Sunday, 5 October 2014

It's not supposed to hurt...Part 1

Cancer is painful, that was a shocker.

I regularly sleep on my front and the sharp pain had woken me up. Several times. After a week of this I had a feel around, not even sure what I was looking for but there it was, the lump, just above my left breasticle heading towards my armpit. And it really hurt especially if I pressed it, "stop bloody pressing it" said the boyfriend. No, it's okay I said, that's good, they always say that cancer doesn't hurt. They lied.

The straight talking Spanish doctor at the local surgery told me she didn't think it was a cyst and wanted me in for a scan asap and still I wasn't worried, she even mentioned the word biopsy,and still I wasn't worried, if anything I felt weirdly important and busy I felt far too busy for this, I was off to France for a week and I didn't have time for a lump of any sort. And they had been wrong before, back in May they had terrified me then skirting around the actual word but putting heavy emphasis on any benign options. At that stage I'd been in with a huge lump in my abdomen and having been rushed through all sorts of blood tests and scans I spent a sunny weekend planning my funeral. It hadn't been cancer back then, despite high levels of some enzyme, it was just a fibroid, it still needed to be removed but I could put the funeral plans back in the drawer.

As I said I had a lot going on, a holiday in France and a proposal from the boyfriend to accept, I did not have time to worry too much about a scan which was bound to be fine, even if they had talked about a biopsy. However, like one of those 80's stress relief ball clicker things, I could feel the slow knock knock knock of a gentle but persistent reminder in the back of my mind telling me that this was a little bit more serious and it was painful, definitely painful even if I had stopped pressing it. It was the sort of pain that makes it presence known every so often, an unpleasant reminder of something not quite right. I decided to completely ignore it and I celebrated my engagement with wine and happiness and shellfish, and instead I allowed the tension I was really feeling to sink into the small of my back.

Back from France and back to earth, I had one afternoon of teaching to do and then the scan / biopsy / get out of hospital free card the following morning. Unfortunately one phone call and one wrong move and all the tension which had been building locked my back, I couldn't stand, I couldn't sit and I definitely couldn't teach, I was in so much pain I could barely stand. It certainly took my mind off the lump.

A biopsy is a medical procedure that involves taking a small sample of tissue so that it can be examined under a microscope.

That sounded straightforward enough, they just needed to take a closer look, rule out all the frightening possibilities and allow me to carry on. I met with the consultant first, he saw me walking towards him like an upright crab and recommended I go back to to my GP about morphine for my back, I figured then that him and I were going to get along just fine. He talked me through the biopsy and that I would need to be back in the following week for the results. It all seemed a lot of fuss about nothing to me but I nodded and pretended I was concerned.

The radiologist was far more business like, very business like in fact as if my role as the patient was only secondary to her VIP position as someone who knows. She took little notice of my hobbling in with invisible crutches, I eased myself onto the bed and struggled to stretch out on my back. Meanwhile she busied herself with important looking instruments in the darkened room and started looking around for the lump with some gel and something I imagine would feel like the smooth end of a vibrator. Whilst checking the monitor she asked the nurse to adjust the height level of the bed, when a few jolts didn't adjust it enough (although it nearly finished me off) she told the nurse to leave it till later and sighing she said "I was just trying to save my back".

Now that we were firm friends she stuck a couple of needles into me and I followed the surreal progress on the monitor. She then did another one, just to be on the safe side, of course, why stick at one needle when you can have two?

I can't remember much in the days following the biopsy, I can't remember if I was worried or not, I don't think I was particularly. I remember after the biopsy having a lovely day gingerly walking around Goodwood Revival with my Dad and the boyfriend, off my head on Diazepan and the odd glass of wine, but the rest of that week is a bit of a blur...until results day on the 17th and then everything comes back into focus.

I was due for surgery in September, for the fibroid they had found back in May, so I had an MRI booked in for that area on the 15th September. Back into the hospital and this time I was willing Dr. House or a lookalike to appear but instead a quite personable man arrived bearing more resemblance to an egg than Hugh Laurie, he took me through some locked doors and the room with the giant scanner tube thing in. I wasn't scared, probably because I didn't know what to expect, I lay on the bed and was given headphones and told that the music would start, only they forgot to turn the volume up. I closed my eyes and tried to be as still as possible, which frankly is the first time I've done as I've been told in a long time. An MRI is really loud, every time the machine takes a photo it is like being next to a road drill, without any headphones. I kept comparing it to noises while I was lying there, it was as if a train was passing two inches away, or a huge door slammed shut over and over.

When my time was up the egg man came in to the room and released me, he had a delicious looking Irish man with him this time who asked me if I was okay and then told me I had been in there for half an hour. Me, lying that still for thirty minutes seemed incredible, he did say well done but I bet he says that to all the girls.

Two more sleeps and then it's results day, not that I'm thinking about it much or counting anything or worrying at all. Nope.

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