I was diagnosed in April 2006. The staff nurse was very kind and very comforting, and she said “is there anyone you want to phone?”. So I phoned my brothers. My family were shocked to say the least. My sister-in-law said to me “Sidonia, since you have been diagnosed with the cancer, they are all complaining of stomach pains”. She said “there’s Eugene, Geraldine, Leonard”. She said “they are all complaining, they are all in sympathy with you”. So I went to see my brother Eugene then, and I said “well look, why don’t we go to the doctor”. Eugene tells him what’s the problem was. He examines Eugene, gets him off the couch. And as we are leaving the surgery, he says to my brother - I still get upset about it now - he said to my brother “Mr Innocent” he said “now you listen to me, if you haven’t heard within a fortnight, you come back because it’s urgent”.
So we were both in the same ward and we came out on something like the 27th June and he died 3 months later. I think the fact that my brother died so soon after I was diagnosed, it took me a long time; friends have said to me “we thought you’d given up” and I said “oh no, I have never given up”. I met Karen who was the cancer nurse at the time and she was telling me something about they were doing research in the genetics department on families like mine and they would be interested and would I get my doctor to refer me. I was referred to Mark Rogers the geneticist; he took a lot of information from me. And the outcome of that was that my immediate brothers and sisters should have an endoscopy every year, and Eugene’s children should have an endoscopy every year.
The letter I had from Mark Rogers which was a suggestion that my brothers and sisters had an endoscopy every year, I photocopied that so that my, they could take it to their doctor. It wasn’t just them asking for it; it was being advised by the geneticists that they should have it. As I said I still get upset about it. It’s four years really, but I’ve done extremely well. I’ll continue to travel. There’s life after cancer isn’t there. I mean none of us know how long we are going to be here. Make the most of it.
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Dr Rachel Iredale