My cancer started with a sore leg, first noticed after walking many blocks of Toronto streets in December, 2010. I put it down to hard shoes and harder asphalt.
Three weeks later, my left calf was thick and spongy. I had a blood clot.
But why? I was in good shape, pretty active. I googled clots, and a few days later asked my family doctor if it might be caused by a tumour. Nope, he said.
A month later, a small round bump appeared on my inside left thigh. Cancer? No, said my doctor. A month later, the lump looked like half an egg. Cancer? No cancer, I was told.
Then the pain started. Excruciating lightning bursts up and down my leg. I was referred to a hematologist, who said “You should see an oncologist.” I felt relief, because if a doctor is going to dismiss my fears as uninformed hypochondria, I want it to be a doctor in the appropriate field.
One MRI later, one of Manitoba’s top oncologists told my wife and I that she was “99 per cent sure it’s not cancer.” (Since you already know where this is going, let me stress that I am not exaggerating for effect: the figure quoted to us was 99 per cent.)
So, back to the hematologist who scheduled me for surgery to repair a leaking vein. On June 15, 2011, I was in hospital, with my wife, waiting for the move to the O.R. They first sent an exploratory camera down my thigh to get a look at the battlefield. Standard stuff.
Then, they sent me to Radiology for a scan of my lungs. Not so standard.
Two hours later, the surgeon — the hematologist — entered my room.
“It’s not good news,” he said quietly.
To this day, I remain grateful for the straightforward and calming way he told my wife and I that I had cancer.