THE NEW NORMAL #22: In sickness and in….

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Greetings one and all, how have you been? It’s been a while but I have been pretty busy. First there was Christmas (uneventful in the best way possible), then came the not insignificant occasion of my marriage to the most wonderful (and patient) woman I’ve ever met. Typically, there was wind, rain and a near-fatal hot tub incident but we prevailed and got married on a cliff top in the sunshine with our friends and family around us (many of them in raincoats and hats). We had a perfect day and not even lymphoedema could stop me from pulling a few shapes on the dance floor (not as many as my new wife, however, who owned that particular piece of parquet flooring).

The wedding themed title of this blog is explained, then, and cancer featured directly and indirectly in every speech on the day but the ‘in sickness and in health’ bit certainly carried a little more gravitas than it otherwise might have.

One of the post wedding treats I had in store was a trip back to Dermatology to have the black fungal mark on my toe reviewed by the Greek doctor (possibly Cypriot, apologies either way if offence caused). Much like visiting the garage or having a builder round, you get to recognise the teeth sucking concern noises made by doctors when they look at some body part and don’t like what they see – I mean, they rarely say “which cowboy did this?” but then I’ve never had a boob job….yet. In this instance, the doc was not impressed with how little 4 months of applying Caniston to my big toe had changed the black mark (i.e. not at all) so I was referred to another skin doctor to have a biopsy taken.

Now, for all the procedures I’ve been through, I felt entirely prepared (even a little casual) for the nipping of a bit of skin from my toe. The surgeon, however, had other ideas and decided that my entire big toe nail needed to be ripped off before the biopsy could be taken, but still I was as cool as a cucumber in a fridge in Alaska. That was until the nurse asked “Have you ever fainted before? It’s just that you’re very pale and you’re sweating a lot….I’m just gonna lie you down”. It turns out that feeling the needle of a local anaesthetic syringe against the bone of my big toe is my limit. I didn’t spew though, so my dignity is still intact.

After a few days of hobbling around and freaking the kids out with my nail-less toe, all that was left to do was wait. And wait. It’s a tediously stressful process waiting for medical results and it is very much linked back to that feeling when a teenage sweetheart says they’re going to call you and you spend the whole evening checking the phone – only to find out that they just got distracted by a gripping episode of Eastenders.

Luckily, to distract me from the boredom of waiting (and waiting) I managed to develop a particularly unusual dose of Iritis. Before you bother to Google it, it essentially means that the iris is inflamed because my white blood cells are mistaking it for a virus. The upshot is I have spent the last 6 days unable to read anything at lower than 360% zoomed in and driving has become a no-no (apparently my sight is a quarter of the legal level to get behind the wheel of a car). The unusual element is that Iritis normally only occurs in one eye but I’ve got it in, you’ve guessed it, both eyes – my new wife has now labelled me a ‘medical catastrophe’ which is harsh and accurate in equal measure.

The trouble is, not being able to see limits the things you can do to distract yourself from the waiting (oh the waiting) and it also makes you realise how much of your life you spend scrolling through social media or watching meaningless TV. If you want to get a feeling for what double Iritis is like then imagine you are operating a Vaseline smeared camera lens and you’re all ready to film some erotic cinema but you’ve taken a wrong turn and you find yourself on a train platform/at work/shuffling around Aldi. It’s disorientating, confusing and massively frustrating (but not once erotic). Huge respect to those living with partial or total sight loss in this world – it is not an easy place to navigate.

Anyway, as my vision returns to normal (thanks to literally putting liquid steroids into my eyes which are now permanently angry and pumped) I finally got the results of the biopsy and, to paraphrase the great Marshall Mathers, “guess who’s back? Cancer’s back”. That’s right, the black mark on my toe is not fungal but is, in fact, Melanoma. Again. This time, however, the Melanoma is what they call ‘in situ’ which essentially means it is only skin deep and hasn’t yet become invasive. A quick bit of online research has found that cancer in situ is sometimes referred to as ‘Pre-Cancer’ which gives you an idea of the relative lack of severity but it also begs the question; when the Tories finally privatise the NHS could the silver lining be some better branding around diagnoses? I’m thinking of patenting Cancer-lite, I-Believe-It’s-Not-Metastatic and a treatment called Cancer-Bang (feat. Barry Scott shouting “Bang and the cancer’s gone” whilst dressed as a surgeon).

This news is pretty fresh but I always feel that it’s better to write while the information is still new. That said, this doesn’t feel as bad as the previous phone call that started this whole blog thing. In fact, being told “you have Melanoma in situ” is probably the best sentence you could hear containing the word Melanoma other than “Hey, you don’t have Melanoma” but I’ve had a few of those after the last couple of years so I guess I’m due.

So, for now I can expect more toe chopping (I’m going to lie down from the start this time), a load more scans and maybe investing in some non-flip-flop summer wear so I don’t freak out the kids and beach dwellers. The main thing, as always, is to remember that there’s always someone worse off than you and, in my case, I have a music related acquaintance who is suffering way worse from cancer and is dealing with it in a typically upbeat and determined way – he really is Super. In the meantime, if you see me Mr Magooing it around town then point me towards a pub or a sensible sandal shop…

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