Live another day

Been a roller-coaster week, this week. One of those weeks I wish mum was still around.

Everything happened very quickly on Monday and then into Tuesday. At about 4pm, I got a call from my doctor saying the results from the CT scan had come in, and we had to move quickly. There was some troubling commentary around my sinus blockage, with words such as ‘malignant’ and ‘erosion’ in use. Most concerning were the scans, which showed what should have been an empty cavity full of – something. On the one side of my face was a white patch, on the other – the right – a dark patch.

I asked the doctor if this was something to be concerned about? Definitely, was his swift answer. Later, he told me that the real concern was that the dark patch was cancerous cells.

Arrangements were made quickly for me to attend the Eye and Ear hospital. I was at the docs by 5pm to pick up a referral. He told me to pack a bag for my visit the next day, as he expected that they would choose to operate on me straight away. My head was spinning at this stage, but I got myself organised, visiting the chemists first, then ringing the Cheeses to see if they would mind Rigby in my absence.

I made a few calls in the evening but was quite calm. I wanted a resolution. I didn’t look forward to surgery, but I wanted the pain to end. Funnily enough, I felt worse speaking to others and hearing the obvious concern in their voice. It was not helped either when I did a google search on some of the things referred to in the analysis. Ultimately, I figured, it doesn’t pay to read too much into these things.

That night was interesting. I’m an imaginative type with a stoical temperament. I can’t help but wonder at all sorts of scenarios, which I endeavour to rationalise and ultimately accept.

Naturally, I considered the possibility of cancer and the worst consequences of that. I wondered at the nature of the surgery until I realised there was no future in that. I had a mild concern at being operated on given my issues with blood clots but figured they’d manage the risk. I wondered when I’d get out of the hospital, or even if I would! Everything was going so quickly that I couldn’t keep up. I slept poorly.

It was a wild morning. I showered and dressed and grabbed the bag I’d packed the night before. I’d intended catching a train, but it was raining, and I thought fuck it and got an Uber.

I sat quietly in the back seat, looking at the passing scenery and wondering what was about to happen. The weather was gloomy and mirrored my state of mind. It was early, and as the dawn began to creep, the clouds were moist and misty in a dirty sky, and every light shone brightly in the wet.

I was admitted as an Outpatient, and an ER doctor checked me out. He asked a few questions, examined me. Then he said something which afterwards if I’d misheard or misinterpreted. He said something about my GP having obviously foreshadowed the possibilities. He said the C-word, and it seemed that he indicated that I must be prepared for that more likely than not, that would be the case. Then he left to confer with a specialist.

I didn’t react when he said that. I don’t think I shifted a muscle for the next 10 minutes. So, that was it, I thought – because naturally, something that might be likely suddenly felt like a definite. More than anything, I felt numb. So, it’s not just other people, I thought. I’m the one. And I wondered what it meant and what would happen. I was curious about the sort of cancer and the treatment available, and from a practical sense, wondered how I would get by. It seemed imperative that I get the promised pay rise. I can call on my superannuation insurance for 75% of my wage, so the more, the better. Finally, not surprisingly, I reflected on my life. It wasn’t pretty.

Finally, he returned, and with him was an ENT specialist who exuded confidence and spoke at a million miles an hour. Just about the first thing, she said to me was that she didn’t think it was cancer. I didn’t react to that either, but something subsided in me.

They took me to another examination room where a third doctor stuck a camera up my nose. All the while, the specialist explains that she thinks it’s probably viral – a papilloma or Epstein-Barr. I’d done nothing wrong, just one of those unfortunate circumstances. Most likely, there would be polyps, but though it was possible, the odds were that they wouldn’t be cancerous.

In parallel, there was a commentary on what the camera was showing on the big screen, none of which I could see. Everything seemed to confirm her thoughts – no surprises. There was a lot of pus related to an infection. It also explains some of the electric pain I’ve been feeling through my teeth.

At the end of it, surgery was postponed, partly because my blood clotting required planning. I was given a referral to see a specialist, and the plan was that surgery would take place within a month – under a general anaesthetic, an overnight stay. After picking up a bunch of new medication, I left.

I haven’t yet come to terms with the cancer scare. By that, I mean I don’t know yet what I make of it or how it changes anything. In a funny way, it feels like a near-death experience, though as an occasional writer of fiction, I’m wary of the ironic twist.

Otherwise, I’ve felt bloody awful. After the anaesthetic wore off, I could feel every poke and prod of the camera inside my head. I felt like the inside of my skull was bruised on top of the usual headaches and a sense of being zonked out most of the time by the meds. There’s been a blurred, almost psychedelic sense of time and experience.

None of this has been helped by the wild weather. I’ve felt pretty isolated, and the whole experience on Monday and Tuesday made me feel very alone. I crave some human contact, but we’re still in lockdown.

Today, I feel a bit better. I expect the symptoms will further ease as the bruises fade, and the meds kick in. I can’t wait. You wouldn’t want to live like this.

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