First reactions to being diagnosed with cancer
WHEN he was diagnosed with cancer, my father fainted with his eyes were wide open. He was a dreamer who pretended to be a realist. The news hit him like a bullet. Only once did he say to me, “I don’t want to die.” He never once lost his love of life nor his humour. The MacMillan nurse, a confidant and a comfort to him, laughed. The urge to protect his children from his pain and fear showed true courage and love. But that first diagnosis hurt like hell. I knew it must have. I felt it too. Michael Popp recalls the moments after being told he had leukemia:
He looked up at me without any expression and simply stated, without emotion, “You have leukemia.” I heard each word as simply as it was stated and nodded in agreement. Yes, my body appeared healthy, but it was also dying on the inside. He took a minute or two to explain to me what type of cancer I had, what cancer was and that I needed to begin treatment yesterday. This is all explained to you like an accountant would tell you how much you owe on taxes for the previous year. It’s emotionless. You are being told that you have a potentially fatal illness as if you were being asked if you wanted a receipt…
The doctor scribbles down two numbers. Its 4:30 they tell me. You need to get to a sperm bank immediately. The chemotherapy will make you infertile and if you have any desire to have children, you need to call these numbers and bank. I had known, for nearly 4 minutes that I had cancer. It hadn’t even begin to phase me and now I would be infertile. I picked up the paper, still unsure of everything that was going on and began to beg a woman with a thick accent on the other line for an immediate appointment. I did this while five people sat quietly around me. No one took notes, but they all watched me intensely. I had to ask over an over to be seen today. I had to explain that I had cancer and that I had to make a deposit tonight, within the next 15 minutes, or I would never be able to have children. She finally agreed and I began the walk to the office a few blocks away. My instructions were to return immediately after to determine if I would be admitted to the hospital that evening. I had to call my girlfriend…
As I told her, it became real. My voice began to break up as I made it block by block towards the bank. I was having trouble holding it together as I said the words to her, trying to reassure her there wasn’t anything to worry about. I was losing it, I told her I’d call her back, I couldn’t bear showing her how upset I was, I needed her to believe what I had said, knowing that I myself was completely unsure of what to expect. I had only known I had cancer for 15 minutes.
How was it for you, that dread moment?