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.

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