The reprieve

It’s been a week today since I got the encouraging news that cancer wasn’t – probably – going to get me this time. I promised to add more, but a combination of exhaustion and packing the house up and shifting and unpacking at the other end has kept me from it.

I feel as if I should record the whole day for posterity’s sake. Last Thursday was one of the most significant days of my life. I’ll never forget it.

My sleep the night before was very scratchy. I hardly rested, and my dreams were touched with crazy. I prepared for the day,, dressing carefully and taking a deep breath before leaving the house.

Cheeseboy picked me up at 8am. We stopped for coffee on the way before driving in through the sparse traffic to the hospital. I was nervous in anticipation, but the conversation was light, talking about anything but was to come.

The appointment was for 9am. We were about 10 minutes early. We waited for over two hours to be called in, and though the delay was frustrating, I think it served to settle me down. I’d just gone up to the counter to see what was going on when my name was called.

We met with the chief of surgery. He started to take me through the cancer scans, but all I wanted was the bottom line: can I be cured of it? The cancer was measured at 4.7cm long, and there was a suspected patch in my lymph gland also. But – the good news was it was nowhere else. Can you fix it? Yes, more likely than not was the answer, surgery would remove it, and radiotherapy would make sure of it.

He went through the surgery details, which is pretty gruesome – I’d have just as happily skipped the details, but they’re very thorough by policy. Other specialists called in to discuss the procedure with me – the plastic surgeon, the head of nursing. No stone was left unturned. They took blood, then I was sent for another CT scan before heading home. It was after 2pm.

I remember giving Cheeseboy a hug when we walked out of the building. On the drive back, I made calls and sent messages. I felt pregnant with the news, almost fit to burst. There was something tremulous in me I struggled to contain: I would live! I was not going to die yet! The sense was almost overwhelming.

Back at the Cheeses, I sat at their dining table drinking coffee, trying to explain. I needed to be with people. I think it was pretty monumental for Cheeseboy too.

I got home about an hour later and immediately began to weep. There were no tears, but my body was wracked with it, and it came out in bursts of guttural emotion. It was relief, but mostly, I think, it was my body expelling from it all the negative toxins accumulated in the week before. I almost felt sick with it.

The week between discovering I had cancer and getting the prognosis was easily the most stressful week of my life. It caught me by surprise – I didn’t expect to feel that way, though it makes perfect sense. Everything seemed different to me. The fact that I may only have months or years to live tainted every thought and memory. It was like a cancer of the mind.

I held it in, pushed it down, turned away from it, ignored it – as much as I could. It would catch me, though, and when the news was positive, all the stuff crammed so deep inside me came tumbling out. I wept. I couldn’t rest, couldn’t settle. For a while, I felt lost, then I returned to the Cheeses for dinner and the wine we promised to drink.

I didn’t last. By 7pm my body was shutting down. It was like I’d taken a heavy sleeping pill. I left early. At home, I went to bed. It was about 7.40.

I lay there without sleeping for a couple of hours, but I felt immersed inside a cosy bubble. I slept through until 9am the next day. That was Friday.

I had to get an ECG as part of the pre-op requirements. I went to Brighton to get that out of the way. At home, I felt as if I’d hit the wall again. I was sure it was the emotion catching up with my body. It was a blow because I’d set myself to pack up most of the rest of the house, and in the end, I could only struggle to two boxes. I went to bed, the pain returning to me.

Surgery is Wednesday next week. I’ll update details on that sometime in the next few days.

I will survive

I will survive. That’s the news. Full-on surgery and recovery, then full-on chemo and radiotherapy, and none of it fun, but all of it better than dying.

I’m washed out. Overwhelmed. I wept when I walked in the door tonight – me! This has been the most stressful period of my life and I was finally able to let it out.

More tomorrow. Tonight I have a bottle of wine to deal with.

Atomic man

Yesterday was wretched, at least that’s how it feels to me now. I described the events at the hospital, which now seem hazy to me. The mental conjugations are familiar though, and real, and I wonder whether if I’m to get through this then the only way I can is by relinquishing control. That’s not something that comes easily to me.

It was such a miserable, rainy day – the coldest day of the year, I reckon. Walking from the station back towards home I got a call from the vendor I’ve been dealing with through work. I updated him on my situation, moreso from a professional sense, and he was full of regret and sympathy. It was not what I needed, though I put on the usual bluff performance.

I know my situation is serious. I know, in certain lights, it might seem forbidding. I know that if I lose this then I’m dead. He didn’t touch on any of this, but it was there in the subtext, and I didn’t need to be reminded of it.

At home I made a couple of calls feeling worn down. I was tired, and the chemicals they pumped into me had combined and left me feeling unwell, and with a nasty taste in my mouth. I tried to read. Eventually I fell asleep on the couch, but it wasn’t the pleasant repose after a long day. I felt so leaden with it, so helpless, that it seemed to me that I slept like a man sick.

It was dark when I roused somehow. I made a small dinner – all my appetite had gone. Eventually I went to bed and turned the light out. It was 7.15.

I went in and out of sleep for a few hours. It felt wrong that I should be in bed so early. I considered that I’d got my painkillers wrong and that was why I was so tired. And I thought that this is a forerunner of what is to come: tired and sick. It wasn’t a happy thought.

It feels now that much of yesterday was like a hallucinatory dream. I know what happened, I was there, and for long sections of it I was perfectly lucid – but now I see it as through a piece of gauze. It’s very disturbing to me.

There was one stage in my half sleep that a more pleasing image came to me. I thought: this is what I need when I’m struggling and ill. I was being held in bed, arms wrapped around me from behind, naked skin on mine, breast and body. It was affection, maybe even love, and I felt enclosed by it, and for those moments, safe. Funny, I imagined the person holding me – someone I haven’t seen for so long.

I slept just short of 12 hours. At about 4am I had to get up to take a painkiller – this time, the pain was pure cancer. I woke, as always, feeling sluggish, but I had a coffee at least. I stayed in bed until about 10. Now? I feel slow.

I must pack boxes today. With lockdown extended, the help I hoped for with the move won’t be possible. I need to get this move out of the way and out of my head. It’s something that must be done, but it feels so messy.

I forgot to tell of the conversation I had with my GP, who is a strange bod. I rang on Monday to let him know the latest and to ask for some certificates I needed. He expressed how unlucky I was to be struck by such a rare cancer when none of the indicators are present in me. I asked how it could have happened then. His explanation? That at some point I inhaled a random atomic particle. An atomic particle! Where would that have come from? From one one the atomic tests, was his answer.

I was befuddled by that, but in the spirit of the day wondered why it should give me cancer when it might easily have turned me into a superhero. Atomic Man – the man who glows in the dark!

But then last night I found an echo in me. You know sometimes how you seem to recollect a forgotten fragment that nears relevance now? I always wonder if I’m just imagining it was forgotten, and if rather it has created by my mind. Anyway, something began to resonate in me strongly. It was the image and thought of a glowing ember from a fire floating away on the hot air before being inhaled where it burnt a hole.

Was this something I dreamt before? Or saw, somehow, before? Or is it a figment created out of the GPs story and made to seem like a memory?

In either case, it’s the image that has stuck in my mind: a fiery particle that by pure mischance has ended up burning me.

In the machine

By recent standards, I was up early this morning, in order to get to the hospital on time for my first scans. I wasn’t allowed to eat, and I could only drink water. Outside it was grey and cool and scattered showers would cross the city as the day wore on. I walked to the local station and caught the train. For fully a third of the journey I had the brightly lit carriage all to myself. I felt very solemn: it was getting real, now.

It was raining in the city when I arrived. I pulled the hood of my top over my head and trudged towards the hospital. Nearing it, I looked up and thought, there are people being healed in there, and people dying.

I went to the same place as when I had my MRI. I waited for about 20 minutes before being called and led to a room. There I took off my jeans and replaced them with blue hospital trousers. I lay on the bed and a nurse fixed a needle in my arm. I was told to take it easy. About 20 minutes later another nurse came in and fixed a drip to the needle. This was a glucose solution for the PET scan. I waited another 20 minutes.

I’d been there a bit more than an hour before I was showed into the PET scan room. There was a long, impressive machine, the chute where the patient would lie, and the curved tunnel into which he would be slid and scanned.

I lay down. I crossed my arms on instruction and was belted into place. A white blanket was placed on me to keep me warm. How long will this take, I asked? 27 minutes he said.

I suppose I must have fallen asleep because it didn’t seem that long, and my memory of the experience is fractured. I remember being slid backwards and forwards and the hum of the machine. It wasn’t unpleasant, but nor was it something I’d hurry to do again.

At the end, I was led back to the room, and then to another part of the hospital for a CT scan. This was the same as before. Then I was taken back, changed back into my civvies, and headed home through the cold misery of a winters day.

I was there for about 4 hours all up. In between times I looked at my iPad or read a book. I watched things around me. I felt uncomfortable.

I think my biggest challenge will be entering into this huge medical machine where identity and agency are somewhere lost. It felt incongruous that I was there, a healthy, well-rounded man, tall and strong, with all my wits about me. I watched other patients being wheeled by on gurneys and thought I never want that to be me.

I understand in a hospitable system how you become another patient – though every staff member is kind and considerate. It’s the consideration that I’ll be reduced to the status of patient that concerns me. I fear that when the full scale of the operation is revealed to me that I will tremble knowing how little I have become.

This is my biggest challenge. I don’t like feeling helpless or useless. I don’t want to be acted upon. It’s my sense of individuality I fear for. I’ve always been bad with hospitals.

I was famished when I left and craved a coffee, though I’ve still not had one. I felt disturbed, and grabbed a packet of chips at Parliament station waiting for the train home, relieved to be back in my own garb. I’m tired and slightly nauseous from the different things they pumped into me today.

Tomorrow I have free and must hurry to pack-up. On Thursday I discover the results of the tests today.

The kindness of friends

Since the news has got out there, I’ve had many messages and phone calls out of the blue. Many are from people I hardly see anymore but catch up online 3-4 times a year, and I’m getting a lot of offers of help and support of different types. Some are far away, in Asia and Europe and the US. It’s all very gratifying and does my heart good, but it feels strange also.

I feel a kind of responsibility to these people. Luckily, I’m pretty positive, and my demeanour largely unchanged because I feel as if I’ve got to give them hope. I play along, engaging in their tentative conversational forays, trying to make it easier for them. Quite a few have suggestions for me, and I tell them all I’m open to anything.

I’m not someone who naturally seeks help. It’s an unhealthy habit, but I like to stand on my own two feet and look after myself. Perhaps that’s something that will change through this. That wouldn’t be a bad thing – I’m too proud. So, when people offer their assistance – either practical, helping me shift house, or pitching in when I have chemo; or the moral support, putting it out there they if I feel the need ever, they’re a willing shoulder to cry on – I always thank them, and tell them I’ll be in touch. I’ve even had offers of financial support.

I will need help. At this point, I don’t know exactly the type of help I’ll need or when I’ll need it, and I tell them that. I know what’s to come in general terms, but I doubt it’s something you can ever really grasp until you go through it. When I need help, I’ll ask for it.

I have one very old friend who lives in Mullumbimby committed to coming down in 4-6 weeks. He’s married, has kids, but only works casually. His wife – a lovely woman – urged him to reach out, and so he reckons he can stay a few weeks and help me out through the worst of it. I forward to seeing him – we’ve had some epic conversations over the years, and I’m infinitely touched by the gesture. I’ve seen the best of people lately.

Nothing has changed with me except now I have a firm appointment with the surgeons at 9am on Thursday. Cheeseboy will come with me. It will be an interesting experience, but I have faith in what I’ve encountered of the medical system so far, and I know that I’ll be couched in the love of my friends throughout.

At the end of it all, I expect to come out of it a stronger man again and, hopefully, a better man, too.

Clutching at straws: 1

I’ve adjusted quickly to the idea of cancer. It’s not that life feels normal, just that I’ve accepted the fact of it. There’s no real choice in the matter if you’re at all pragmatic. What are you going to do? Deny it? Can’t see how that helps much.

I’m not dwelling on it, though. I know there’s some deeply uncomfortable times ahead and some pretty gruesome details, but there’s no point in focussing on that either. It has to be done, end of story. I’ve made my mind up that I’ll do whatever needs to be done. Beyond that, now’s not the time to worry about the details.

It’s probably helped by my state of health. There’s still pain, but it’s much less and quite different from before. Had I been feeling like this from the start, I reckon I’d have gone to the doctor much later in the day.

At its worst, my whole head was in pain. The main hotspots were in my sinus, through my cheek, to the corner of my jaw, and in my gums. But there was also shifting headaches, which would move from my eye to my forehead to my ear and the back of my head. Sometimes, they were simultaneous.

For the last few days, the pain has been localised to my nose and sinus, though not always present, and to the corner of my right eye. I still take painkillers, though in smaller doses, and the pain across the board is not nearly as severe as it was.

Also, this coincides with my nasal congestion clearing. From day one of this, I felt blocked on the right side of my face. I was certain that there were large amounts of mucus trapped there, exacerbating the pain. The cancer was there – I figure – but I was only really aware of it because of the congestion, which tightened up the right side of my face. It would press upon the cancer, but also on the nerves to my teeth, and so on, causing the pain.

The congestion started clearing straight after the biopsy. Whether it was the anaesthetic, or the suctioning they did, or a combination of both, but from that moment, the mucus seems to have loosened and begun to flow again. I began to sneeze, expelling more mucus. In the end, most has been removed. I have a slightly runny nose and no blockage – and what I feel now is purely the pain from cancer.

Of course, this is a theory, but it puts a more positive spin on the situation if it’s accurate. The widespread and severe pain I was experiencing made the cancer seem more serious perhaps, and perhaps more advanced. But if it was the catalyst for more conventional sinus pain, then perhaps it isn’t as advanced as we feared.

My health has improved in general. I’m not nearly as tired or foggy, but that will be because I’ve reduced the level of painkillers in my system. Before, I’d be in bed by 9.15 most nights because I felt so run down. Then I’d sleep for 10 hours and wake up groggy. In the last few days, it’s returned to normal almost – I’m in bed by 10.30 – 11pm, and I wake up easier in the morning.

I’ve had very little appetite over the last 6-8 weeks and no interest in food. I’ve probably averaged slightly over one meal a day in that period and, unsurprisingly, have lost weight. Now my appetite is back, and food is much more enjoyable.

Then there’s sex. That’s pretty much a theoretical than practical concept for me these days, but I’ve always been quite driven in that regard, but for most of this, I’ve had zero sex drive. I felt a little embarrassed by it. But now it has returned. What’s life without sex, or even the possibility of it?

Basically, I feel pretty strong and healthy at the moment and look it, too. It’s probably illusory, but it will probably hold me in good stead in the hard times ahead. I’m a powerful man, and I’ll need every bit of that strength. I am okay.

I have an appointment on Tuesday at St Vincent’s hospital for a PET scan. It will take about two hours and is a full-body scan to find where most of the energy is being consumed in my body. The theory is, that’s where the cancer has got to.

I feel much more positive about this than a few days ago, mostly because it doesn’t feel as if anything unusual is happening in my body. There are no symptoms, no unusual pain or discomfort, no blood. But, not counting chickens yet.

Otherwise, I’ve got the move all organised, the house is about 80% packed up, and I’ve made the calls to arrange the transfer of utilities and internet and so on. The cleaning is booked, and I’ve got people to call on for help should I need it.

How they found out

For posterity’s sake, this is my Facebook post from yesterday. I’m glad to have got it out of the way:

Those who know me well know I don’t like fuss or bother. I’m old school, proud and independent. I like doing things my way and will shrug off unwanted attention. It’s not ideal, but I’m too old to change now. I have news that will shock some of you, but I ask that you moderate your reactions.

I was diagnosed with cancer yesterday. It was not unexpected but surreal nonetheless. I have a cancerous growth in my right nostril and cheek – sinonasal cancer. This is quite a rare variation, apparently, which is something to hang my hat on, I suppose.

I’m putting this out there because I want to get it out of the way early and avoid any fakery down the track. Now you know. Chances are, I’ll need all the help I can get, but please withhold your sympathy because I don’t know how to respond to it. What I need now is strength, but magic charms, incantations, miracle cures and potions are welcome.

I’m not going to gild the lily. The weeks ahead look pretty grim. There are tests next week to check if it’s travelled and where, or if it remains localised. Then, I have serious surgery – 12-14 hours – to come, after which there’s chemo and radiotherapy. It’s 14 weeks of intense treatment.

Without wanting to sound too much of a wanker, I take comfort knowing this is what I do best: fight. I’ve had hard times before and endured. I’m pig-headed and competitive. Others might say, a pain in the arse. I might get beaten, but I won’t walk away. There’s a tough road ahead, but I hope to come to the end of it and find the way forward clear.

This is not the sort of attention I like, but it is what it is.

Over to you, big fella

Things I haven’t written about I’d have loved writing about:

Euro 2020. I didn’t watch it all but followed it closely, and it was a point of constant discussion with my mates. I’m glad Italy won.

Ash Barty winning Wimbledon. This was big news and a very popular victory in Oz, and I sense, in other places, too. I didn’t watch it – I was in bed asleep – but it’s so nice to have her win.

Then there are random footy matches, the Boomers beating the USA in a trial match ahead of the Olympics (I watched that), and the NBA finals too, which I’ve watched all the way, though. Then there’s the Sydney ‘lockdown’ and the incompetence of Gladys, and ingoing shitshow, which is the federal government and the vaccine rollout – and even the lockdown we find ourselves in from today, for the fifth time, thanks to the NSW shambles.

All of that has been crowded out by my health, but it doesn’t mean my mind doesn’t touch on other things, that my curiosity and interest isn’t piqued by other events. In fact, I’ve made a vow to myself to stay engaged, no matter what the prognosis is.

I should get the prognosis next week. I’m preparing for the worst, though it doesn’t alter my attitude. I’ll fight it every inch of the way, by whatever means. It doesn’t feel right to simply accept the fate they map out for me. That’s too meek, and the struggle is an essential part of this. And I think it’s what I do best: fight.

In actual fact, I’ve been feeling better the last couple of days. I was wary of it initially: what could it mean? I wondered if it was a sign that the cancer had gone deeper into me. I considered that the recent signs weren’t so positive and that the biopsy may have livened up the cancer. That’s the danger of being an overthinker. In the end, I twigged. It was because the cold I’d been carrying for months – which seemed wrapped up in the carcinoma – had gone. Seemed strange but welcome nonetheless because it eases the pressure, and therefore the pain.

I published something to Facebook announcing my situation, and the response has been incredible, both online and off. I’ve had so many messages of support and help that it’s really quite humbling. Everyone is rallying around, to the point that some of the concerns I had now seem irrelevant.

I also spoke extensively with work, both to the senior manager and HR. I’m going to run out of money long before my treatment ends, and so we’re exploring options to take up the income protection insurance I have on my superannuation account. There’ll still be a gap, and it only pays 75%, but it’s better than nil income.

The other day, speaking to a mate, I commented on God, using the other C-word (both are in common parlance lately). He said, be careful, now’s not the time to pisss him off – though I figure he’s long been pissed off at me given all the shit he’s dumped my way.

Last night, we got to talking about Job in quite a playful way. I have a long sympathy for Job as I once wrote an essay on him when I was in love with a Jewish lady – that’s another story. I know the story well, how he’s treated like a plaything, miserably taunted by God in a running bet with the devil. He cops most of it, but in the end, he spits the dummy. Why the fuck have you done this to me he demands of God?

It’s all a test, which is a bit cruel, but ultimately he has restored to him everything that was taken.

I have a grudging respect for the Old Testament God, though he’s an unashamed prick at times. He comes off as a much kindlier figure in the sequel.

Anyway, I’m kind of hoping something similar happens to me. I’ve been tested up the wazoo – but I could do with a miracle and get back everything I lost and more.

Wait over

Yesterday, something I wrote three years ago came up in my Facebook feed. It seemed apt for the situation I find myself in, so I reposted it:

How you choose to live your life is no one’s business but your own. Let me remind you, however, that you have a limited span of years on this earth, and each time you say something you don’t believe, do something contrary to your nature or go along with something just because the crowd expects it of you dilutes your individuality.

Time is too short to waste it with things or on people indifferent to your purpose. The clock is ticking. Find what’s precious to you and cherish it; say what you believe and act as one with it without shame; and, above all, be true to yourself and follow where it leads you

I don’t know what moved me to write about it at the time, though God knows there’s so much fakery in the world today that I don’t have to look far. Now, of course, it means something different for me – poignant and slightly bitter.

Those who read my revised post yesterday will know that the news was bad. I have cancer. To be precise, sinonasal cancer.

I was called into the doctors’ office, and without too much of a preamble, he told me that, unfortunately, he had some bad news for me. He then went on to tell me the details before explaining what was to come next. I asked a few questions and then walked away.

I wasn’t surprised, though it was shocking. I remained still, my voice even. I felt numb. I was conscious of wanting to hold it together and wished there was someone else there with me – the doctor said he’d have recommended I bring someone with me had he known the results.

I caught the train home, responding to the people who’d been asking for updates throughout the day. It all felt very strange.

I got home and fed Rigby, and gave him a hug. I made a couple of calls and received a few. So much to take in. So much to do.

I ended up at the Cheeses for dinner. They offered all their support, as I expected they would. There will be a tough time ahead, not just with this – I have to fucking move house somehow. They made me accept their help, which I did, as I know I can’t survive this by myself. They’re putting together a WhatsApp support group to help with the move ahead and the treatment after. Everyone I’ve spoken to has offered to chip in their help, and it’s quite humbling.

So, the story is I have this reasonably unusual variation of cancer. Tests confirmed it was growing there behind my nose and cheek. My treatment will be shifted from the E+E to St Vincent’s, and I expect a call from them today with all the arrangements made.

The first thing to happen will be a range of scans and tests to get more detail on the cancer and, most importantly, to check how far it might have travelled and where. The results of this will have a huge bearing on my prognosis. I think, in general terms, that if it’s gone below my shoulders, it’s curtains for me. Above that, it can be managed still, though tricky and with no guarantees.

Next, I meet with surgeons next Thursday to review the results and map out the treatment plan. That will be a scary meeting.

In the week or so after that, I’ll be admitted into the hospital for surgery. This is full-on surgery, not the little up my nose piece of work I was expecting previously. Believe it or not, that will take between 12-14 hours. They’ll open up my cheek, remove the cancerous bits (hopefully) and reconstruct the damaged bits.

I’ll be in hospital for up to a fortnight after that. Then there’s chemo and radiotherapy. That will be pretty tough. The doctor warned there’ll be times I’ll want to quit it, but it’s important that I continue.

All up, about 14 weeks of pretty intense treatment, at the end of which we hope the cancer.

It doesn’t sound easy, and I expect it won’t be as easy as it sounds. It’s daunting, but I can’t wait to get started.

Funnily enough, some of my immediate concerns are practical and logistical. I’m told next week will be a whirlwind. I’m worried about shifting house and if I’ll be around for it, though I have many offers of help.

I worry about how I’m going to cope financially. I don’t have 14 weeks of leave up my sleeve, though he encouraged me to work as much as I can through this for my mental health. In reality, I don’t think that’ll be much. I have rent to pay and right now how I’ll manage to pay it.

Experience with my mum and my stepfather tells me that I’ll be pretty debilitated when I’m getting chemo and radiotherapy. Back then, I would take mum to and from the hospital. I don’t have that person, but I’ve asked if I can get that support from my friends. I won’t be able to drive, and I don’t want to take public transport. I guess we’ll work it out.

Of course, the greatest concern is survival. There’s a strong chance that it’s gone too far already.

I don’t know if I’d know, but I don’t think it’s in my lungs, and the doctor checked my lymph nodes yesterday, and there was nothing to find. I’ve not lost weight, not had fever or chills or sweats. In fact, it’s surprising to think I have cancer because, other than my head, I feel pretty chipper. But I’ve felt a little tingle in the back of my throat the last couple of weeks…

Despite all I’ve written in the last week, I think I knew this was coming. I never told you because I didn’t want to admit it, but I think Rigby picked it up.

Some dogs smell out cancer. I remember when mum had it that Rigby would sniff at her. In the last few weeks, there’ve been several occasions when Rigby will just stare at me and then start barking as if to warn me. It was unsettling.

There it is, much as I can remember at the moment. I’ll be making a broader announcement to my friends’ group through Facebook later today, just to get it out of the way. I have a chat sometime today with management at work also. I’m a little dazed but strong. Someone has to get it. This time it’s me.

Very soon

I’m writing this sitting in the hospital waiting room, waiting to be called in and advised of the biopsy results and, in the best-case scenario, have the surgery I need firmly scheduled. I’ve been waiting about 80 minutes.

I’m quite used to it by now. This is my third visit and the shortest wait has been 90 minutes. It’s a cosmopolitan, motley waiting room. Most are working class I would guess. There are people of all ethnicities and others seemingly from the fringes – a man with his jumper inside out, an angry person, and others you look twice at. Some are old hands it seems, quietly reading a paperback as they wait, but others fidget it play with their phone. The only person talking is a man calling up his address book to tell them of his dodgy oil pump. I know the story so well by now that I could tell it myself.

Me, I sit quietly.

I was slow to wake up again this morning. When I got going finally I was to the railway station early, planning to catch up with colleagues for lunch before my appointment.

It’s a cool day. It rained overnight. A plump pigeon in mottled brown and white pecked at the ground, hobbling from what looked like a club-foot (club-claw?).

I listened to an audiobook as the train slid through the suburbs. I’ve been listening to audiobooks last thing before I sleep and often when I wake. It’s easier than to read the old fashioned way, which I would normally.

Last week I finished listening to an Alistair McLean classic When Eight Bells Toll – perfect listening for the borderline infirm. The book I’m listening to now is very different – A.S Byatt’s Possession.

This is a much more intricate piece of writing, much distant from MacLean’s bombastic and unlikely adventures. It seemed perfect, however, as I journeyed in. It’s lovely, sensitive writing that inspires reflection, which is very much in sync with my mood.

I caught up for lunch at a Uighur restaurant where I was bright and to the point. My colleagues know of my situation, but the last thing I wanted was to appear frail and vulnerable.

And now they call my name – only to tell me the results are delayed. The analysis has been completed, but not yet validated or written down. Did I mind waiting a little longer? It won’t be long…

So I wait again. I’ve nowhere else to be.

PS Voiceover: and then he found out he had cancer.