Monday night – read a press pack sent to me by Ovarian Cancer Action. I have offered to write a piece for them and be one of their “voices.” They also send me a DVD for making a power-point presentation.
Unfortunately it was full of lethal statistics telling me that my chances of surviving this cancer about 38 per cent at best. Everyone is lumped into that statistic. Go to bed trembling and sleep badly.
I assume this information is for women who don’t yet have the cancer, but might get it and need to check for symptoms – but it’s not good for people like me where it has already struck. I would probably run screaming out of my own power-point.
“Bit of a wait,” she whispers, beaming.
On my way in I see Nurse Eileen chatting to an elderly man. I really like her, she is so efficient but kind and seems genuinely interested in her patients – or are they called clients these days?
We have a chat and she tells me she spends some of her holidays working at
I have been there twice, to write scandalous stories about the place for the Daily Mail. I don’t tell her that.
It has crossed my mind that I might make a genuine pilgrimage myself when all this is over – there are some spectacular ones about, as well as the more demure sites in the
In the clinic I have to join the people standing, including some very ancient looking men, brought up in the long gone age when gentlemen stood up for ladies to sit down.
In my role of nuisance I ask a nurse if we could perhaps have a few more chairs. She says yes, but none appear. Just beyond us is the vast waiting room, full of high backed chairs, at least half empty.
The Malaysian/Spanish phlebotomist has gone, replaced by no less than two English lads, not something you often see. Things move faster.
One lady tells me she is glad the sniggering man has gone as he once brushed his hand against her nipple. One of those things women sometimes experience but can’t report, because they just can’t be sure enough that it wasn’t innocent.
Some of my former colleagues from the nearby prison arrive to see me, but are not sent through so the meeting doesn’t happen. Probably just as well as there would have been nowhere for them to stand. Never mind – at least I get to see a doctor unexpectedly early, pulled out of the queue to see her.
She is a spry Scots lass, very amiable and I feel reassured talking to her. I read in the Ovarian Cancer action about something in the blood tests called CA125, which reads your level of cancer. The normal rate is between 1 and 35. Because I ask, she goes off to find it and tells me mine is now 15. Before my op it was 76. Feel elated! Everything smoothes out suddenly, long to get on the mobile and tell my mother the good news.
The doctor writes down some things I need for my next cycle of treatment; mouth-wash to treat ulcers and a laxative. Bowels are very important, I suppose they always were but until recently I never gave them a moment of thought except briefly when packing to go anywhere outside
The drugs given in the first few days after chemo, against sickness and allergic reaction turn your shit to grit which then softens into something like old rabbit pellets.
A young man in the clinic tells me that some sensitive soul among the doctors has told him his cancer is “a tiger not a kitten.” Remember Proff Gabra’s remark to me, "a Rotweiller not a poodle." Well is a ferocious dog better than a tiger? Do they consciously control their metaphors according to the level of danger? After all, tigers will certainly kill you, while any kind of dog can be subdued and put on a lead.
When I first went to work at the Mail on Sunday they gave me an awful story to do. I had to go off to the north
Also spoke to a lady whose breast cancer has returned, after a brilliant CA125 reading. Hearing this was as bad as reading Ovarian Cancer Action, or statistics on line. The flashing dorsal fin glides into view again, distant but gaining over the surface of this deep hungry ocean where I float so helplessly.
I have this scenario where my cancer comes rushing back and after a bit of thrashing about, that is the end. And another next to it where I hear people say, “Oh, she had cancer five years ago, but she is still with us and going strong.” Jubilation, chinking of glasses.
Which ever it is, everything has changed and I can never swim back to where I was.