My heart sank when I saw my daughter’s surgeon’s name come up on my Mobile’s call display one evening, late July 2014. She had just had another scan, and I knew he wouldn’t phone unless it were important. “Hello, it’s Carlton,” he said. “Yes. Hi, Carlton. How are you?” I asked, knowing this wasn’t a social call, but trying to be polite, nevertheless. “I’m fine thanks. You?” he asked in return. “I’m good too, thank you. I guess you’re calling about Abi’s recent scan?” “Yes,” he replied. There was a pause before he continued. I suppose he was steeling himself, ready to give some bad news. I was right: “Our multi-disciplinary team has reviewed Abi’s recent scans and there are signs of enhancement at her tumour site. We believe there has been a recurrence.” Frustrated, I sighed. Carlton heard and tried reassuring me: “It’s not a reason for great concern at the moment. It’s a very small recurrence, and sometimes tumours react this way after a complete resection,” he continued. “Many just settle down and never trouble us again. But I thought I should let you know,” he told me. I took a moment to compose myself. “What proportion of tumours react this way?”, I asked, eventually. “Well,” Carlton continued, “I’d say it’s about 50/50. What we’ll do is schedule another scan in three months time, and then go from there. Don’t worry, we will be monitoring Abi carefully. Even if her tumour enhances, there’s much we can do.”
I reeled. We had had 18 months of Abi being tumour free and I hoped that we had reached the end of her story with cancer. But it was not to be.
I phoned Sarah, conveying no emotion. I heard a small sob at the other end of the line. But it was not for me to console her; we were long past supporting each other. I’m not certain we ever did.
Unfortunately, my mother had been suffering from depression ever since my gran had passed away a year ago. So I did not know if I could pass on the news to her. I had pondered the problem a day or so when she called, out of the blue: “Hello Andrew. I’m afraid I have some bad news. Your cousin Peter has terminal cancer. The doctors have given him about three months to live,” she told me. I couldn’t believe it. He was my age, too! We had not been particularly close, but the bastard had managed to bowl me out in a youth cricket final, so we did share some stories. What the bloody hell was going on? First Abi, now Paul! There was no way I could burden mum with more bad news, so I asked her to pass on my love to Paul and his family and then put the phone down without letting her know about Abi.
Later on, my girlfriend called, which meant I was finally able to unburden myself. She came over to my home immediately and helped by listening. We played happy families over the next few days by taking the girls to the beach and going fruit picking. By the time she left, some normality had returned, and my mood had improved. I felt that I would be able to cope.
Even so, I couldn’t help watching Abi and asking: “why her?”