Cancer is a word that I had not used until around 6 years ago when my wife's mum was diagnosed with breast cancer. The weird thing was that as soon as I started to talk about it to people, suddenly, it was everywhere - everyone seemed to know someone who had had it or had succumbed to it.
She had surgery followed by radio therapy, and despite some complications, she progressed well. At each yearly checkup, we all anxiously awaited the results, and each time she got the all clear.
Then in 2009, she began to get pains in her back and hips. She said that in her heart, she knew it was cancer, but didn't say anything at the time to us. Several trips to the hospital, tests and scans later, it was confirmed that the cancer had spread to her bones, with a spot detected on her lungs and liver.
A regime of chemotherapy ensued and the prognosis was not too bad. We had to accept the she would never be cured, but the doctors were confident that they could keep things in remission for a reasonable length of time.
The chemo seemed to work and as her hair grew back, so did her confidence. At times, you forgot how ill she had been and although the realisation that the cancer is still there never goes away, there began to be more good times than bad - holidays were planned and thoughts turned from now to the future.
A couple of weeks ago, she had a really sore throat and catarrh that just wouldn't shift. She choked when she tried to eat, but we thought it was just a throat infection. Her doctor was concerned that the problem wasn't going away, and given her history, suggested a prompt consultation with an E.N.T. specialist.
The ENT appointment was today. The preliminary diagnosis is that it's a nerve problem - something is stopping one side of the throat working properly. There is a possibility that it's due to the cancer - they can't be sure until a full scan has been completed.
So we sit here in our world that has been turned upside down. We live in hope that its not due to the cancer, or if it is, then it's something can be sorted out. But we also face the possibility that it is serious.
It's so hard to watch, not only Debs mum having to face this news, but her husband, my wife and other family and friends trying to take it all in. Life is put on hold.