When I retired from my job as a primary school teacher I looked forward to doing all the things I'd not had time for in the previous 40 years. I became an active member of a local Probus club, I joined a gym, I took a more active role in my village church and went walking regularly in the beautiful Derbyshire countryside(as well as giving lifts to my grandchildren etc.) I didn't smoke and ate healthily. So apart from mild asthma I considered myself a really healthy person!
All this changed a year ago - I went to watch The Grand National with family and friends. It was disastrous, for after standing for 6 hours I was in agony and could scarcely walk. My GP arranged an appointment with a consultant, and in July 2009 I had a total hip replacement. In October I had my final check-up and looked forward to a visit to Bath to stay with friends. However this was not to be, for two days later I began having pains in my right side which I tried to ignore. But when I started to be sick as well I went to see my GP. I was told I'd probably got gallbladder problems and I was sent immediately to Chesterfield Royal hospital for tests. I expected being there for a couple of hours but I ended up staying for ten days and my life changed!
I was given various tests, x-rays and scans. Eventually a CT scan revealed that my pain had been caused by fluid on the lung for which I was treated with antibiotics. HOWEVER, the scan also showed a 'mass' on the stomach for which I had had no symptoms whatsoever. An endoscopy was then arranged and I was told I probably had a GIST. I was astounded - I immediately called my elder daughter (who is a sister at Weston Park cancer hospital, Sheffield). She was very informed - more so than some of the doctors who admitted they had little or no knowledge of GISTs. However I was very pleased that after a case meeting I was told that they would like to send my notes to Sheffield, to which I readily agreed. The following day, after being sent home, I had a phone call from a GI specialist nurse who said Mr Christopher Stoddard from Royal Hallamshire hospital would like to take on my case. I was given an appointment within a couple of days. Mr. Stoddard examined me and said I needed an operation to remove the GIST, and warned me that he might have to remove my stomach. Once more I felt devastated but after he had carried out another endoscopy he said he might be able to retain part of my stomach. Although I pay medical insurance I didn't know whether I would be covered after having major surgery only five months previously. Fortunately I was (I'll try never to complain again about the huge amount I have to pay from my pension), so as soon as my chest was clear I went into Thornbury hospital where Mr Stoddard carried out my operation. He told me he had removed a tumour as big as a tennis ball but he had been able to retain part of my stomach. I was in hospital for 10 days and received excellent care. I've been for one check-up and am due for another in a few weeks time. I was told that the risk of recurrence is quite low, so I'm now recuperating, trying to get back to 'normal' and getting used to eating small amounts more often! Incidentally I was given a small card from my GI nurse which can be shown at restaurants asking for their understanding in providing small portions! This proved useful when my younger daughter took me out for Sunday lunch: I showed the card, was given a child's portion and charged accordingly!
The past year's events in my life have changed me for ever, but I am so grateful that at every stage I have received the best possible advice and treatment, from my local GPs to the very knowledgeable specialist medical people. I also feel blessed to have a wonderful family, a caring church family and many supportive friends. To find the GIST Support website was an added bonus.