedly gathered by now, my tests were for cancer, not the monster of nightmares, but a more “indolent” sly bastard that creeps up on you unsuspecting and without much warning. Non Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, or NHL for short is it’s name. This is essentially a slow growing disease that takes an absolute age before it is detected. Indeed many people get diagnosed when other procedures are being carried out for unrelated illnesses, that can be a real kicker and I count myself lucky to have been one of the more “borderline” cases. But having said that it is treatable, and, if caught early enough, curable…it’s just catching it early that’s the issue. However, even those caught to late for a “cure” often live with NHL for many years, and live a perfectly normal life, managing the disease as a chronic illness rather than a cancer, so there is a great deal of hope even for victims of a more advanced diagnosis.

 

The Diagnosis

 

So I am sitting opposite a doctor….he is looking at his screen, sucking his teeth and muttering, he turns to me…

“…You have low grade Lymphoma”

 

And with that I thank him for his 30 seconds of time and bid him a good day, shake his hand and leave the room. In all fairness he didn’t quite leave me hanging as badly as that….he did actually tell me I was now discharged and would hear from the Haematology department. I did try to question him about the diagnosis and what it meant, but he simply said it was not his area of expertise, a little cold and factual, but I didn’t mind his directness, his no messing approach and his professional detachment. All that was left for me now was to break the news to my family who were waiting on the final outcome.

Meanwhile weddings and meetings were taking place and all the time I felt good, I felt positive and full of the joys of life…I mean how could I not feel all these things, and more, when I was working with such amazing people and capturing images like these:

wedding photographer shropshire

sweeney Hall Wedding PhotographerWedding Photographer ShropshireWedding Photographer Shropshire

I love my work, I love my couples, I love my life….and that very life was now under threat. Like many out there I am sure, when I heard the words “Lymphoma” I thought…game over. How wrong was I, far far from it. I read much, possibly to much and Dr Google was my go to reading partner. I read all about a variety of nasty possible ends, and also tales of optimism weaved in and around the shit storm that was about to engulf me. I had worked so hard, so tirelessly, to build up my baby, my business,  and now it was going to be ripped away from me. But all that time, all while these scenarios were playing out in my mind, I looked forward to my work, it was where I could forget the disease and enjoy life and with it, all it’s beauty:

During my “diagnosis phase” this gorgeous little lady came to visit me, she, along with her parents, reminded me of how precious life truly is.

 

 

 

The Staging

 

 

So my next phase was here, the meeting with my Haematologist and team, this was to prove the eyeopener to all the ins and outs of Low Grade NHL.

My Wife and I sat opposite Dr O’Connor who has a very honest and very likeable manner about him (though my wife disagrees a little bit, she does agree on one thing, he knows his onions)! Dr O’Connor is one of the countries leading consultants when it comes to blood cancers, and I felt lucky to be in his care. We listened intently as he laid out the issues and possible routes this illness may well have in-store for us/me, it was good to be reassured that all I had read was fairly accurate when it came to the positives, and fairly inaccurate with the more alarming scenarios (mainly US sites it has to be said….I wonder why). So the next phase was here, more scans, more X-rays and a bloody lovely Bone Marrow Aspiration!

As regards the Bone Marrow Aspiration, all I will say is I had a local anaesthetic…it was pretty horrible…not horrific, but something I am glad I will not encounter again, at least not in the short term anyways. I will also add in that this was the low point for me. I actually felt like shit, while curled up on the bed, having a sensation of being “drilled” was not pleasant. All the previous months of pain, suffering, the operation and multiple trips to and from hospital, along with the worry, the anxiety, they had their collective moment right there, right then, and made me feel crap, no, made me feel like utter shit. But that was it, all the tests were done, all that remained was one last ultra sound to navigate then the results of the staging process would be complete.

It’s probably worth saying something here about staging before I move onto the results, and what staging actually means…I won’t go into to much detail, but suffice to say, stage 1 is rare, just 1in 5 people diagnosed get stage 1, the others get a mixture of stages 2-4 with a variety of different letters depending on symptoms. These symptoms range from night sweats, to fatigue to weight loss. Apart from the fatigue and a few night sweats I had very little in the way of additional symptoms and that was promising….the biggy was the bone marrow…if the Lymphoma was there then that’s pretty much a stage 4, and incurable, but still very manageable, however it would be with me for the rest of my life. Only stage 1 and some stage 2 Non Hodgkin’s Lymphomas offer up hope of a cure.

 

Ultra Sound:

 

Off I went to get my abdomen checked out, early morning start, pretty much first in. Thankfully I was in and out in just a few minutes, the words of the Doctor ringing in my ears.

“all clear and all normal”

Nothing more to say other than…THANK FUCK…and a broad smile creeping across my face as I dared to hope.

 

 

The Results Are In

 

 

Today, June 15th, was to be my second meeting with Dr O’Connor and my results for the next period of possible treatment that would determine my quality of life for the rest of my life, and with it, my families too. The nerves were literally jangling as I took my seat in the waiting room, my fellow travellers were all in there with me too. Some had been on this journey for years, some, like me, had just begun, we all have our own personal guides there, holding us close, hugging us, loving us and, I suppose, willing us to be well.

As I sat across from Dr O’Connor he was staring intently at his screen, reading letters, notes, reports…he turned to us and said, well….that’s all good…no sign of it…looks like your Lymphoma, being the Indolent creature it is, has gone, no sign of it anywhere. My sense of optimism, my sense of gratitude, was overwhelming. I count myself incredibly lucky and in someways, a fraud too. I know NHL is not to be messed with, it is never a good thing to be told you have Cancer, but to then hear the words “…we will try to cure you…” made me almost cry, almost.

I have a 50% chance of being cured now, my next phase is coming, a PET/CT scan is being organised to find the last remnants of this fucking disease, and the radiographer, with luck and a whole heap of love, will blast this damn awful disease right into the hell hole it crawled out of.

 

 

I hope this helps anyone out there on this journey of diagnosis and medical investigations, that there is hope. I also urge anyone out there who finds a lump, notices a change in any of their bodily functions, has unexplained weight loss, night sweats, loss of appetite, feels drained ( I did….and I really did feel completely exhausted during some of the procedures) to visit their Doctors and get tested. Catching cancer early is imperative to being cured, even if my disease reappears, which it may, it will probably not be for many years, but I will be ready and waiting to kick it’s ass again.

For now, normal service is back, my fatigue from the umpteen hospital visits and procedures is all but gone, I feel invigorated and even more determined to do my absolute best for my couples, even more so than ever before, I truly understand the power of photography and the need to capture moments like these for all of my couples.

All I now need is for the PET/CT scan to be clear and a few zaps to the chest area and in 9 months time, when I return to sit opposite Dr O’Connor, I will know for sure if I have been cured.

 

In the meantime I have some seriously beautiful moments to capture.

 

documentary shropshire wedding photography Iscoyd Park Wedding Photographer Shropshire Beautiful Sunset shot of Ben and Jane captured by Shropshire Wedding Photographer pbartworks the bride and groom at Combermere Abbey captured by creative shropshire wedding photographer pbartworks

 

 

 

Love to you all, and especially to all my couples for being there and for being part of my life.

 

 

 

Phil

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


16 responses to “Me, My Lump And I

  1. Phew. I can breath again. think I held my breath the entire way through that, hoping and praying for a positive outcome. So sorry to hear what you’ve been through; cancer is terrifying and the ‘not knowing’ bit is exceptionally hard for everyone. Your prognosis sounds really positive and I wish you and yours all the love and luck in the world. If it helps you’re in excellent hands. Dr O’Connor treated my lovely hubby for Hodgkinson’s Disease a long time ago, when both were practically boys (Rich was about 22-23); thanks to him Rich went on a research trial for what was then a new treatment but which has now become the norm. He had a horrid year of chemo and radiotherapy but has been all clear for more than 25 years. Cancer is never ever a blessing, but there are definitely some things about it that leave a lasting legacy – and recognising what really matters in your life and pouring all your energy into those is one. Have lots of adventures, try not to let any of the dark thoughts about what might have been cloud your mind or sap your energy, and be easy on yourself. Big hugs and love x

    1. Hiya Hun,

      Thank you so much for taking the time to read and to reply too…really appreciate your words of support, they really do mean an awful lot to me. Dr O’Connor is indeed a very talented professional, and the hematology department will sorely miss him I am sure when he retires soon. The odd thing is I have remained totally focused and positive throughout this whole process and not once have I felt anything negative…apart from the period where I had to have the Bone Marrow taken…that was a killer. But, strangely I have always thought I would be ok…and I am sure I will be. Even if not I know I am in very safe hands and I will always be grateful for all the love and support I have been given. From my family, my friends and my beautiful and amazing couples.

      Px

  2. Wow Phil
    Reading this, I felt I went through it with you ,
    Stay positive as you always do my friend, will catch up with you soon.

  3. Hi Phil,
    I too was holding my breath reading that. It just endorses your professionalism and your passion for your work that has probably helped you to stay strong. I’d have never guessed your inner demons when you came to join us in Jersey at the end of May for Nick & Katies wedding. I know someone who was told by a specialist in London that Mr O’Connor was the best there was so you are in good hands. We wish you all the best – take care x

    1. Thank you Jan, really loved my time out in Jersey with you guys, it was truly a wonderful experience and one I will always treasure. I have heard so many positives about Mr O’Connor and I truly believe him when he offers up his advice and opinion. Here’s to a positive outcome in a few months time.

      Take care

      Px

  4. Hi Phil,

    I read your account with a mixture of emotions, and a huge sigh of relief at the end. Nobody wants the word cancer to visit their lives, your strength of character shone through your account of your journey so far. I hope successive chapters continue in the same positive vein.

  5. Well what a roller coaster of emotions, I am 59 now but when I was just 26 I had cancer a malignant melanoma in my leg which resulted in plastic surgery. I have a large hole and scar on my shin but I am here to tell the tale,just as you are. I wish you all the very best with the treatment, if you need anyone to man the phone let me know. Take care keep positive. x

  6. Words can not explain how I feel, if I could see you now I’d have tear’s streaming down my face giving you the biggest hug ever. As I explained to you when I met you my dad has NHL And is now on chemo every two months for two years but to be honest Phil, you wouldn’t even know he’s got Cancer. Your so brave for telling people, it can be one of the most difficult parts. You stay strong and believe your family will be here for no matter what. You keep doing what your doing because your amazing at it and I couldn’t be any more happier to have met and you and chose you. (I told you I met a lot of Phototgraphers lol) look after yourself you really are amazing.

    Much love and the biggest hugs

    Erin & Jase xxx

    1. Thank you so much for your kind words hun, I was at pains to chat to you about your Dad’s illness when we last met up, but felt it was not really a prudent time to do so…as I was still very much in the early stages of diagnosis. The path to recovery is a long and hard one and I truly hope your Dad remains positive and remains symptom free.

      Looking forward to your big day and thank you once again for your faith and trust

      Px

      1. Your like part of the family now… please let us know how you get one. Can’t wait to catch up and give you an almighty hug 🤗.

        Look after yourself

        Love Erin xxx

  7. Phil, I’m so glad you shared this. I’ve been there waiting for ultrasounds (like your 1st one) and I can safely say it was the scariest moment in my young adult life. I’m glad you’re gonna smash this. Bug hugs from all of us xxx

    1. Thank you hun, hope everything turned out fine for you, and so pleased to have met and worked alongside you and Matt.

      Take care

      Px

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