Anne Howe is a much loved member of our Facebook group who lives in Dannevirke and gets her treatment in Palmerston North and at Hutt Hospital. Because her SCC tumour first looked like an abcess (pictured below) on her nose, Anne had a struggle to get a diagnosis. She hopes her story might help others.
My cancer Journey began in January 2017 although at that time I wasn’t aware of it.
What I did know was that I had my old friend (not!) hayfever back and despite taking medication I was continually sneezing. It became so bad the end of my nose became red and sore almost like a graze. I changed my medication but by this time a tender lump had started to develop.
By now it was late January and I’d been given antibiotics for a nasal infection. I was to go back to the GP in a week if it was no better.
On the morning of the 8th Feb I woke up and felt fine. Made a coffee for Todd (my son) and I. Half way through my coffee I started to feel hot. Then I became very hot to the point I felt I was going to pass out. The room started spinning and I felt terrible. Todd called an ambulance. They were here for ages during which time I started to feel better but they were insistent that I should go to hospital.
I was able to walk to the ambulance where I was hooked up to a heart machine with checks being done all the way over and once again when I got over there. Had bloods, heart, urine all checked and nothing showing except I still had high white cells from the infection in my nose.
It was discussed whether my abscess should be lanced, or my antibiotics changed. They decided to not give me more antibiotics but sent me home as they had no concerns. At this point I will say I was not seen by any doctor but a very caring nurse. He tried to get an ENT doctor to come and look at my nose but they didn’t think it necessary. Today was also the day I was supposed to go back to GP but had to cancel. I had two more antibiotics and by now we were at the end of Feb.
Each time on my last two visits, my GP had taken photos and said she was concerned it may be cancer. By now it was the 22nd of February and the GP had arranged for me to see a locum on Friday with a view to going on IV antibiotics if my nose was no better. On Friday, the locum took one look at my nose and refused to do anything more, asking my permission to ring the ENT in Palmerston North. She wanted them to see me immediately. They were unable to do this as there was no available space but I was to be over first thing Monday morning.
She then explained to me that she thought I had a basal cell carcinoma and said if you are going to get cancer that is the good one to get.
Oh, if only … By this time I was really alarmed.
Monday 27th February I went To ENT department where I had biopsies taken from inside my mouth but up near the nose. I was then sent for a scan of my mouth and nose area and back to ENT where I had more biopsies taken.
By now my mouth was so swollen I could not get my dentures back in and have never been able to wear then since.
I was given painkillers, told to go home and to expect an appointment by Thursday for a CT scan. I was to be back at the hospital on Friday for a MDM to meet with a team of doctors who would all discuss my case. I could expect to be there for up to three hours and was told to definitely bring a support person with me.
By now I was feeling super alarmed and very nervous
I had my CT scan on the 28th Feb and my MDM on the 3rd March
I went to Palmerston North with my daughter for our big meeting. Had to wait quite a while and then saw Dr Kumar who had done my biopsy on Monday.
He wanted to confirm that I definitely had cancer but not a basal cell carcinoma as they thought. What I had was a squamous cell cancer which can spread. He didn’t want me to be told in the MDM.
Then I had to wait to see the team of about 15 doctors. They looked at my growth, asked me questions and then I was sent out again.
They then had a conference about each patient, after which I was taken to another room. There I was seen by Professor Swee Tan and his team. He explained that it was a very big growth. It had not spread though which is good. I would have a total of four surgeries, first one to remove the growth and the others to rebuild my upper jaw, face and nose. I was also to have to have radiation which had to happen within months. Surgery would happen over a six month timeframe.
So eat your hearts out I was getting a nose job and a face lift for free. I could expect the surgery to happen by the end of March.
I was sure I had seen a documentary on Professor Tan and if I was correct then I felt that I was in good hands and said so to my daughter. I Googled when I got home and yes I was correct in my assumption which made me feel more comfortable and safe in the knowledge that I had the top surgeon.
Deep down I was still petrified.
Factoid about Anne: she has two daughters & two sons, eight granddaughters & eight grandsons, one great granddaughter & one greatgrandson. She is in her mid-sixties.