Jane Ballot

Being me in the world

Wednesday 18th March

I think that, when you’ve had an experience, it can touch everything that happens to you from then on. Or it won’t – it depends on the experience. When you’ve had any kind of brush with mortality, it will definitely affect how you see things and how you react in different situations.

Having had cancer is a strange duality. In many ways, it is a brush with mortality, because, no matter what I have learnt about the range of cancers and the efficacy of the treatments, there is no doubt that, somewhere in our brains, we are wired to think: ‘cancer-death’. So this cancer thing taints how I see a lot of things now. It also affects the way I think about things.

Then, of course, there is the fact that cancer is a silent, lurking, insidious thing that does not have the courtesy to announce its presence until it has really taken a hold. Having experienced this, that, too, affects the way I see things.

I think part of the ‘legacy’ of the cancer thing is that I will always have a sense, somewhere, of ‘what if this happens again’?

This, I think, is inevitable.

I went to see the Gastrointerologist yesterday for no reason other than it is something I had to do. I have IBS and a sensitive constitution – which has been more sensitive for the last 12 days – possibly as an effect of the medication, or, possibly, just because I may have picked up a (very tenacious) bug. Somewhere in the back of my brain, though, there was also a thought about something lurking in my bowel.

The doc suggested that I have a gastroscopy and colonoscopy, because my last one was 9 years ago and because of my age. I should, in fact, have one every 5 years, particularly as Dad had bowel cancer that was discovered very early.

So, there it is, I am due to be poked and prodded (at least, scoped) again – this time kind of at my own choice. It’s all routine and just one of those things that should be done, but I know it will make me feel better to know that I have had more of my insides checked.

I like to understand the spectrum of possible outcomes for something. In this case, at one end is that there is nothing in my intestinal tract and I just have the lurking IBS, which affects me minimally. At the other end, of course, is that there is something that shouldn’t be there and which needs treatment. If that is the case, I will deal with it. After all, as I tell my kids often, I can only know what to do if I know what is going on.

I don’t really believe that I may have anything wrong in my bowel, but I do know that I need to know.

I think that is what having had cancer will do for one: make you a little bit more aware and, perhaps, hyper-conscious of the options.

I don’t live in fear. I always tell my kids that it is mostly better to err on the side of caution, though. I am simply taking my own advice. And doing what I should be doing anyway, at my advanced age!

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