When life is going smoothly, when I’m rolling with the punches, taking the rough with the smooth and going with the flow, I may just be guilty of a little bit of ostrich behaviour, head firmly in sand and sweeping all the shit stuff under the carpet. I conveniently forget that my brain has a remarkable ability to fuck me over in a heartbeat. To take me from happy-go-lucky to panic-stricken nervous wreck in the space of one short conversation, an article online or the slightest ache or pain, even a TV program or particularly toxic thought process created solely by yours truly, I really do have the ability to wreak havoc on my own mental health, and with no assistance required!!
I can give you a little example or two; I am a tad embarrassed to be sharing these but hey ho…. The Hubby and I took a rare trip to the cinema a couple of years ago with a few good friends to see “Marley”, a Bob Marley documentary we’d been waiting expectantly for. I was feeling good at the time, working hard doing two jobs and my own small business stuff from home, generally enjoying life again after my first round of cancer treatment. We settled down to watch the film, I had my obligatory cinema trip ice cream tub, a comfy seat and was ready to immerse myself in some Bob vibes.
Those of you who know the Bob Marley story will be aware that he was taken from this world to soon by cancer, a rare type of skin cancer that started in his toe. It was discovered after a footballing injury, a break that wouldn’t heal, it spread and after many grueling treatments and trips to specialist clinics in Germany, Bob passed away in 1981. The film documented Bob’s life from poor beginnings to tragic end but mostly focused on the positive rags to riches story, the music and unconventional lifestyle of a legend. As the last part of the film focused more on the illness I became conscious of a sore toe on my left foot. I’d been aware that my work boots had been causing some discomfort for a while. My two jobs both required that I stand up during my shifts and I’d simply put it down to crap shoes and excess standing up… but now I was thinking about it, maybe the cancer had returned in my toe just like Bob’s? …This is it I thought, could they amputate the toe or would the whole foot have to go, leg even???… Would that be enough? Had I found it soon enough?.. Was it the beginning of the end?
I sat in that cinema for the last 20 mins of the film paralyzed with fear, waves of heat and then icy chills raced up and down my body and I could feel that my eyes were wide and my fists were clenched so hard that my nails were digging into my palms…. The titles rolled and the lights came up, I did what I normally do in these situations and hid my anxiety to the best of my abilities, politely turning down the suggestion of getting a drink somewhere and making a rapid beeline for the car park dragging a bemused Hubby with me. On this occasion, although many restless nights and fearful days followed, I managed to refrain from calling my breast care nurse and begging for reassurance, or my oncologist demanding an immediate toe scan… I look back now and laugh, but at the time the fear was very real and in danger of swallowing me up as I sat in that seat in the dark cinema.
Another event that I tack on to the “Crazy Cancer Scares” category along with “Cancer Toe” is “Cancer Finger”… I, like a lot of other old people who used a pen at school have a slightly misshapen index finger on my right hand (left if your a leftie). I press too hard when I write and have over the years have developed a small boney ridge….
It’s been there as long as I can remember; I’ve always known what it was and it had absolutely never worried me, until the day of my first MRI scan. Now for those fortunate never to have undergone a breast MRI scan … here it is.
The most undignified scan I’ve been through so far, especially when your doing that, can’t catch a breath hysterical crying thing, and don’t know what the fucks going on. I have to admit when the radiographer explained it to me I laughed through my tears, I couldn’t believe that after being told I had cancer they would make me do such a cruel thing.
Eventually I stopped blubbing and got over myself, I moved into the required undignified position and the machine whirred into action, as I was moving through the tunnel it occurred to me that I also had that very suspicious looking lump on my finger that was most probably cancer too, best try to get it scanned while I’m here eh?… I tried desperately to maneuver my finger into the line of fire, as you can see by looking at the image above, this was an impossible feat so I then spent the entire 30 mins freaking out about my finger as they pumped Stay by Shakespears Sister through the headphones in an ill fated attempt to sooth the process.
I’m pretty sure these happenings will be a permanent fixture in my life from now on, and I know in my more rational moments that some of my “Crazy Cancer Scares” need addressing, even if it is hopefully just to put my mind at rest. Fortunately I have some very understanding medical professionals in my corner, an incredibly tolerant hubby and family and friends who are all aware that most of the time they are dealing with what is essentially a frightened little girl… albeit a 41 year old one with a mortgage and a taste for prosecco.