In December of last year I had my colonoscopy and had a polyp removed. OK, now I can see about the cyst that had first appeared on my head last spring. It was not causing any discomfort but I was concious of it. As we have lived in a small Italian hilltop town since 2007 I thought perhaps it was an insect bit or some cyst caused by the heat, who knows.
On January 7th this year I went to the local day hospital to have it removed under local anaesthetic. The surgeon was keen on all things Scottish so during the surgery we managed a quick discusssion on the price of Scottish whisky (much cheaper in Italy), the weather (much better in Italy) and the number of Scots Italians (about 30,000).
The actual surgery itself was pretty painless and was over in about 15 minutes. As he stitched up my head wound I also thanked him for the mini face lift as I am sure that a couple of crows feet vanished during the surgery. He did, however, tell me that it did not appear to be a normal cyst so as a precaution was going to send it for further analysis to our main hospital in Perugia. He told us the results should be ready in about 4-6 weeks.
My wife then started weekly phone calls to Perugia until February 28th when we went to pick up the results.
After a couple of months I would now class myself as 'confusingly informed' which is down to the range of disorders and debates surrounding staging etc that seem to be out there. I tend now to gravitate towards patient forums and discussions and less on the strictly medical and prognosis type information that I sought out at the start. While I cannot comment on the current UK health system I can share my experience of the Italian health system since my diagnosis.
Once of my first concerns after I was diagnosed was around the practicalities of financial costs. Here we have to pay for blood tests, exams etc. The cost varies depending on income but they can quickly mount up. With a cancer diagnosis, however, you are given a code 48 which means that everything is free which was one less thing to worry about.
Within a week of diagnosis I had a named specialist doctor who explained about the tests I would be getting in the following few weeks. This would then allow them to have a fuller picture of what we were dealing with. At the initial meeting I felt quite relaxed as I got the impression it was an informal chat about timescales and process.
Having read some patient commentaries on the bone marrow biopsy I thought that would be one of the last tests. Instead the doctor told me at the end of the meeting to wait for 10 minutes as she would be doing the bone marrow biopsy there and then! In retropect I am glad it worked out that way as I had no time to worry about it.
Thankfully the results were clear. A full PET-TC scan has followed together with an endoscopic exam. The onus here is very much on the patient collecting these results in person and then taking them to your specialist. I now have a large folder with test results as well as a couple of CDs from the PET-TC scan. All I am waiting for now are the results of the biospsy from my endoscopic exam that I had this week.
Like many ex pats there is a natural instint with any health issue to think 'right, lets head back to the UK'. After the initial meeting with my specialist, however, I quickly got a sense of their professionalism and empathy which greatly helps to put you at ease with your situation. During our discussions I also got a sense of how much English is creeping into the medical language here as the Italian for 'watch and wait' is 'watch and wait!' In the meantime I am carrying on working as normal and making fresh pasta in my spare time.