It’s the time of year when I normally get very introspective (yes, more so than usual) and productive with my writing, and these two things mean I write something about what I’ve done this year and what I want to achieve next year. But having had cancer not so long ago makes that tricky – and the expectations I have for myself that it shouldn’t be tricky, make it trickier. Are you with me?
When I had my routine CT scan in August (ish) it didn’t come back clear, so my consultant sent me for a PET scan. That didn’t quite come back clear, either – it showed a 7mm lymph node growth, so my consultant said I should have an MRI and an ultrasound guided needle biopsy to take a closer look at it. I had the MRI in September and yesterday I almost had the needle biopsy.
It’s Wear It Pink day today – a day when people wear pink to raise awareness for breast cancer and the charity Breast Cancer Now. The idea is to wear pink for the day, donate to the charity, and put on or take part in some sort of sponsored event to raise money – like a bake sale or a run and so on. But I do wonder how many people throw on a pink t-shirt and think “okay I’ve done my bit, I’m raising awareness now”. I know lots of people like this stuff and I might be on my own here, but I’m not too keen on participating in these sorts of things – which is why you won’t see me wearing pink today or going to a charity coffee morning in September. There are a lot of emotional aftereffects of cancer, even for years after remission, and if something is going to throw the disease in my face I want it to be really worthwhile. Charities do a lot of good and when lots of people donate money due to the attention the charity receives on days like this, it can really make a difference and my emotional issues and avoidance tactics aside, I think the work charities do and the attention they receive is great and very important.
All the leaves are changing and nothing is changing and maybe everything is changing. My mother sings California Dreaming while she stands smoking at the kitchen window, just the first two lines, nothing more, she doesn’t know the rest – sometimes softly to herself, sometimes with vigour, with an excitement about the sky being grey, whether or not it really is. Sometimes I look in the mirror or catch my own mannerisms, think about my ways, and realise I am becoming her a little and I love it. I talk like my dad. I tell people to pack it in and stop mithering and find myself repeating sayings I assume are a bit northern and explaining it away with as my dad would say. My family is the best family to ever exist and we don’t need to be perfect because nobody is – I can only emulate the best people I know, and they are the best people I could emulate because they never left. Others left and said they had come back but they haven’t, not really.
I had my gastroscopy on Friday and it was the best endoscopy experience I’ve had so far – not least because the only thing I remember (thank you, sedation) is my doctor straight after the procedure saying “nothing serious”. As a result, I’ve had an extremely relaxed weekend.
Happy bank holiday! For me, this long weekend is appearing between scans and checkups, as snatches of joy often do. I had my PET scan on Wednesday, which was a breeze – it’s always easier when you’ve done something before. I had a nap during the scan last time, and this time was no different, except this time my leg didnt jerk in my sleep and wake me up panicking that I had unintentionally moved. The results should come back in a week or two. Next Friday is my gastroscopy, at a completely different hospital, so Peter and I are continuing our tour of the local medical establishments.
Anyway, I wanted to share a poem today, because I haven’t posted one for a while and I haven’t submitted much to lit mags or had anything published for a while, either. Here’s something I wrote on the way home from a friend’s house last week, and the photo that follows is my terrible attempt at taking a photo of the moon that same night.
The moon behind the church
I want to live where I can see the moon. I want to be with people who can see and nod and agree with my assertions about the beauty of the moon. When the traffic slows, I like to think it’s because every driver is trying to get a really good look at the moon. I want us all to turn off our own moons – headlights – and slow to see the moon behind the church.
I pull over to take a picture. Get my good side, it says, keeping its cheek turned. I comply, the photo doesn’t turn out quite right – I don’t have the tools – but I am happy to sit, forget the day the sun had burned, and let my head cool as I admire the moon behind the church.
I’m so pleased that my creative non-fiction (well, sort of fictional dramatic narrative of non-fiction?) “Lucky” has been published by Bonnie’s Crew! I wrote this short piece this time last year around the time of my second and third cancer diagnoses. Read “Lucky” online here.
A bit of a life update this morning. I went to bed on Thursday night feeling fine and woke up the next morning feeling anxious without really knowing why and it sort of stuck with me all day. I think it’s partly because I was worried about my teeth. Every couple of years my wisdom tooth has a bit of a move about and the gum gets infected so I go to the dentist and he gives me antibiotics and says if it keeps causing a problem it will need to be taken out under general anaesthetic. So this happened again the other day so I got antibiotics but the dentist also said that because I’m on alendronic acid (to prevent osteoporosis because I can’t go on HRT for the menopause because of the cancer risk), he wouldn’t want to take any of my teeth out because AA might make it take a long time to heal up. So that was me jumping to worst case scenario of having my wisdom tooth out and suffering with it. Typical of it to flare up as soon as I go on AA. But I looked online (not always recommended, really) and found some people saying they had teeth out while on AA and it was all fine. So I feel better about it now.
I had a dream last night that my CT scan results came back (I had the scan three weeks ago) and by some miracle I was pregnant. We were worried about losing the baby because of my surgery but we were excited. In my dream I got some counselling at my gynae checkup too, asking what was on my mind and stuff. That was before someone rushed in with the scan results (which I thought showed the cancer was back because of how she ran in with them). And before that, I had a dream I was playing with someone else’s baby. He was very smiley and didn’t cry and I think I might have been his favourite out of everyone in the room. My grandad was there too, as he sometimes randomly appears in my dreams despite no longer being with us, and he said “you’ll be wanting one of those of your own soon”. Nobody bothered to correct him.
Feelings around being childless and having a hysterectomy are quite complicated. I think I’d like something good to happen to me medically. I’d like me and my partner to go to my parents’ house to tell them something big that isn’t how I have cancer again, but something good. I would like to feel like other people. I would like to feel like I’m having a normal, big experience. I’d like to be counted as a mother in the general population. I’d like to be pregnant and excited and understand and enjoy the experience. I’d like to have a tiny human to look after. I feel so alienated from people around me who haven’t had cancer – I don’t have any “cancer friends”. Having a baby is among the things I want that I thought I would have in my life but haven’t yet. I want a baby, I want to get married, I want to own a house. I just want to be a normal grown up.
I got a lot done yesterday. I booked our flights to Florida for next year, and I got Keane tickets for me and my mum. I tried to get them during the presale on Wednesday but they sold out within two minutes, so I’m glad I managed to get them yesterday.
And the big news I haven’t mentioned is that I got accepted to study for my PhD at Teesside University! I’ll be doing it at a distance, researching the role of poetry in psycho-oncology. I want to find out how writing poetry can help cancer survivors in remission to work through fear of recurrence, health anxiety and other related feelings.
So, good things are happening even if they aren’t the big things I’m still waiting for or might never have. When life doesn’t give you any luck, you have to create it for yourself. And most of it isn’t luck, it’s work. Good thing I like making things happen for myself.
I went for a tiny run today and the biggest effect it had was that it made me want to write. Which is better than the shower I had afterwards, at which point I took a photo of my belly, which just made me want to cry. It looks pretty bad – all scarred and lumpy and disfigured. Don’t care about the scars so much but my waist only goes in on one side now – what’s up with that? At first it was funny to feel a sort of gap where my organs used to be but now that I have actually seen how straight my other side is in comparison, I’m a bit freaked out. Have things actually moved further towards that side in the past couple of months? It’s weird and I don’t like it.
I have been feeling a bit sad today, just one of those low days really. I’ve been feeling a little more like that more often recently, while finding it difficult to explain. One explanation went something like:
“I was just looking at my drain sites and remembering that I used to have drains in, and it made me sad.”
I mean, doesn’t that sound a bit silly? I am sad because I am remembering something. I am sad for no reason other than I am thinking about something that happened in the past, and that isn’t happening anymore. I think it felt silly to me because it seems pointless to go over things in my head for no reason, and because in the context of what has happened, some of the things that have happened seem trivial. I suppose it is the idea that now that cancer is gone I should be happy. But of course I know it doesn’t work like that. I know that.