Since the beginning of the year, Richard has had lots of trouble with his back, to the point where he spent several weeks barely able to move. It turned out not to be so simple as a slipped disc, when scans showed there was an unusual “process” (consultants love that word) going on. From the moment of that first scan, before the doctors mentioned the word, thanks to Google, we were alerted to the possibility he might have myeloma. For some reason though, test results that came back in April were clear of cancer traces (see What Wasn't). We were hugely relieved, but also aware that something needed to still be diagnosed, and with each new appointment with Richard’s consultants, it was clear that they weren’t going to let the idea of myeloma go. Gradually it became clear to everyone involved that it was the only option.
For the last few months Richard has had an appointment at least once a week, either for scans or biopsies or blood tests, and with each follow up meeting we went with anticipation, waiting for the result we knew had to come sooner or later. But each test came back inconclusive – the most popular result for any medical test in our family. We were considering changing our tag line from Team Scholes to Team Undiagnosable.
Then a month ago, Richard developed severe pain in his upper back and another scan was organised for him to investigate it. Two weeks ago, he got a phone call to go to Royal Preston Hospital with an overnight bag – the next day, before we understood what they’d found, he was taken into surgery and given a double laminectomy, which removed bone from two of his vertebrae, and also a tumour which was attached to them. He came home a few days later, unable to lift his arms much at all, and with a line of staples in his back.
So last week we went back to see the consultant at Royal Lancaster Infirmary, wondering whether to expect our usual prognosis of ‘inconclusive results’ or something worse. It was the second one. It is multiple myeloma, and it must be moving quickly in order to have produced a tumour in a short space of time. At 38, Richard is the youngest patient they have seen in that department with that type of cancer, and for that reason they are acting quickly in order to attack back. Usually myeloma is incurable, but usually its victims would not be able to withstand aggressive treatment needed to tackle it because of their age.
We haven’t asked for a prognosis for life expectancy, because we don’t want to know. We just need to know that there’s a chance, even if it’s a slim one, and that’s enough to hold on to. Chemotherapy has already started, and is in oral form, meaning we don’t have to go to the hospital for it. The immediate plan is six three-week cycles in order to suppress the cancer, with potentially a bone marrow transplant further down the line. He is being referred to Christie’s in Manchester though, so it’s possible that his treatment may change at any time once they look at his case.
I’m grateful that it hasn’t been a shock to us – we’ve been thinking about this for months, knowing it was probably coming, and so we’ve had a lot of time to mentally adjust to it. I don’t mean that we have resigned ourselves to it and had given up hope; I mean that we had already decided months ago that no matter what the diagnosis was, we would face it head on and trust that there is a bigger plan surrounding this, one that we don’t yet know. I still wake up each day feeling sick, and have waves of sorrow and impatience and grouchiness, but I don’t feel that fear has a hold on either of us at all. We’ve already faced the worst in this type of situation, and through it we saw God’s continual grace and power, and had our characters shaped in a way we never thought possible. I still believe that God can turn all this around in whatever way He wants to, whether that is a supernatural healing (FYI Lord, that would be a great story - think about it), or a long hard journey toward remission, or more bad news to top what we’ve already had - it’s His call. I’d rather be on this ride with Him than doing anything else in this world.
We’ve told the children and they’re handling it well. I don’t think they realise yet that most families don’t seem to spend as much time in hospital as we do, so they are quite chilled, and thanks to the amazing people we have around us, mornings, tea times and bedtimes are going as smoothly as ever, whether we’re there or not. I’ll finish off my summer holidays post soon, partly so you can see what we’ve been up to, but mainly to remind myself, because at this stage, summer seems like forever ago.
Your prayers and support are valued as ever – thankyou so much for everyone who has already been in contact. It’s great to know that we are not doing this thing on our own.