No choice in it

I had my long-awaited appointment with the specialist on Wednesday. This was supposed to be the day I would be examined and a date booked for surgery, by preference sooner rather than later. It was the date that a crack of light at the end of the tunnel would become discernible, and I could think about returning to some semblance of real life.

Perhaps my rhetoric is a little overdone? Was it ever that grim? Well, yes, occasionally it was; and yes, I’ve felt separate from myself, and the usual thread of life, for the last couple of months. But still. If you’re H, you go on with things. That’s the hard-bitten stoic in me. You shoulder the load and carry on. And it was only pain, after all, and one day, soon enough, it would be gone. That was the thinking. Make it this far, get it fixed, then return to life. In six months, a year, it would seem a trivial memory.

The stoic does battle with the cynic in me. The cynic believes it’ll never be as simple as that. Don’t get your hopes up, buster! That’s not how life works! And, cometh the hour, it was no surprise that the cynic proved right.

I was hanging out for the specialist. I’ve felt totally out of sync since the pain developed. I rocked up at the appointed time to the Eye and Ear hospital on the Park – which used to be the Peter MacCallum hospital.

The last time I was there, it was still the Peter Mac, and I was there with my mum and stepfather waiting on the results. Finally, it was confirmed – he had pancreatic cancer. He’d die from it within months, but afterwards, we went to an Italian restaurant on Wellington Parade.

The time before, I’d actually worked there as a consulting accountant trying to untangle their messy salary packaging accounts, which were up the wazoo. I worked there for about 3 months, in which time I managed to earn the mysterious enmity of the manager there.

This time I was there as a patient. I sat and waited for about 90 minutes before being called in. Over the next hour, I was called in a couple more times. There was nothing unexpected. They checked my medical history, scans, asked me questions and stuck a camera up my nose.

The outcome of all that was that they discovered another lump or growth – I can’t recall which term they used – ‘behind my cheek’. They didn’t use the word mystery, but it was clearly something unexpected. That’s generally bad news. They didn’t know what it was, and so before going off to book any surgery, I need to get an MRI to check it out. An ‘urgent’ MRI – they definitely said that.

They told me that whatever it is, it’s been developing for a lot longer than just the last few months – that’s not good either, I think. They called up a specialist a couple of years to get her feedback, but that didn’t help much – I remember thinking she was pretty useless too, $400 later.

I’m booked in to return next Wednesday afternoon. By then, I will have had my MRI and tracked down some old CT scans they requested (done). It’s surprising to realise I first complained of something like this back in 2017. It’s hard not to think a doctor or two has dropped the ball on this along the way.

Obviously, this brings back into play the big C. The cynic in me expected that, as did the writer. There’s always a twist. I’m concerned, obviously, but I got the fright out of me a few weeks back. There’s nothing I can do about it now but deal with whatever comes my way. I’m certainly not resigned to it, but I’m a lot more philosophical about it now than I was before.

What are the chances? Everyone wants to know that. No one has told me – so I’ll pluck a number out of the air – 30% chance of cancer. It could be more; it could be less. I’ve based that on several factors. Firstly, when I was first examined, they told me there was about a 10% chance of cancer. The mysterious lump increases that a bit, though it’s probably more likely to be mucus or pus than it is to be a malign tumour. The fact that it’s been going on for a while takes it up a few points, and finally, I’m judging it on the doctor’s behaviour. They didn’t say much, but the vibe was urgent.

Even if it is cancer, I’m hoping they can still operate to ease the pain and discomfort, just so that I can fight it off better. But, chances are, it’s not the big C. In that case, surgery will be definitely scheduled, but I’m told that I’ll require up to two weeks convalescence after it.

I’ve taken the next few days off work. I want to take it easy. I don’t think pushing myself to work was helping me much, and I felt pretty ineffective anyway. I felt kinda guilty, too, as if I was cheating on my salary. I’ve got a lot clearer conscience taking sick leave, and I feel better in myself.

Complicating all this is that I have to move within the next 7 weeks. That means I have to find a place, pack and shift and move in again. All while I’m a bit crook and having to work around the constraints of surgery and recuperation. I won’t say it’s the most unsettled I’ve ever felt – from every perspective – but it’s close.

I’ve already checked out one place and packed up maybe 40% of the house. I might have to move quickly when it happens, but it would be easier knowing what my new salary will be.

This is it. Whatever the prognosis, it’s all food for thought. Assuming the best, I wonder how I’ll come out of this in my mind. It’s strange and challenging. What do I think will happen? Well, I’m an optimist. When I’m feeling awful, it’s hard not to fear the worst. But, the rest of the time, I’m confident. I just have to work through things one by one and deal with whatever comes my way.

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