A portrait of a friend of mine made from the text of the story of his three year mis-diagnosis of cancer. He survived and is now alive and well!
Below is the text that makes up the painting:
This is Peter. Heís recovering from stomach cancer. The medical term for Peterís cancer is gastrointestinal stromal tumour.
He first knew something was wrong in March 2002 when he was rushed to hospital bleeding black blood from places youíre not supposed to bleed from. He lost so much blood he couldnít walk. After 6 days in hospital the bleeding stopped and the doctors sent him home. They couldnít explain what had happened to him and although they had performed a sigmoidoscopy it hadnít shown up anything unusual. At a follow up consultation 4 months later there was a suggestion it might have been a virus.
At the end of that year the same thing happened again. A colonoscopy was performed but nothing showed up. The bleeding stopped after 2 weeks.
By May of 2003 various other tests had been carried out including a barium enema but these revealed nothing. Peters local doctor said it might be irritable bowel syndrome but she also suggested it could be psychological and that perhaps he should see a psychotherapist.
A few weeks later in August of that year Peter was boarding a plane for a family holiday in Majorca with his 2 kids when he suffered severe stomach cramps. 24 hours later they became so severe that he was rushed to A&E in Palma. There was also bleeding. The 2 week holiday became a 2 week stay in hospital during which time an array of tests were carried out. Peterís insurance company refused to pay for treatment as they said it was an ongoing condition even though he had no diagnosis. He had to sign himself out of the hospital in Palma and catch a flight home feeling very ill.
On getting home he was diagnosed with amoebic dysentery and prescribed Metrodizanole.
By January 2004 there was more bleeding and no sign of dysentery. Peter was sent to Kings College Hospital for a video camera endoscopy. He had to swallow a tiny camera linked to a backpack that recorded the goings on in his gut for 8 hours. He said he was walking round London feeling like a suicide bomber. The tests showed no results.
A few months later things were getting worse with the onset of constant dizziness and aches and pains all over his body. In June 2004 he was diagnosed as aneamic.
Throughout this period Peter had been trying to secure an appointment with the consultant at his local hospital but to no avail.
As the months passed the aneamia got worse and Peter felt he wasnít being taken seriously. The physical symptoms he was experiencing were causing him great distress but the lack of diagnosis made things psychologically much worse. There was pain and constant bleeding. A helicobacter test was carried out but came back negative.
By November Peter was bed bound. He was very ill with nausea and excruciating pain. For 5 days 24 hours a day he had hiccups. His doctor prescribed antibiotics for a presumed stomach bug. Peter asked his doctor to refer him to the Hospital for Tropical Diseases in London.
The doctor at the tropical diseases hospital was instantly very concerned and immediately wrote to Peters consultant to say this man needs attention right away. It would be 3 months before Peter got a reply.
By the beginning of 2005 Peter was now very ill and his stomach had become distended. Constant phone calls to the hospital still didnít get anywhere and Peter felt that no-one was taking him seriously. He felt very alone. The psychological torture of not knowing what was going on with his body was unbearable.
At the end of February 2005 Peter finally got to see the consultant. The look on his face on seeing Peter said it all: oh my god how could I miss this. His reaction was to call for an emergency CT scan which showed up a large lump. Investigative surgery was scheduled for the end of March.
While waiting for the op Peters sister organised a Reiki practitioner to visit him at home. After explaining his personal details to the Reiki specialist including the lump recently discovered in his stomach she suggested to Peter he could be growing a womb.
On march 21st 2005 a 23 centimetre GIST tumour was removed in pieces from Peters stomach. Large areas of colon and small intestines were also removed. Afterwards his local doctor came to visit him at home. She admitted she knew about GIST tumours as her father had suffered the same cancer. Peter couldnít understand how with such a close experience of the symptoms of GIST cancer she had been unable to diagnose his condition earlier.
Peter says the anguish which goes with the diagnosis of cancer is like having many deaths. It was easy for him to imagine himself dying and to worry his kids would grow up without a dad.
Regular CT scans after the operation showed that Peter was clear of disease. However 12 months later he started to experience severe stomach pains again. Oh shit its back. It had spread all over his lower abdomen. Some of the tumours were 7cm long.
Peter was put on a new drug called Glivec designed to decrease the re-occurrence of post op GIST tumours. He knew within hours it was working.
At the time of writing this painting on the 8th March 2008 Peter has been on Glivec for 2 years. Some of the tumours have reduced in size by up to 50%. Some have disappeared completely.
Peter feels a new optimism is beginning to outshine the fading neon sign that says Ďyou have cancerí. However there is a nagging thought that currently haunts Peter; tests have shown that for 50% of people who take Glivec the drug can fail them after a period of 2 years.