Ding, ding – end of round one

I’ve been meaning to write an update of how I’m getting along before this, but I genuinely haven’t had time; having cancer is a full time job, and as I also have one of those too, it’s been pretty hectic.  A lot of people have asked me about the process of chemotherapy, so here it is…a less LOLtastic, more factual post today.  As ever, I can only speak for the kind of chemo I’m having – they vary from cancer to cancer and are all very different.

I have now completed the first of four cycles of ABVD chemotherapy – confusingly, each cycle has two treatments, so even though I’m booked in for four cycles, it’s eight sessions every other week, altogether.  My friend Emily pointed out that I’m a quarter of the way through, which is how I prefer to think of it!

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Session one was incredibly stressful – I arrived with my mum and my boyfriend, full of anxiety and worry, and when the nurse asked me how I was feeling, I burst into uncontrollable tears, which was MORTIFYING.  It’s testament to how brilliant the nurses are that they made the whole experience so much better, and less frightening than it seemed; they get the balance between being sympathetic and being overly sentimental exactly right and are incredibly reassuring and kind.  The first one is 100% the worst – although I had a pre-chemo meeting where the process was explained to me, the fear of the unknown will always be worse than the reality (if you’re a worst-case-scenario kind of person, like me – if you’re a die-hard optimist then maybe try to put some effort in and expect the worst).

The chemo itself

ABVD is a long haul chemo – it takes approximately six and a half hours, but sometimes longer.

First they have to get the cannula in, which is unpleasant, and probably the worst bit of the process for me – both times I’ve had three failed attempts before they’ve been able to hit a vein that’s big enough and it bloody hurts when they don’t; I have the bruises to prove it.

The problem is that the needle can’t go into the normal vein on the inside of your elbow, where they take blood from generally; it needs to be a large vein on a straight part of your arm, because the chemotherapy is so toxic that they can’t risk the cannula coming out when the arm is bent, because it can permanently damage the tissue around the area, which is just yet another joyful thing to worry about.  (The most recent nurse described my veins as ‘wobbly’, which I’ve just added in for my friends who are squeamish about needles because I know they’ll be retching just reading this.  Sorry.  Although I have to say, I’m incredibly grateful that I don’t have a fear of needles because I have more blood taken in this process than a weekend in Transylvania with a vampire bat).

Once they (finally) have the vein, they take blood, and test it for blood count and indications of a low immune system and then hook you up to an IV line of saline solution to keep the flow going.  The blood test results take about half an hour, but when I went yesterday, the lab was busy so it took over an hour.

Once they have all the results back, they can decide whether to give the chemotherapy (yesterday my neurocytes were low, which means I’m more prone to infection – if they drop any lower, I won’t be able to have the next round of chemo, which is concerning) and they give the order to the pharmacy to make up the drugs.  This takes around 45 minutes, during which I’m given an anti-sickness drug orally, and also through a drip, to take effect before the chemo starts.

The ABVD letters stand for the drugs that are given -Adriamycin (doxorubicin), bleomycin, vinblastine and dacarbazine.  Each drug goes in separately, and not in the order that the letters go, just to make things extra confusing.  They all have different times of administration – the adriamycin, or doxorubicin, is given via a syringe by a nurse, and then flushed through with a drip.  This is red, makes your pee red, and is the one that does for your hair, so even though it’s saving my life, I have mixed feelings about it.  Everything else goes in on a drip – the vinblastine takes 10 minutes, the dacarbazine takes two and a half hours and the bleomycin takes 30 minutes.

It’s a pretty long process, so it’s worth having people with you who can keep you entertained.  My clinic is private, so there’s a pretty good supply of catering throughout the day, and I try to eat as much as I can while I’m there.  I feel pretty much normal while the treatment is happening, although towards the end I start to feel quite tired and grumpy, and a bit fuzzy-brained, which is the effect of all the chemicals.  I found it difficult to concentrate much on reading, but radio and podcasts are good.

I also tend to need to constantly pee, because of the amount of fluid going into me, so I have to wheel my drip stand to the toilet, and get my mum to help me, which is tricky to do with a huge amount of dignity, and probably the time when I feel most like a ‘patient’.  (Side note: yesterday we went to the toilet for the umpteenth time, and waited outside for 10 minutes, getting quite concerned that the person in there wasn’t ok.  As I was about to knock on the door, or get a nurse, I realised that it wasn’t locked and I had been waiting for no one to come out, but let’s blame that on the chemo brain).

After it’s all done, the pharmacist comes to see me, and takes me through the many drugs I have to take while I’m at home – see picture below – and then I’m free to take a taxi home.  The drugs make me so toxic that for the first 48 hours, I have to flush the toilet twice whenever I use it, for the safety of other people using it, which makes me feel pretty radioactive.

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Side effects

For me personally, the worst side effects I had last time were to do with the steroids that I take for anti-sickness; I seem to be very sensitive to them, and they gave me two nights of terrible insomnia – believe me, when you’re going through chemo, the last thing you want to do is lie rigidly awake and wide-eyed all night, thinking about how awful it’s going to be to lose your hair – and then a pretty horrendous crash when I stopped taking them.  Being someone who’s pretty upbeat and happy most of the time, I’ve never felt as down and depressed as I did after coming off steroids, and it was really frightening – at the time I didn’t know that it was the steroid crash and I was worried that I would always feel like that throughout the treatment.

After explaining this to the doctor at the clinic, they adjusted my steroid dose down, to prevent such a crash happening again, and gave me some sleeping tablets to sort out the insomnia, so I’m hoping it will be better this time.  The biggest thing I can stress is that if you, or anyone you know, has to go through chemo, you don’t have to suffer any of the side effects in silence; the doctors have remedies for everything (apart from hair loss, sadly) and they will do everything they can to sort out any problems, although the first few goes are a bit of an experimental balancing act of drugs to see what works best for each individual.

Beyond that, I didn’t suffer too much with tiredness – I was more knackered than I’d usually be, but managed to get out and about every day, as recommended, and went into work for a few hours on the second and third days, although I’m not sure if there was much point in doing that because my ‘chemo brain’ had kicked in and everything felt very fuzzy and difficult to focus on.  I was back training on the sixth day, and felt totally back to normal by the seventh.  I didn’t feel any sickness at all because of the power of the anti-emetics (anti-sickness drugs), so that’s definitely a huge relief – previously I was very worried about nausea.  My appetite was pretty normal, again thanks to the steroids, and so far my tastes haven’t changed, or become metallic.  The worst side effect has to be the hair loss, which I am expecting any day now – I think that warrants a separate post.

It’s really good to keep as active as possible, which helps minimise exhaustion, so in addition to doing a gentler version of my usual circus training (pic below), I’ve also been going to yoga and walking a fair bit.

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I’ve also been to see a dietitian, and to the nutrition workshop put on by my clinic, as diet makes a huge difference to side effects – personally, I think it’s empowering to try and take as much control over your own health and experience of chemo as you possibly can.

I’m most fearful this time round for the steroid crash, or any sickness from the reduced steroid dose, which remains to be seen, but so far, so good!  I’ll post another update soon…and please keep sending good vibes!

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Pre-chemo fertility treatment – or putting all your eggs in one basket

So far, I have learnt that being diagnosed with cancer young is all about having a lot of life-altering conversations that you really didn’t expect to have – but then I also didn’t expect to be the kind of person who visits garden centres on a Sunday and actively enjoys descaling the kettle, so there you go; nobody expects the Spanish inquisition.   (I have apparently also become someone who makes Monty Python references – another surprise).  It’s also about making potentially life changing decisions that you didn’t expect to ever have to make, with a limited period of time in which to make them.

Prior to my chemotherapy commencing, I was given the option of freezing eggs, in case the treatment affected my fertility. I’ve been told repeatedly that the chances are very low of it compromising my ability to have children in the future but even 1% risk is too high for me, and given that I had the time and the money (not a cheap process) to go ahead with it, that’s what I chose to do.

I really deliberated about writing about this because it’s a pretty personal choice, but then I thought that there was a fair amount of stuff that I would have liked to have known before I started the process, so here goes…

The expectation vs the reality

Firstly, ‘freezing your eggs’ is a deceptively simple description of what is a highly complicated, delicately balanced medical procedure that takes up to three weeks to carry out. In my head, I would have maybe taken some tablets for a few days, dropped casually into a clinic at a time that suited me, had some eggs removed and popped into the freezer and then gone on my way, like a happy free-range hen. In actual fact, if I must compare this process to poultry (must I?), it’s more like being an intensively reared battery farm chicken in a lab.

Kick off

After you’ve made your decision about whether to freeze eggs, or create embryos with your partner, and had the fairly intense conversations that go alongside that decision making process (sample conversation with my fertility specialist, who was nothing if not straight-talking: ‘Do you have a boyfriend? Do you see yourself being with him for the rest of your life? Do you want him to be the father of your children? You will need to let me know your decision as soon as possible’), you spend upwards of £800 on a box of fertility medication, which arrives a few days later in the post.

DON’T, as I did, have it delivered to work – mine arrived in a colossal box, in which you could have comfortably accommodated a small bear, and at a time when the reception area was filled with a selection of colleagues, most of whom were clearly having a slow day, because there was a collective ‘ooh’ of excitement, followed by ‘what’s in the box?’ Believe me, ‘fertility medication for me to take before I start chemo’ is quite a conversation killer.

Then, to the clinic (I went to CRM Care London, and found them excellent but it mostly depends on who you get referred to by your specialist) for a cheerful hour of signing 10,000 consent forms laying out what will happen to your eggs/embryos if you or your partner dies, followed by some HIV and hepatitis blood tests, to really compound the joy. After this, my nurse took me through the injection procedure.

The injections

Depending on which clinic you go to and what you’re having done, everyone has different injections, so I can only share the experience of what I had. What I don’t have is a fear of needles, which is definitely a good thing, given how many times you need to inject yourself. Don’t know what you’d do if you did have that fear – get over it fairly swiftly I imagine.

Initially, I kicked off with Gonal-F, which, when I initially Googled it, gave me this description:

‘Follicle-stimulating hormone is a gonadotropin, a glycoprotein polypeptide hormone’, which to someone who just about scraped a C in their science GCSE, is about as clear as mud. What it actually does is help your ovaries make multiple eggs.

The Gonal-F (NOT ‘gonad-f’, as I accidentally referred to it in one email) comes in a pre-filled pen, and according to my nurse, is ‘idiot-proof’, but clearly not Georgina-proof, because the first night I used it I stabbed myself in the thumb and bled all over a clean white top. However, the basic idea is that you insert the needle, twist the counter to the correct dosage, pinch as much flesh from your stomach as you can, needles goes in and then you press down to deliver the dosage.  It looks like this:

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Once I’d done this for about a week, in gradually increasing doses, I was told to start a second injection, Cetrotide, which prevents eggs from being released too early. This one involves using a mixing needle to inject water from a pre-filled pen into a powder, and then drawing up the liquid, once combined, into the syringe, changing needles and injecting it into the stomach again.

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Cetrotide

After that – and this doesn’t happen to everyone, -I got asked to start a third injection, Menopur, because of my slow response to the Gonal-F. Menopur is a fiddly bastard to inject because it involves snapping the seal off a vial of water, attaching a syringe to a needle, drawing the water up into the syringe, then injecting it into a separate vial of powder, before drawing it back up into the syringe, changing needles and injecting it, all without air bubbles, which were the actual bane of my life for several weeks.

This whole process, which was just over two weeks in total, involved one morning of running from pharmacy to pharmacy with a prescription of Menopur, only to find out that no one stocked it, which is probably the last thing I felt like doing, being dosed up to the hilt with hormones, knackered and emotional, and several incidents of jabbing myself in the thumb with needles, and subsequently bleeding all over the rest of the needles, like my very own blood-letting tribute to Pete Doherty. Definitely by far the most stressful part of the process – and as the injections needed to be taken at 8pm every night, highly socially inconvenient as well.

The scans

Throughout this process, I was scanned internally every two-three days, to examine how my ovaries were responding to the injections, and given blood tests each time to check the levels of oestrogen in my blood. IVF is not an exact science, and the doctors need to constantly keep an eye on the progress of the medication and fine-tune it as they go, hence the changing doses of the injections.  It’s a balancing act between stimulating your ovaries into producing extra eggs, but stopping short of over-stimulation, which is dangerous, and can make you very ill.

My top tip would be to find a clinic close to your office – mine was a good 40 minute journey away, there and back, and having to be constantly scanned took up huge chunks of my day, which I found frustrating, although I did get to walk past 221b Baker Street, home of the Sherlock Holmes Museum, which was nice.

Also, there is limited awkward conversation that you can make during a scan; I have fully exhausted all the weather-chat I have in my arsenal and frankly, if I never have to discuss it ‘feeling a bit colder now’ while someone internally probes me with a scanner again, it’ll be too soon.

The procedure

After taking two extra, precisely-timed ‘trigger’ injections on Sunday night, amongst dark mutterings of ‘just being a human pincushion really’ and complaining that I felt like ‘a giant hedgehog’, I headed along to the clinic on Tuesday morning for the egg collection. In fairly simple terms, I was sedated by a lovely, slightly camp older gentleman (who actually was the anaesthetist, not just some passing Oscar Wilde enthusiast) and then they removed the eggs with needles in places that you wouldn’t usually want needles to go. (In fact, this is probably the only time in my life where someone will say to me, ‘and then we’ll insert a large needle into your vagina’, and I will respond with ‘ok, good.’)

After that, I haven’t a clue what happened, because I was asleep, and then came round to good news that they had collected all the eggs that were there (not always possible) and I was allowed to go home and rest.

Other stuff

I was lucky enough to have a really good outcome, but it isn’t 100% perfect and it doesn’t work every time.  I don’t know how I’d feel if I went through all the stress of the injections, and the cost of the process, without a good result at the end of it, which is definitely something to consider.  I was also fortunate enough not to suffer too severely from any side effects – the worst it got was a bit of bloating, but I believe some people suffer more than others.

If you’re going to go for it, make sure you have a supportive partner, who can help with the injections, and a nurse you get along well with – you’ll be seeing them every few days, so obviously it’s a lot more pleasant to have one that you can have a chat and a laugh with; mine was lovely, made me a cup of tea and gave me a hug when it all got a bit stressful and that made a huge difference.

Finally, the cost.  It’s not small.  I won’t go into how much exactly, but I could have gone on at least four decent holidays for the cost of the egg collection alone.  Depending on how you react to the drugs you may be required to buy more – one Gonal-F pen alone is £250 and I had to buy several of them when my dosage was increased.  It depends what value you place on having this safeguard – for me, it’s worth every penny.

And if all else fails, it’s a good excuse to have a meltdown, eat a family-sized bar of chocolate and blame it all on the hormones – everyone will still be nice to you.  Every cloud…

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What not to say to someone who has cancer

I have to start this post with two disclaimers, as follows:

  1. Although it seems like I’m mainly slating what people have said to me over the past 6 weeks, in a rather mean way – for the most part (with one exception), everyone says what they think is best in a difficult situation.  No one, I’m sure, actively sets out to say the wrong thing, and I appreciate everything everyone has said, because they made the effort to say something, even if it was the wrong thing.
  2. Everyone in this situation is different – what I find tooth-grittingly irritating, someone else may find more comforting than a cuddle with a baby panda.  So use your own judgement, depending on who the person is and how well you know them.  For example, the first time my big brother saw me after my lymph node removal operation, he greeted me with ‘alright, scar-neck?’, which is perfectly acceptable from a sibling, but I might have found a little surprising from, say, a colleague at work.

Ok, so those niceties out of the way, onwards with a small sample of what people have said to me so far, and why I hate them.

  • ‘You poor, poor thing, I am so sorry for you.’

This may not be the case for everyone, but personally, pity makes me want to throw up, dramatically, while yelling ‘DON’T FEEL SORRY FOR ME, I’M NOT THE ONE WHO THOUGHT THAT HAIRCUT WAS A GOOD IDEA.’  I understand that you think you’re being empathetic, but it’s not the right vibe.

Instead of pity, try positive, but empathetic, statements, such as, ‘what a thing to have to go through – I’m here for whatever you need’, or ‘you can do this, I totally believe in you’, or ‘I understand how frightening this must be but you’re young and fit and healthy and you’ll get through this without a backwards glance.’  Basically, think cheerleader-style positivity, but maybe stop short of the pom-poms and yelling ‘GIVE ME A C! GIVE ME AN A!  GIVE ME AN N!’ and so on.

  • ‘I can’t imagine what you’re going through.’

In my opinion, this is literally the crappest thing you can say to someone having any kind of difficult time, and to which the only logical response would be, well, TRY.  ‘I can’t imagine what you’re going through’ – what, you want me to paint you a picture?  (Which would be of very little use, frankly, because anyone who knows me knows that my sketching repertoire is limited to cartoon cats.  Maybe I could try and explain a cancer diagnosis through the medium of cartoon cats – that would keep me busy).

Anyway, what I’m trying to say is that it’s rubbish, and it all comes down to empathy.  I’m the kind of person who can’t leave a solitary baked bean in the bottom of the can in case it feels left out of the toast party that all its mates are going to, so I don’t really have any issues empathising with other people, but I know some people do.  If you are that person, genuinely take 10 minutes out of your charmed life to put yourself in someone else’s place and try to imagine what it might feel like to go through something so frightening that you keep wondering whether you’re actually trapped in a horrible nightmare and you’ll wake up any minute now and regret all that cheese before bed, and then think about what you would like someone to say to you in that situation.

  • ‘What will you do about the mouth ulcers/constipation/other miscellaneous hideous side effect of chemo?’

This one is genuinely well meaning, but not helpful.  Everyone reacts to chemo differently, so everyone gets different side-effects, and you don’t know what they will be until they happen to you, like some kind of fun Pass-The-Parcel, but in hell.  If your cousin has had chemo and found that it gave her an uncanny ability to smell sausages from three houses away, that’s all good, but it’s unlikely to happen to the next person you know who has chemo, so save it.

If you feel desperate to share a story about a close friend or relative’s experience with cancer treatment, choose a positive one, such as, ‘my mum had chemo last year and now she has the all clear and is in perfect health.’  I’ve heard enough scary stuff from the doctors, I don’t need any more from you.  Which leads me perfectly on to…

  • ‘My friend died of terminal cancer.’

This isn’t something I would have ever thought I would have to advise against saying, but someone genuinely cornered me at a party not long after my diagnosis and spent half an hour telling me in some detail about how her friend died slowly and painfully of a rare cancer.  I kid you not.

No amount of me saying, ‘I’m so sorry about your friend, but my situation is quite different because it’s been caught quite early’ could shut her up and I was on the point of wondering if I could muffle her by shoving a passing canape into her mouth, or headbutt her in the nose and make it look like I tripped over a waiter when fortunately someone else caught my wide-eyed desperation and rescued me from the most inappropriate conversation I’ve had since Dr Ruth’s hen do, where the multiple doctors gathered regaled everyone with tales of things people put up their bums.  I joke, but this genuinely upset me (the inappropriate cancer story, not the things up bums stories). Unless you have the social skills of Osama Bin Laden, you shouldn’t need to be told this.

  • ‘I don’t know how you cope.’

Well, actually, I just spend the day dragging myself around the house, wailing at the sky, tearing at my clothes and yelling WHY GOD WHY.  I think this statement is unhelpfully unempathetic, again – obviously, I cope like you would cope, or anyone else, by taking one day at a time, having the support of my friends and family and just getting through it.  And by slagging off what people say to me online, obviously.

The bottom line here, is to think about what you would want someone to say to you in this situation and then say it to the person who’s going through it – even if it’s the wrong thing to say, at least you’ve given it some thought, rather than just opening your mouth and letting the words drift out.  One in three people will get a cancer diagnosis at some point in their lives, so one day it may be you – and if you’re lucky enough not to experience it, you sure as hell will know someone close to you who goes through it at some point.  Empathy is key.  Don’t have the social skills of a sardine.

And, if all else fails, offer practical help – cook a dinner that can be easily heated up and drop it round, offer to give lifts or go to appointments, send a card saying you’re thinking of them, think of practical gifts you could give.  Lucy, a friend of mine, sent me a mindful colouring book and some felt tips and it has been one of the most useful, thoughtful and therapeutic things anyone has given me.  Thank you, Lucy.

And finally, if you are the person going through it, and someone says the wrong thing, memorise and use this phrase judiciously;

‘Thank you for your concern but I’d prefer not to talk about it – I’m sure you understand.’

No one is likely to argue with that, and if they do, you could use this other phrase, which is just as handy, but a bit shorter, and should preferably be delivered with a polite smile:

‘PLEASE FUCK OFF NOW.’

Sorted!

 

PET scans – or the time I was radioactive for six hours

After being diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma, nearly everyone I spoke to told me I ought to write a blog, to which my stock response was, ‘yeah good one – you don’t think I have enough on my plate right now with the constant doctor’s appointments, and the endless Googling and the general fear?’

As it turned out, they were all correct, and I did want to write something down, as it turns out, so I thought, why not write something useful for everyone else?  Being diagnosed with cancer comes with an almost constant barrage of information, medical terminology and more general fear (a recurring theme here, so much so that I’m considering shortening it to ‘GF’ just to save time) so I thought I would write about my experiences and the process in general in a non-terrifying way, for the next person who has to go through this.

I was going to start the usual way, at the beginning, with the initial scan that led to the diagnosis, but that was so hideous and unexpected (I thought I’d damaged my neck during circus training – and I realise that sounds like I’m joking but I’m not) that it gave me a panic attack, followed by a comedically inappropriate attack of the hiccups, from gulping in all the air during the panic attack, and the embarrassment that caused is still resonating through me now, so instead, we will start with the PET scan, because the wonder and awe at medical science that it inspired in me is similar to what most people would reserve for a ride on the back of a woolly mammoth.

So, the PET scan.  NOTE: if you are reading this as a medical professional, you may want to skip ahead, because I was attempting to explain this to a friend at brunch yesterday in front of another friend, Ruth, who is a doctor, and I noticed that my non-medical, layman terminology was causing her to grip the base of a candle tightly until her knuckles turned white, and when I asked her if she found me attempting to explain a PET scan painful, she said, ‘No, I’m just…looking at this candle‘, through gritted teeth, so I assume my explanation was not science-standard, but when you have cancer everyone has to be nice to you and not call you a complete berk, like they usually would.

ANYWAY.

A PET scan comes after your initial cancer diagnosis, and it is to find out how far into your body the cancer has spread.  SPOILER ALERT: mine was only in my neck and upper chest, which is what they had found on the initial ultrasound, so that was a relief all round, what with me having spent a week imagining the doctors telling me I was ‘riddled with it’, and then wondering if a doctor would actually use the term ‘riddled’, being as I am a human being, and not a woodwormed sideboard.

So, the scan, which was one of the oddest experiences of my life so far – and I have shared a dressing room with a 10-piece mariachi band in togas and sombreros…which is probably another post for another time.  They kick off by asking you to sign a form that confirms you’re definitely not pregnant, because they are going to inject you with a radioactive substance, at which I laughed, because I thought it was a joke.  IT WAS NOT A JOKE.  The idea behind the PET scan is that they inject you with a radioactive dye, containing glucose.  Cancerous cells use up twice as much energy as normal cells, so as the dye makes its way around your body, they will glow on the scan.  That is literally the most non-scientific explanation going, but it is, objectively, totally fascinating that medical technology can do this.

The bit that I found completely insane was the preparation – I had to fast for 6 hours beforehand, then when I arrived at the hospital (note – I had this done privately so I’m not sure how the NHS differs), put me in a private room and injected me with a radioactive dye (the nurse did this, and then said to me, ‘now you are an atomic bomb!’  This, unlike before, was a joke).

I was then warned not to go near pregnant women or children for 6 hours afterwards because I would be radioactive.  This time, unbelievably, not a joke. The entire experience wasn’t unlike stepping into an early 80s kids cartoon, and I kept wondering whether to use my superpowers for good or evil.

Because of the dye showing up which cells are using the most energy (I can literally see Ruth shaking her head in despair right now at this poor excuse for an explanation), you have to stay very still, with absolutely no stimulation, in a room, alone, for an hour before the scan.  This means no phone, no reading, no radio, no company.  So, to put this in context, you know you have cancer, you are waiting to find out how advanced it is, and all you are allowed to do is sit in a room alone for an hour, hungry, and thinking about this.  Like, I’ve had better afternoons.

This was a little internal dialogue that I had with myself:

‘I need the loo.  The nurse said it was fine to go to the loo so I should just get up and go.’

‘But what if the energy used going to the loo makes the cells go crazy and they think I have cancer in my legs and my arms too?’

‘But I need to go.  Maybe the effort of holding it in will make my bladder area go insane and then they’ll think I have bladder cancer.’

‘But the nurse said I should stay as still as possible.  Did this cover loo visits?  Should I try and move very slowly to the loo, in the manner of someone performing interpretive dance?’

‘Maybe I’ll just hold it in.  But what if thinking about needing the loo is making my brain work overtime, and then they’ll think I have brain cancer OH GOD.’

In the end, I went to the loo, and no one told me I had bladder, brain or arm and leg cancer, so that just goes to show that one can overthink these things.  But in my defence, I’m not sure what else I was to do, in a room, alone, without even a copy of Hello for company.

Anyway, after I sat for an hour (and I did actually drop off for a bit so it wasn’t all bad), they whacked me in a scanner for about half an hour – which looks like a half circle and not like an MRI full body scanner, which I was relieved about because I am deeply claustrophobic, probably from being ‘hidden’ in the blanket box by my elder siblings when I was small.  Thanks siblings.

They they had to put me back in again because typically, I had moved while they were scanning my neck – the most important bit.  After that, my boyfriend collected me and I was free to go and wander the streets of Marylebone, radioactively, intoning ‘WATCH OUT BABIES – RADIOACTIVE WOMAN IS COMING.’  (Not really, although only because my boyfriend wouldn’t let me.)

I had my scan on a Friday and had the results on Monday morning, before an operation I was due to undergo, to remove some lymph nodes for further analysis.  Again, this is private, so I don’t know how long it takes to get the results on the NHS, but either way, you don’t get them immediately.  As I said before, the results of mine were the best possible outcome – it hadn’t spread further than we knew, and for that I feel extremely fortunate.  Now I have three weeks of fertility treatment and then four months of chemotherapy to look forward to, so no doubt there will be more substandard medical explanations here to look forward to very soon.