Exactly one year ago, a well-spoken doctor snapped rubber gloves, handed me a tissue and explained how she’d been without power since early morning. It’s a nightmare making porridge when you’ve only a camping stove and a billycan, apparently. She also said I had cancer. Determined to give this bombshell time to process, I focussed my attention on her domestic woes.
Thirty minutes later, a nurse weighed and measured me and asked if I was free on Wednesday. For surgery. I felt relief.
Ten days earlier, I went to see my GP. Or rather a locum. From Spain. A guy I’ve never seen again.
He put me on a ‘two-week fast track’.
‘Does that mean I have cancer?’ I said.
‘You have symptoms.’
‘It could be many things.’
Doctors talk like politicians when it comes to straight answers.
When the rubber glove porridge lady admitted I had an actual disease, she handed me a way to cope. I no longer had ‘symptoms’. Rather than fall apart, I snapped into coping mode. My brain needed to understand everything. I filed away complex information and memorised dates. I left the worry and the fear to my partner. He let me be selfish.
One year later
In the year since surgery, chemotherapy, recovery and surveillance, I’ve had good and bad weeks. Sometimes, I focus only on survival. But there are darker days mired in ‘why me’.
I’ve spoken to others with lives rebooted by this horrible disease and their story is the same. ‘You’ve got cancer’ isn’t the end-it-all bombshell. The words signal that your life without cancer is over. Now is the time to get well. You don’t battle or fight. You take medicine and wait. There’s a lot of waiting.
Moving on is a process of learning to say no, of putting yourself first. And that’s hard because everybody wants to help. Rarely do we face cancer truly alone.
If you have doubts or fears, see a doctor now. If you’re not checking yourself over, start today.
The sooner you know, the sooner it’s over.The sooner you get on with life.