Time moves in a strange way when you have had a cancer diagnosis. You have a BC ( before cancer) and AC (after cancer) timeline forever drawn in your life. A line in the sand, when even though everyday life might not be effected by it, your frame of reference in any situation is tinged with it. Like a tiny thread running through numerous otherwise unaffected memories and building blocks of your life.
It never leaves, just stays, hanging, purulent in the air.
It was three years ago that I first heard the words ‘we found cancer cells.’
In a ridiculously ordinary room, surrounded by jaunty information posters and bland house plants, my world changed forever.
There is a chasm between how your outward self is dealing with the information and how your insides are doing I have discovered. Even in the most outwardly heart on the sleeve people there can still be an extent left unseen and unheard of. The silent cry from the inky blue depths of your soul.
The words bounce around the room, the Doctor saying the standard thing he needs to say, filling in forms, passing the parcel along to another professional. Musical doctors, you sit down and start again, jogging your mind over and over through the same story, like the familiar thud of feet of on a treadmill.
Diagrams drawn on tiny pieces of paper, explanations of scary severity and dangerous sounding statistics. The options, the scenarios, the possibilities..the unknown.
The long, silent looks of a man used to dropping bombs into a person’s world and just waiting for the smoke and debris to clear. That learnt ability to sit and wait in silence with no sense of awkward.
The plan gets made. You listen, searching for positive words, clinging to them like a life raft, bobbing in the ever increasing sea of uncertainty. Pleading with the eyes of this, until 15 minutes ago, complete stranger, who now has your life in their hands. This is the new dynamic in your life now.
Welcome to the club. There are so many of us that have been forced into a relationship with cancer. It barges into our lives like the most unwanted guest and sits its fat arse down in our favourite chair and even if we are lucky enough to alter its pathway and send it screaming out into the street, its faint smell can still be there lingering in the fibres.
You are given forms, info sheets, referrals and tests needed. Blurring into the noise thats already screaming around your head with ‘what ifs’ A time for scans, MRI, blood tests and more hospital admissions. A new experience, feeling like a someone at the beginning of the game, just about to be initiated into the club. Roll the dice and onto the next square.
Conservative management is what I was assigned to. A decision made largely without me by a group of cancer specialists sitting in a hospital room with their lattes and a pile of medical files. A three to six month check, consisting of a variety of ingredients. Surery was deemed too much. My doctor used the word ‘overkill’ for something with the chances of having spread being so low. I was left wondering if I maybe wanted overkill when it came to the issue of survival. Playing the odds. This time it seemed they were in my favour.
The time between appointments seemed to accelerate at times. You just have enough time to settle into the security of getting through one round of testing with good results, when you are back in the chair, listening to the what ifs and could be’s and you feel back at the start line all over again. A never ending roller coaster, silently running along beside the track of the rest of your life.
Here we are almost three years later. I have had three full colonoscopies, including the vomit inducing days of forcing the ghastly heavy weight laxatives down. Two sigmoidoscopies, one hideously scary MRI where they gave me a muscle relaxant that was supposed to make the muscle around the bowel wall easier to see but in addtion made my eyesight blurry and gave me an additional blinding paranoia and fear for a least a couple of hours after. The gift that keeps on giving. Numerous blood tests, CT scans and two delightful rectal exams for which I was conscious and totally unprepared for (first time round anyway) and felt suitably awkward about, particularly as facebook, in its exceptional creepy stalker mode, helps me relive the embarrassment as a regular occurance as it suggests my colorectal surgoen as a friend. Im thinking that might be blurring the lines a little too much. no?
I am lucky, I am so fully and so devastatingly aware of how fortunate I have been. Even though cancer does cast a shadow on my life, now in the beautiful Australian sun you can barely see it and for that fact I am forever grateful.