Thus far, we’ve been keeping things ticking over by portioning the various traumatic experiences of having cancer in to a series of chapters in our book of new normal (not an official part of the Bible). There was the horrendous opening chapter were the misguided GP told me I was about to die within what felt like minutes, then a chapter featuring the relief of finding out that this wasn’t strictly true and the chapter that featured more bodily fluid and padding than any adult human should have to endure pre-retirement. Today’s chapter, however, is quite a nice one. Scratch that, that’s a massive, English, middle-class understatement – today’s chapter is ruddy awesome. Ruddy, bloody awesome if I may be so bold.
For anyone still paying attention, I had a CT scan on 1st July which was to be compared with one undertaken in April to see what was going on in there (‘in there’ being my not insignificant insides). So, up we rocked to the Oncology department via a labyrinth of corridors pitched somewhere between the set of a zombie flick and One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. This being a new part of the hospital, my mind clicked straight in to Trip Advisor mode – comfy chairs, nice little café area but bloody hard to find and an understandable sense of forlorn despair in the air; a solid 4-star performance I think. Shortly after checking in…I mean registering with reception…the Lovely Lady from Leeds (my keyworker) appeared with a smile and a wave, this was a good thing because, you see, today could have gone anywhere between;
Option 1; Guess what? The cancer has completely disappeared! It’s like magic, high five!
Option 2; Guess what? The cancer has completely riddled your body and there’s bugger all we can do about it, low five….
A smile and a wave would suggest that, unless I’d seriously pissed off the Lovely Lady from Leeds, Option 2 or anything close to it was fairly unlikely. I have been known to piss people off though so no chickens were being counted yet.
Once in the consultation room (or ‘holding pen’ as I like to think of it) we waited and the nerves jangled in their own unique way. Gemma got twitchy and nervous in a fairly traditional sense while I made bad jokes and suggested stealing medical supplies as is my wont. Then something happened that has happened a lot before but I’ve never thought to mention it – the doctor appeared through a special door. Us normal folk enter through a door in to a room the size of an average family bathroom but for some reason the doctor then appears through a second door. Why? What is going on back there? Is there a two-way mirror? This has now become a mission for the rest of my life. Anyway, I digress, the doctor entered and then we played this game that was a weird combination of Operation and Spot The Difference – I call it Spoteration.
I realise that I’ve been waffling at this stage and anyone genuinely interested in my health will be quite frustrated by now. So……yeah. Sorry about that. Basically, I’m doing well. The groin fruit is all gone, that’s the main difference between the two scans, so that’s a big ol’ green tick right there. Then there were those pesky little nodules in the lung and the kidneys – well the good news there is that they don’t get a circle around them in Spot The Difference. They haven’t grown, moved or changed shape which means that, on the one hand they’re not doing the metastatic melanoma dance around my body, but on the other hand we don’t really know what they are.
There were a lot of medical terms thrown around (exophytic lesion, interpolar region and lymphadenopathy being among my favourite) but the general upshot is that this is the best news we could have hoped for. I’ve been struggling for a metaphor for this situation all the way back from the hospital and the best I can come up with is when you notice a whole bunch of fat blue bottles milling around your living room unexpectedly and trace their source to the dead pigeon rotting in your chimney which you swiftly remove. Once the pigeon is gone and the flies are swatted there is still a disconcerting smell lingering and that’s what I’ve got going on inside me but at least the smell hasn’t spread to the kitchen. You follow?
So this new chapter starts off pretty positively, told you it was awesome. I’ve got to go back for an ultrasound to work out what the smelly things in my lung and kidney are which is a piece of cake. Then there will be another CT scan in October to keep an eye on any growths which will be an absolute breeze. In fact, there are only two challenges I can see in the immediate future relating to this whole cancer nonsense. Firstly, there is a strong chance that I will need to have some radiotherapy targeted on what is left of my groin to make sure that any lingering melanoma is completely wiped out even if we can’t see it – the operation is likely to be sponsored by Cillit Bang under the newly privatised Tory NHS; ‘Bang and the cancer’s gone!’ the surgeon’s will be contractually obliged to shout at the end. This doesn’t concern me too much as I don’t have a clue what’s involved and I figure it can’t hurt, right? Secondly, I need to lose weight. No surprise to literally anyone who’s ever met me after about 1999 but I’m fairly healthy inside I just need to stop carrying around a 6 stone sack of fat to give my immune system the best chance of keeping the cancer at bay. It’s this last bit that’s crucial here, there is no cure as yet for this type of cancer but there are so many more ways of keeping a watchful eye on it, stopping it from spreading and basically waiting it out until a cure comes along. It’s not the party poppers and klaxons experience I was half hoping for but it is one hell of a step forwards when there didn’t appear to be that many steps left for me a few months ago. A bit like thinking you’d completely run out of food during a hurricane and then finding a stash of tinned artichokes and pickled anchovies – not what you would have stocked up on had you been given the choice and slightly baffling but you’ll take it every day of the week.