Burt

pollygosh_ernie

Ernie

I’m really not sure about the logical thought process behind this, it is apparently more common than you might imagine. On being given a pretty scary piece of health news, I obviously took the only natural course of action and became a hypochondriac.
I would have hoped, much as I hoped for enlightenment, that Cancer might have liberated me from all other worries, especially those surrounding health. It seemed only fair, frankly. 
To put it in to perspective I was probably a 2-3 on the scale prior to Burt. I have a pretty vivid imagination but generally I worry about other peoples health (sadly a fallout of my Mother’s death) – can you be a hypochondriac by proxy?
In the days after Burt, I would be kept awake at night worrying about every single twitch or ache. I was convinced that I was riddled with cancer, hundreds of little Ernies, if you will. I felt so guilty, how could I have not known something so major was going on inside my own body? What else had I missed?
I became hyper sensitive to every sensation after that. Even after being reassured that we’d caught Burt incredibly early, I still worried it had somehow gone everywhere. This shows my ignorance about my own cancer (even when you are listening, sometimes shock hears something very different) and was probably exacerbated about my ‘knowledge’ of cancer via my Mum and Grandma. A little bit of knowledge, coupled with a hyperactive imagination, is sometimes worse than ignorance.
I’ve always been very jealous of those who seem to have heightened awareness of their own inner ecosystem. A., is one of these, when we first met it used to fascinate me how attune he was to a body clock, that I just couldn’t hear. I assumed it was down to the amount of exercise one does. As I was doing close to none at the time this made sense. I had also had a few brushes with punishing my body, withholding food and the like – I would have been pretty surprised if my body is speaking to me at all.
I am the type, who at the end of the day looks down and realises they are covered in bruises but has no recollection of walking into the wall and then falling down the stairs. I was not careful with my limbs and because of this, I usually had something that ached, so tended to ignore it. I felt sure I was paying for it now.
My Breast Care Nurse recently pointed out that I may have noticed in the run up to finding Burt that, looking back, I had probably felt “a bit run down”.
I’ve been racking my brains over this but 2013 had been a pretty crappy year – I spent quite a bit of it feeling like I’d been hit by a bus anyway. I’d fought back, gaining my mental health and starting to exercise more. I remembered to feel grateful and not to take so much for granted (ha! I realise now there was still a hell of a lot I took for granted). I honestly felt better, much better, than I had in years.
By Christmas, I was incredibly chipper. I don’t think I even got a cold. Any tiredness would have been put down to the Festive Season. I guess, if you’d been feeling ‘run down’ for 3 years and were now feeling a city mile better than you ever have before, you simply wouldn’t notice.
It was also blowing my mind that even after finding Burt – how fine I felt, better than fine really. I had gone to the medical professionals with a lump and no other symptoms. In fact, and i think this is a huge cliche of the Cancer world, it wasn’t until we started the process of ‘getting better’ that I felt anything other than my new normal self, health-wise. 
So what cured me of this dabble with Hypochondria? Having spent a few days terrified of my body and being reassured that it was just the one tumour. Dad and I had to spend an afternoon getting used to the idea, of perhaps, another Burt, an actual Ernie, this time in my sternum. 
Luckily, more tests put paid to that nightmare scenario but it was one hell of a week. MBCS had pushed on my chest and ask if it was painful. It hadn’t been, it honestly hadn’t, but in that moment it began to ache, a ripping feeling – like being stabbed over and over. It didn’t stop until I officially got given the all clear, when miraculously it went away as quickly as it had started. 
Funny how the brain works – MBCS had made it clear that he thought the chance of another tumour was minimal, but Burt had been 98% not a tumour and I’d been told he couldn’t have spread. All of a sudden, I knew, in my bones, that Ernie existed. I would have put money on the fact. My silly, susceptible, little grey cells.
So it was non-existent Ernie, a brush, with even worse news, that caused me to let go of my hypochondria ways. Well Ernie and the fact that, my entire body has been scanned in incredible detail and from every angle imaginable, I do mean every angle.
Conclusion being, I have enough on my plate – I shouldn’t go looking for more.
Side Note: I realise this might be another of my unintentionally scary posts, I don’t want to create an army of hypochondriacs.
Learn from me – act now to be more in tune with yourself, both mentally and physically. What is ‘right’ for you? Be comfortable in your own skin and don’t take good health for granted.
Check your Bits and Bobs and if in doubt don’t be too stubborn to go to the doctor -Dad drives me mad with this one. What’s 15 minutes of embarrassment in the face of a long and healthy life? Embrace being wrong about being ill – what an amazing feeling to be told you’re not sick.
 
pollygosh_livin

Better Get Livin’

It has been all quiet on the Little Blog front lately, sadly there hasn’t been another Cancer Miracle*, just a combination of events that have left me a little preoccupied.

 

A. returned home from his extended work trip. I cannot tell you how wonderful it is to have him back. It was weird at first, apart from a very precious, stolen week, prior to my lumpectomy, he’s been away through most of the drama so far. We are now learning to navigate how ‘We’ as a ‘We’ do this. We laugh a lot and we are both being patient.

 

I am staring down the Barrel of a Gun marked Chemo. I really wasn’t expecting to be. That sounds weird, what with the whole cancer thing. Everyone knows these two go hand in hand, best of friends, thick as thieves. I knew this, I knew this up until the moment it looked like I’d dodged that particular bullet.

 

You see, all the way through Little Blog, I’ve said I was lucky (except when I’m in grumpy-mode, when lucky can take a running jump), I have been, I am. I shall bore you with the check-list of what has gone my way at another point. For now, trust me, I wasn’t being all Pollyanna-positive entirely due to my plucky tenacity and can-do attitude. I was backed up by science and I never disrespect science. 

 

It came down to one test, one lousy test – all I needed was a low score, which everyone expected (given everything else), I would get. A medium score, would give wiggle room but No, I aced it – too high to argue with really. A very bitter pill, considering I was never really, what one might call an academic -all I needed to do was flunk, it just wasn’t to be.

 

I should really never forgo my motto “Hope for the best but prepare for the worst.” I got a bit cocky again, the motto was totally ‘forgun’ for a while there.

 

When Burt was removed, so was the cancer, everything that follows is to stop the cancer (Burt’s Posse) returning**. Lucky in it’s own way, very lucky considering the alternative but not easy. To carry on the Gun analogy from earlier – where chemo is concerned, I needed to pull the trigger. I needed to decide if this treatment was happening. Ok, I would be going against medical advice if I didn’t go a head but where once that would have seemed unthinkable, it was to my mind, a real possibility. 

 

 Just as I am learning that, at first, pushing a needle into you abdomen feels counter-intuitive***, saying ‘Yes’ to four and a bit months of preventative chemo, which might not actually be preventative / might not actually be necessary – depending on the way that unknown deck of cards is stacked is, well, counter-intuitive is the very least it is…

 

As MO points out, you have to be physically and psychologically ready – I have until early June and a to-do list of epic proportions.

 

As Queen Dolly Parton croons “You better get Livin’”, and I have a lotta living to do, people to see, research to do, Chemo Chic to develop, and hopefully holidays to take. 

 

I do still love writing Little Blog, I will still write Little Blog but forgive me if I go be a bit ‘everyday’. I’ve not forgotten about all the things I want to write about for future me, for friends and maybe to help someone else. I just need to live ‘in the moment’ for a while – and now I shall roll my eyes because I just finished a blog post with that…..

*The first Cancer Miracle involved managing to extract a tiny acknowledgement from a some-time adversary. I think that’s when I knew this Cancer thing was serious… 
**we can talk about those fun statistic another
***we can talk about this another time too
pollygosh_back-to-story

Back to the Story – In which I create the Black List

I would have expected, put money on it even, that when given the worst kind of news, I’d become a ‘Life is too Short” Earth Mother type.

I honesty woke up the morning after, expecting that the Meaning of Life had been whispered in my ear overnight and hoping for enlightenment. This did not happen. Not even close.

Apart from from my views on cake making more sense than no cake, red toe nails at all times and a stubborn refusal to waste calories on bad food – I’m as in the dark as ever.

In actual fact, what happened was, I created a black list and shoved a Breast Cancer Nurse to the top position. I am a rubbish human being.

Apparently enlightenment may come after I am ‘through the experience”. This Cancer thing, always dangling the carrot a bit further off (point).

Once you realised the bargaining hasn’t worked, once you’ve tried to take in the facts, had some tests, been booked for a few more tests, received your first samplings worth of pamphlets – you are deposited, some what unceremoniously, by the filing cabinets opposite the fake boob display (the bra insert ones).

The gel triangles are housed, rather whimsically, in sateen drawstring pouches. These pouches, in red, pink, white or black look like highly flammable, Ann Summers cast offs. I’m not sure if this is meant to make them more sexy but I’m putting it out there – it doesn’t work.

But I digress, Dad and I are waiting for another meeting; I don’t know what Dad was thinking but after staring at the little pouches for a while, I was just wanting to get the Hell out of Dodge.

Once we are finally ushered into the office and placed on the ‘comfy’ seats – you know you are meant to spill your guts if you’re sat on the ‘good’ seats in Hospital. The NHS seem to think that only Bad News deserve comfort, which is fair enough really. The seats remind me of Old People Homes, they are probably wipe clean, this offends my ‘delicate’ design sensibilities.

I am already on edge, I know this, the seats haven’t helped. I am in Shock. I just want to leave – to be out in the sunshine, breathing in fresh air. I do not want to be here. I want to be anywhere but here.

This is not the best way to meet a new person.

I thought nurses were all strong, capable, warm and practical – they smelt of lavender and TCP (I think I’ve been watching too many Foyle’s Wars). What I was faced with was a nervous, twitchy, bird of a human. I did wonder why MBS had been keen to stress why this was not his usual BCN.

We are waiting, it is the weirdest Mexican Stand Off I’ve ever been involved in and nobody is taking charge, this exasperates my Stage Management instincts.

As I’m being stared at beadily, head to one side, sad eyes and concerned frown, it dawns on my that this is a ‘pastoral care meeting’. That we are waiting for me to fall apart, to start howling. I feel like laughing. I seem to be asked over and over if I am OK, if I want to ask ANYTHING at all.

I want to say “Look lady, I’m cracking jokes here, I’m asking practical questions, I even stepped up and asked the ‘delicate’ questions about fertility – the ones you were stuttering over. I am aware I look stricken but I am holding it together. Stop looking at me with sad eyes, stop saying ‘this must be a shock’. I think we can all agree it probably is. Just give me another saplings worth of paperwork, laugh at my jokes and let me get the hell out.”

I felt unreasonable. During one of the horrendous silences, I gave myself a pep talk; “you are probably angry in a wider sense, this person is just doing her job, calm down and don’t take this out on her”.

I hated this women, I hated her slight frame- she didn’t look up for the job, her faltering speech patterns, the stupid faux sympathetic voice. She wasn’t picking up on any of the signs I was giving her. I didn’t want sympathy, I wanted kindly delivered, cold hard facts – dispatched promptly and succinctly, not this hesitating hell.

We all got through it, with a lot of tongue biting and jaw tensing on my part. Finally out in the fresh air and still seething, I had to ask Dad if I was over-reacting. I couldn’t get my head round, still can’t, who might find this kind of ‘kid glove handling’ useful and not just entirely unhelpful. I suppose someone must. I just found it highly irritating.

Thus the Black List was formed. It is a list I have created for anyone who tries to ‘handle’ me.

I tell people about the Black List just in case they try and be too sympathetic. If people stop seeing me and just see “a sad situation”. If people make me feel too sick. In short if you look like you might cry and don’t laugh at my funny, funny cancer jokes – I’m gonna Black List you.

There are very, very few people on the Black List. My nearest and dearest are all amazing and roll with the emotional waves that come their way. I’m at heart a people pleaser, I doubt anyone will ever know if they are on the list. It’s just a list in my head that helps me to handle all the weirdness that people throw at me, when they try to handle me. To handle this.

pollygosh_2percent

I am the 2%

White noise that’s all I hear, white noise. Someone is trying to tell me something incredibly important and all I can hear are random whizzes and bleeps. I squeeze my eyes shut hoping this will help me concentrate, now I’ve got bright white in front of my eyes too. So I guess my abiding memory of finding out I have cancer is white, I bet there are worse memories

 

Can I stress again, how difficult I’m finding this post to write? If you think, in the last few days I’ve flooded little blog with posts; I’ve woken up thinking about writing, I’ve stayed up until 3am writing. I. Need. To. Write. This post, this post I’ve been staring at for a few days now and it’s slow going.

 

Dad says he’s finding it fascinating what I choose to write about and I’m finding it fascinating how little I want to go into this particular day. So I’ve analysed this and I think the problem is Two fold (sticking with our ‘Two” theme for today):

 

One: I know when people think about cancer and diagnoses it always seems really scary; people say it’s their worst nightmare. I don’t want to write the wrong thing, to concern people un-necessarily or project how others might feel. The truth is, for me, this life-altering news became normal surprisingly quickly, it’s now just what’s going on at the moment. There’s a reason for that which I’ll explain in a moment…

 

Two: The worst bit for me about this process so far? Telling the two people I love, more than anything, the news. I don’t remember what I said or how I said it, I’m not willing to scratch at that particular surface at the moment. I know I rang A first, waking him at some ungodly hour, I had to ring him first because I thought I’d probably cry and I didn’t want to cry when I told Dad (Sorry A, I love you). After that, it’s a very welcome blur. Do you know what gave me this gratefully received amnesia and helped me accept things, at least in the short term?

 

Full. On. Shock. Having done First Aid courses, I know how dangerous shock can be and I don’t mean to be flippant but looking back, I thank my lucky stars that I went straight into a room marked ‘shock’ and I didn’t come out for at least 48 hours.

 

Shock makes me very practical, or so I like to think. I’m not sure how practical it was of me to tell MBS that’d I’d probably have to swing by the Breast Care Clinic the next day, as I’d need to O.K the time off work……

 

This is where my second boob angel comes in. The actual very first person I told, actually in the flesh, was a work colleague. I used the phrase “I have Cancer” or maybe I just said “Cancer”. I think my eyes were a little wild which helped get my point across. Either way she moved me pretty swiftly out of the open plan office. 

 

My second ‘In the flesher’ was due to shock, it was a brill actor who made the mistake of asking me how I was doing. He then stood out side with me for a little bit, while I waited for my dad. 

 

The third was the wonderful Director I was working with. She was with me when my dad ran up. She hugged us and said, “you will both be ok” and I believe that helped get us to the hospital.

 

To these three lovely people, I say a heart felt thank you, for dealing with me so kindly and so gently. I’m also really sorry that fate threw you in my way and you got the un-finessed “I’ve got cancer” monologue. I really am more adept at it now.

 

End of Part One