Monday, 10 July 2017

The Sense of Waaa!

This is a cancer-related post so if you don't want to read this, feel free to leave here. I promise not to be offended. I don't think I write too often about cancer, preferring, when I can, not to be the 'cancer person', the woman defined by cancer. But sometimes, or more accurately, twice a year, the nightmares start again and however serene I may appear - ha ha! - underneath my mind is somewhere else, revving way above what is a normal level.

Twice a year, I have to head to York District Hospital for my check-up. The early summer one comes in the form of a mammogram and the autumn one is an appointment with the surgeon for a hands-on examination. It would be wonderful to say that I don't think about these appointments till the day they occur but the reality is that I start worrying about four weeks prior to the event and every little niggle becomes a symptom of the return of the disease. I thought, wrongly as it turns out, that as the years of being cancer-free started to mount up, it would become less of a trauma, that I would treat it like a routine event, not a disaster about to happen. Cancer does that to you. It messes with your head.

Part of the problem of not being able to put it behind you lies in the need to continue with the medication which is not without its side effects. And the need to check every day that one of those pesky little lumps hasn't popped up. Really, it messes with your head.

So a couple of weeks back I had gone through the anxiety of knowing that a mammogram was on the cards and surely no one who has ever had cancer is going to miss an appointment on the grounds of fear? It's not a great thing to go alone but I already established that all family members were otherwise engaged that day... nursing, acting, coaching tennis, buying power stations ... so I was to fly solo. The day before the appointment, I had the most lovely day at the Aegon Ilkley Tennis watching some very nearly top class play with my chum Mrs Broccoli and number 3 child who was working at the tournament coaching youngsters from all over the North.

As we made our way back to the car park, I mentioned that the day had been a great distraction and had taken my mind off the anxiety of what lay ahead. Mrs Broccoli asked what the next day held and then very kindly offered to be my wingman. Kindness itself.

So off we went to York, had the mammogram lickety split and the only moment of angst was walking past the waiting room where family members and I would sit, pretending to read magazines waiting for chemo - desperate to have the treatment that would make me feel so ill for two weeks that I would scarcely be able to function. Desperate not to discover my blood cells had not recovered from the battering they had received three weeks previously. Walking past the entrance just takes you back to that time unbidden.

So mammogram done, there is then the wait for the results. Up to four weeks which is a long old time when you think (because you're paranoid) that it's back. Actually it was a two week wait before the letter came and YES!, I am clear and all that bad stuff that had populated my mind for the last six weeks is consigned to the back of my brain until at least the beginning of October when it all starts again.

One final note before I end this cathartic process. At the weekend, it was Feast - the biggest most exciting thing that happens in our village all year. As a consequence, our local was packed early evening on Saturday when we trundled down to have an 'early doors' with friends. Il Presidente of the Cricket Club had noticed that a smallish group were occupying two rather than one table in front of the pub where we wanted to sit and told me that I should go and grab one as I am, according to him, much more scary post-illness. I found this surprising because I think I am more circumspect and generally quieter than my pre-illness gung-ho self. Apparently I am kidding myself. But I'm still working on it.

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