I was being treated with kid gloves by everyone. Just in case I broke. What they didn’t know was that I already felt broken. Inside. Ruined and diseased. When my husband looked at me I wondered if he thought of the hideous growth in my eye. The cancer sitting there threatening to ruin our lives. Once when he put his arms around me I remember crying as I asked him if he thought about it every time he looked at me. He didn’t. He just saw me. A sad me. But just me.
So for the first MRI it was back to my sister to come with me as my husband went back to work. I was nil by mouth for four hours before. My scan was about midday. I had seen MRI machines before and knew that people didn’t like them as they found them claustrophobic. I was prepared for this. Deep breathing, keep calm, pretend you’re on the beach. I changed into a hospital gown and lay on the table. The machine is curved, white, smooth and looks like it’s from the future. You imagine it will silently glide over your body taking impressive measurements and images. Wrong. It’s bloody noisy and behaves as if it’s something my kids have made. I actually think if I asked the kids to make a home-made x-ray machine they would place a box over me, bang it about it a few times and make whirring noises. This is exactly what an MRI scan is like.
You have a venflon put in your arm to deliver the contrast, a blanket placed over you to keep you warm and cosy. Or pinned down and trapped. And if you are looking at the size of the hole that you are about to slide into and you’re not worried about it being snug enough, then worry not, as they come and place a curved plastic tray over you to pin your arms to your sides so that you really do feel that there is no escape. An emergency button is placed in your hand just to reassure you that this will be a pleasant experience where no one has ever lost the plot and screamed “I’ve got cancer. Get me out of here!’ Headphones are placed over your ears to try to dampen out the deafening noise and you slide into the opening. It is about 5 cms from your nose and covers your entirety. Now close your eyes and just pretend you’re lying on a beach! Yep. O.K.
The couple operating the scanner go into another room so that you are very much alone, and feeling buried alive. They then speak to you through your headphones. I was told that I would be asked to hold my breath on and off for the next 45 minutes. There would be some music played. They had chosen Magic FM’s 80’s lunchtime hour. I couldn’t move to start screaming, but as Blondies ‘Denis Denis’ started playing I managed to close my eyes and survive.
“Wasn’t that bad really,” I managed to croak to my sister as we hot-footed it back to Waterloo. Being nil by mouth all day, having contrast injected into you and knowing there was now the wait for the results, there was only one thing left to do. We headed straight to the champagne bar for a cold glass of bubbles.
The wait was now on. My operating day was approaching. Plans were being put in place for the children and ‘The Fault in our stars’ was doing the rounds. If you don’t know what this is (where have you been?!) it is a teen, pre-teen book and film about teenage first love. The difference being they both have terminal cancer. Everyone wanted to see it, including my middle daughter. “Please watch it with me mum” she pleaded, “it’s meant to be so sad.” So that evening as I was waiting to find out if my hideous disease had spread anywhere else, I sat with my daughter as she sniffled over this teen cancer film. “It’s so sad mum isn’t it?” “Yes poppet. Really sad.” “Mum? Do you think you can catch cancer?” I sat with my arms around her and kissed her sweet innocent head as I whispered, “no sweetpea, you can’t catch cancer.” And if you could I would have caught and destroyed it before it reached the tips of your toes.