Those of you who know me will know that I don’t angry very often. Sulky, grumpy, morose and sometimes a little snippy, for sure, but anger is not an emotion that I often opt for. However, 5 weeks in to post-operation recovery and at peak cabin-fever I got angry and I wasn’t expecting it. Many of you dear readers have sent me comments saying how ‘brave’ or ‘philosophical’ I’m being about all this cancer malarkey which is lovely and what I write on this blog is a genuine reflection of how I’m feeling but, as it turns out, bubbling under that calmness was a bubbling pool of molten anger (or more likely a boiling hot cup of tea with added anger, I am English after all).
But what was I angry about, what was making me so irritable and irrational? Well, everything really. On a very base level, it was about the cancer. Why me? Why now? Why a cancer that is so difficult to catch and ‘cure’? Why wait until that exact moment in life when you think you’re happy with everything going on around you and then unleash the shit-storm that is the c-word (not that c word)? But I’ve been dealing with those questions (and resigning myself to the fact that there are no satisfactory answers) for a few months now so I don’t think that was the source of my rage.
Then the EU referendum happened and, colours to the mast, I was a firm Remain voter so the results of that caused me a fair amount of frustration, it’s fair to say. I think this might be closer to the root cause of things as, when you go through a life changing event like cancer diagnosis, you can tend towards the zen like calm of thinking ‘OK, this is a check point in life and I can reassess everything I know to be true, just to make sure’. Apply this to an event like voting to leave the EU and subsequent legitimisation of some pretty racist, xenophobic and hateful acts and you can see why my anger levels started to rise up. Now throw in the devastating and heart-breaking attack on Jo Cox, a loving mother and member of parliament (in that order, please remember that), the attacks in Turkey, the awful behaviour of football fans in France, Donald Trump’s continued and inexplicable rise to prominence, the shambles that is British politics and the continued slaughter going on in places like Syria as well as all the trouble we don’t hear about. All of that, in the space of a couple of weeks and coupled with being relatively housebound and in front of rolling, 24-hour news feeds pretty much tipped me over the edge. The sense of injustice about my own problems were amplified every hour on the hour by a continuous parade of cretinous, hate-filled fuck-numpties who were all far more deserving of having their lives prematurely cut short or at the very least having the potential of this hanging over their heads for a while.
So I turned off the news, I tried to avoid social media and I tried to get out of the house a bit more but that anger wouldn’t go, grinding away inside me like a ball of gas waiting for someone to ignite it. It was only when I mentioned this to my key worker via email (the Lovely Lady from Leeds) that I was told something quite basic but oh so important. On hearing of my increasing frustration with the world in general, I got the response “It sounds like you need to go back to work, you’ve got too much time to think”. In the words of the Outhere Brothers, ‘Whoomp There It Is’. It has been a particularly horrendous few weeks for news but I think if you pick any 5-week period and have nothing more than letting your skin heal and resting to occupy your mind you are likely to go slightly mad and get increasingly angry. That simple sentence along with another, “you are entirely justified in being angry in your situation” went a long way to easing me out of my slump and getting me back to a more positive place.
So, on the physical health front, this week I have been inspected by surgeons who sliced and diced me and they’re pretty happy with how I’m healing up. So happy, in fact, that they don’t need to see me for another six months on the plastic surgery front as the tumour is gone, the three infected lymph nodes are out and my leg isn’t filling up with the dreaded lymph fluid like a hairy, protein filled water balloon. Result. Then, on Friday, I had the third CT scan of my life (I’m getting to be a bit of a pro at this if I do say so myself) to see what else is left inside me, cancer wise (regular readers will remember there are some mysterious shapes in my lung and kidney which I’m hoping are just small toys that I swallowed years ago and have worked their way through my system). For those that haven’t experienced the joy of a CT scan before, there are some slightly odd things that you should probably be aware of. Firstly, being ushered in to a room and asked to strip down to your undergarments while a small panel of people watches on from another room is normal. You might feel like an Amsterdam stripper who couldn’t afford the right colour of light bulb but it’s all part of the process. Secondly, when they fit a cannula in to your arm and warn you that the forthcoming dye injection might feel ‘a bit odd’ they are massively underselling this experience. As the dye enters your body you will have the sensation of hot soup coursing through your veins from your fingertips and up to your head. By the time this dye reaches your abdomen (the area of importance in my case) to show up any abnormalities, you may well feel like you’re either about to throw up or that you’re stood in waist deep sea water having a much needed pee. It should be noted, however, that both throwing up and peeing whilst in the CT scanner are frowned upon – it’s not that kind of Amsterdam peep show, after all.
And now we wait. I will go back to work tomorrow and field all the usual questions whilst trying to remember my password and what my actual job is. Normality will return for a while – that’s the old new normal where I have cancer but don’t feel remotely ill and can still do normal things. Then, on 14th July, I’ll get the results of the scan and we find out if it’s a miracle of medical science and the cancer has completely gone (unlikely but not impossible) or that there’s less cancer than there was but still enough to warrant some treatment of some kind. One thing that is certain, either way, is that I need to lose weight and I’m hoping the dieticians within the Oncology department will give some tips here as this is an area I have always struggled with. Tips or a muzzle. Finally, we also await the outcome of the investigation in to my misdiagnosis two years ago which has resulted in my winding up where I am now. But I’m not angry anymore, that’s the main thing. I’m still stiff, still sore and I won’t be twerking for a while yet but mentally I’m looking forward to returning to a routine that doesn’t involve watching quite so much CBeebies of a morning and has human interaction with a wider range of people than those that I can see walking past my house and look up long enough to wave.
One side note for the coincidence fans amongst you is that my partner (the long suffering Gemma) has one of those ‘look what you did in the past’ things attached to her Facebook account and noticed today that exactly 12 months ago I was due to go back to work following an unscheduled period of absence caused by blood poisoning. Massive blood loss, five transfusions and the return to a less Simpsons-like colour and I was ready to return to normality for a while. Back then I thought things couldn’t get any worse and I felt incredibly ill as my body fought with itself internally but I’d take that every day now instead of the uncertainty over the length and severity of what I’m facing up to now. Much like the mate who, on spilling their pint in the pub after losing their last tenner, states “this night couldn’t get any worse” only to be mugged on leaving the pub – be careful of how bad you think things are for you because sometimes the grass isn’t greener. Sometimes the grass is cancer. Or Michael Gove as Prime Minister. Shudder.