Jane Ballot

Being me in the world

Tuesday 23rd September

Yesterday was the fourth anniversay of Mum’s passing. It was also kind of a Red Letter day (a phrase I haven’t really heard for ages, but found as the title of a book during the clearing out of Mum’s house), because I had the lymph node biopsy.

There is a horrible familiarity about the whole hospital procedure and having anaesthetics, I found. I was talking about things like, “I hate it when…” – and had trouble remembering that the last time I had a general anaesthetic was at least 15 years ago. Amazing what the memory does!

The thing that freaked me most was the thought of having the radioactive ‘stuff’ injected into my boob. The doc says, quite casually, “They inject it under your nipple and then trace where it goes in the lymph.”

He’d kind of lost me at the ‘inject’ part. Me and needles! Every time I have to have any kind of jab, I am reminded of Dad literally running away from Mum and even hiding under a bed to escape his injection when Noel had hepatitis. I’m sure, now, that he was hamming it up (only a bit, I fear, knowing Dad and needles) for the sake of us kids – but I completely know where he was coming from and often wish I could just run away when a needle is hauled out.

The experience proved to be not too bad. Who knows, I may very well click if a Geiger counter is brought anywhere near my chest. 😉

Lying there, having to keep still, with my one arm on my stomach and the other above my head and being checked out by the scanner, I had this image of lying like that on a beach. Made me smile. (Sometimes I wonder what these docs must think if a patient suddenly gets a grin when it doesn’t seem appropriate. On the other hand, what other person would think of lying on the beach when they are being scanned to check where their cancer has maybe spread. Or not?)

I love the term ‘medical procedure’. That’s what I had yesterday. Apparently.

According to me, of course, I had an operation. A little one, but an ‘operation’ nonetheless. I mean, I went into theatre, had a general anaesthetic, was cut open and had something removed from my body (very minor cut and very small thing) – but, to me, that’s an op!

Actually, it was just another step. Just another necessary ‘thing’ to do on this road to recovery from this cancer.

It’s so interesting. There is not one person with whom I’ve interacted, or piece of literature that I’ve read, that does not use the phrase ‘step-by-step’ with regard to cancer. One day at a time, one test at a time, one conversation at a time, one week at a time. It’s a steep learning curve – especially for someone like me who literally cannot sit still for more than about 5 minutes (on a good day) and who is, perhaps, the most impatient person ever. At times.

Instant gratification. That’s my preference. Not now, though – not with cancer. Now, it’s really a huge waiting game. Wait for the mammogram, wait for the biopsy, wait for the results, wait for the doc to come back, wait for the appointment, wait for the radiologist, wait for the ultrasound – wait, wait, wait.

And, in it all, I’ve found the ability to wait. There really is nothing else to do.

Cancer is an insidious, patient disease (or condition, I’m never sure). To conquer it, one has to be just as patient – and even more determined.


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