I wrote this blog in two halves. The first half was written before my scan, when anxiety levels were high. The depressing thoughts that I didn’t want to share before my results as it’s like spreading gloom. So if you want to miss the first half, do, I would and scroll to the results. The happy ending.
It started at the beginning of the Easter break, the realisation that it was April, March had gone and it was the month of the dreaded scans. I scrabbled for my phone to check for dates as I didn’t have it engraved in my mind anymore. Surely that was progress? That my thoughts are no longer full of appointments, follow ups, scans and cancer. It was three weeks away, I took a deep breath. Stay calm, I told myself, as I’m sure I’ll be fine. I’ll be one of the lucky ones, right?
That calmness lasted less than 48 hours, before the news filtered through that another Facebook friend had had worrying news. Her liver scan showed something. I felt sick, for her, for me, for the realisation that this cancer will take away 50% of us. And no one knows who it’s going to be. You end up offering useless reassurances, sending futile messages that ‘I’m sure its nothing, maybe just a touch of liver cirrhosis.’ Are you allowed to hope for that, rather than liver cancer? ‘Have a glass of wine.’ I encouraged, not sure what else to say, as I know that nothing anyone will say, will take away the mental anguish, the waking at night, panicking. We can laugh and thank each other for all the support, but when night-time comes, you are usually all alone. With your fears and thoughts.
That night I had my first sleepless night in a long time. I thought I was relatively relaxed when I nodded of, I was tired, I had had fun with the kids, I think I had even been for a run. Everything was in place for a peaceful night. So what woke me so violently from my sleep? And I say violently, because it is. It’s like waking from a nightmare, heart racing, body sweating, gasping for air. But I hadn’t had a nightmare. I couldn’t recollect what was scary. What had woken me. For those few seconds I couldn’t remember as I tried to wake my mind fully. Were we going on holiday in the morning? Had I forgotten my passport? Were the kids meant to be somewhere? Had I forgotten an important date? Then the realisation dawned on me. No it’s the fear of spread. Will the cancer have gone to my liver? Then I have to start telling myself why it couldn’t possibly go to my liver, convincing myself to believe my lies that it won’t happen to me and trying to make myself relax so that I can go back to sleep. Eventually I do. One day I cried to my husband that I wished I had never woken up in the morning. Not in a ‘I wish I’m dead’ way, but when I am sleeping, everything is good, when I wake up, I remember. And I don’t want to remember.
So April rolled on, it was mainly good scattered with the odd panic attack. The night before the scan was the worst. Questioning what they will see, how would I cope if the news wasn’t good, wondering if I’ll be one of the lucky ones. Tolerance levels are low, meetings with friends don’t happen. I know I’m crap company when my mind is elsewhere. I need to stop mid conversation when I start to panic and tell someone to shut the f**k up as I’m no longer listening, only just about breathing, but I don’t want to put my friends through that, or be rude, so avoidance is best and the intolerant, grumpy Ruth is for my patient husband.
The scan is becoming more tolerable, I request 80’s music and hold my breath to various songs from West End Girls to Heart Of Glass. Forty minutes later I leave wondering if the radiographer has seen anything. I take my bruised arm, from where the contrast was injected and some fetching red socks home as souvenirs. Socks and bruises, a constant reminder over the weekend that I’m awaiting my results. I managed to stay relatively calm over the weekend. I’m unsure how, I think it’s just the children don’t allow you the indulgence to spend time with your thoughts. Any minute I look like I’m not doing anything, I’m bullied into a swing ball competition or game of tennis. At the time I thought FFS can’t you just give me five minutes?! But in hindsight I’m glad I didn’t have those five minutes. The kids constant pestering allowed me to survive the weekend. And Sleep.
I felt calm until I stepped off at Baker Street station. Knowing my results were sitting on my jolly oncologists’ desk, I felt like a child wanting to push someone to go in front. “You go first!” But of course I have to behave like an adult and face the music. I felt sick, my husband felt confident. Confident it would all be okay, until they called my name to go up as jolly oncologist was waiting for me, that was when I saw the slight trepidation in my husbands face. The ‘what if?’ What if the results aren’t good? We smiled at each other, encouraging smiles, now both feeling sick and walked in. Normally I’m greeted with an “all clear!” before I sit down, this time there was a pause as he mumbled something about the computer taking ages to load. Was he stalling till I took a seat? Did he want me seated to deliver bad news? The tumble of thoughts that go through your mind in seconds. And then, delivered with a big smile, the words I had been waiting to hear. “Scans all clear!”
The relieve is immense and exhausting. Straight away dates are discussed for six months time. Because this will never end. I questioned him about ‘the danger zone.’ He explained there is a peak at three years, once you get to ten, you can start to relax, although, and this is where he had a little giggle “I once had someone who got to 20 years before it came back!” My shocked face didn’t mirror his amusement and also managed to wipe the smile from his face. He quickly tried to tell me that that was highly unusual and the treatments now to treat the liver are proving very exciting. He started talking about t-cells and shrinkage and 70% success and I thought, if anything ever happens to my liver, this man, who gets terribly excited about it, however hideous I find it, is the best person to take care of me. I’m in safe hands.
We wished each other a happy summer. I wished I was never seeing him again. He probably wished I had a slightly more diseased, exciting liver to be looking at. But that’s life, you don’t always get what you wish for. But for today I did. A happy ending. An All Clear Scan and a bottle of champagne in the fridge. It doesn’t get better than that.
Until next time. Cheers xx