It’s funny how people react when you say “I have cancer again”. It almost sounds as though I have been careless or negligent and have let it back into my life through neglect. Instead of coming in all guns blazing, this one has crept under the radar and has disguised itself as something much more benign. It leads me to wonder what you do say when someone tells you they have incurable cancer? Often “I’m sorry” comes to mind but I find a far greater need to apologise to those around me for having this bloody disease than accepting someone else’s commiserations. It’s hardly on a par with anything else. “I’m sorry you didn’t get the job/your relationship broke down/you lost your wallet/you got burgled”. And yet here I am, a bit breathless and with a husky voice but apart from that appearing perfectly fine. Just staring down from the precipice. A lot of messages I received were not only apologetic but remarkably sweary. Some contained only swear words which I could really relate to.
On Tuesday I have a heart echo at the hospital. It’s a pretty dull sort of test which involves a man leaning across me and pressing an ultrasound device (what on earth is it called?) into my chest quite hard to get pictures of my heart. While he is sorting out images he leaves his arm draped around me in a friendly sort of way and at the end tells me my heart is as good as it was the last time they looked at it which was at the end of my year of Herceptin treatment. One thing going well! He even gives me the report to take to the oncologist tomorrow in case the online version gets lost. After this I trail over to Maggie’s, aware I will be spending a lot of time here again this year. My friend Ms Marsden is waiting for me as we plan to visit Ms Cantini who, as you know, stalks me like crazy. She is actually in isolation (possibly because of bad behaviour). Word of my secondaries has started to get round and a couple of the centre’s workers come up to speak to me. I cannot imagine how difficult their jobs must be. It would be impossible not to become attached to or fond of centre users and yet they must bear their loss time and again. Ms Cantini is in isolation because her neutrophils are a big fat zero. Ms Marsden and I clothe ourselves in gloves and plastic aprons looking more like redundant dinner ladies than anything else and then wade in. Ms Cantini is, understandably, bored by being in hospital so long and also so very tired. I fulfil a promise I made Mr Tozer which is to behave like a cat by rubbing my face on the end of her bed. We saw a video on You Tube which demonstrates how bizarre it would be if people behaved like cats. Ms Cantini is a bit puzzled but goes with the flow as it’s just like a passing show and will soon be gone. We leave her to the delights of hospital luncheon.
Wednesday brings an appointment with the oncologist. It’s a bit of a frustrating meeting as results of the pleural fluid drained off are not available and at present we are playing a game called ‘Hunt the Tumour’. It’s a bit like Where’s Wally only less fun. The oncologist is sure I have secondaries. She thinks they are in the lining of the lung but, like anyone would, she wants evidence of this. She is very apologetic about the lack of results and tells us that if the pleural fluid comes back showing no cancer cells, she will want to do a biopsy. I don’t think to ask many probing questions about this as I don’t think I want to know right now. She tries to phone cytology but the phone service has a voice recognition system so instead of cytology, it offers her psychology. She gives up. Mr Mason and I trundle off to x-ray but the oncologist has forgotten to book it so we go back to oncology and ask one of the nurses to remind her. We sit and wait for a while and then I think “sod it!” I could be in my Maggie’s group instead of waiting there so that’s where we go. Mr Mason settles down with his book and I burst in and possibly ruin a good moment but it’s lovely to be back with all my girls. Afterwards, we go back to x-ray and eventually the authorisation comes through and I am x-rayed. The radiologist looks at me and says “Have I x-rayed you before?” so I know I am becoming a frequent flyer.
So now I just wait to hear results and see where that will take us. Whatever happens, I will be starting chemotherapy on Thursday and Friday of next week. Whatever I do, I can’t shake cancer from my mind. It’s a bit like having a job I don’t like. I can’t act and then be done with it. It slips in and fills all the cracks and I suspect it will be like this for a while. So no point in having my legs waxed or my hair cut or coloured. It will all be gone in a couple of weeks. Unfortunately, the cancer will not