Gone are the halcyon days of pre-menstrual tension when I barked at innocent family members for minor infractions, burst into tears if there was no milk in the fridge for my morning coffee and devoured entire packets of chocolate biscuits in a few minutes before being reduced to a bloated blob of utter wretchedness hiding under the duvet and watching Australian soap operas until the hormonal storm passed.
Ah. Sweet memories. Happy times.
Exit menstruation altogether, when my chemo drug accelerated me through menopause like a high-speed train, and enter the beast: PST. Pre-Scan Tension. Which turns into Pre-Scan Terror after the first five days and lasts at least two more weeks after that. Symptoms include:
- Interpreting every ache, pain or twinge as the growth of a MASSIVE tumour.
- Wishing Christmas would just bugger off so you can stop watching other people eat and drink things that might KILL you if you do the same.
- Frequently asking your husband to check your neck and spine for swellings, especially the sites where your tumours were located before you biffed them into retreat.
- Phoning the clinic five times in a week because you still don’t have a date for your CT scan and need to know what the f**k is happening NOW.
- Barking at innocent family members for asking how you are and what they can do for you.
- Bursting into tears because you can’t use milk, coffee or chocolate biscuits anymore to prevent you bursting into tears in the first place (because they might KILL you).
- Doing two coffee enemas a day instead of one to double-detox your liver and get extra brownie points from the gods.
- Creating a mental montage of all the supplements you didn’t take, walks you didn’t go on, juices you didn’t make, infusions you didn’t organise and cannabis oil you forgot to order before running out of the last batch so you can be sure to blame yourself if your cancer is on the rise.
- Faffing around on Facebook because working on mid or long-term projects seems presumptive and somewhat cocky, whereas acquiring ‘likes’ provides a short-term sense of sorry-arse achievement (while also actually reminding you that there are people out there rooting for you to live).
- Having dreams about all the people you have fallen out with who are waiting for you to DIE.
To name a few.
Blimey. If you don’t have cancer this might sound slightly barking, even paranoid. But cancer peeps get it. One of them recently told me she convinced herself she could read her own scans, then mistook her liver for a tumour and called her oncologist in a state of near hysteria only to be assured that everything looked normal. Which cracked me up.
Another told me that the month before scans “is a bitch” and so is she. Then the built up stress spills over into the post-result period and her daughter has to give her “an LIC (lecture in car)” because she carries on being a bitch to everyone around her even though she’s in the clear.
PST. It makes us all a little crazy. It creates a running track for fear to hurtle round in ever-increasing circles until it collapses or crosses the finish line. But there is a finish line. The moment you’re told the results. At which point fearful imagination is replaced by factual reality: more cancer; less cancer; stable cancer; no cancer. Boom. Now you know. Now you see clearly again. Now you lift your eyes to the skyline and see ahead. Now you choose your next move.
Just in case you think I am in the complete grip of this, don’t worry. I’m not. I know how to put fear in its place most days and, when I do, I am once again dazzled by the clarity of stars in darkness and the way Faith emerges from the mist like a devoted friend I simply turned away from for a while. As my five year old daughter said when she was watching the brilliant Disney Pixar film, Inside Out,
“Fear is a fibber Mummy!”
“Yes darling! Fear is the biggest fibber ever.”
And when you don’t have the facts at your disposal, the actual, tangible, concrete, discernible, verifiable, liberating, revelatory facts about what is REALLY SO – whatever that happens to be – then fear loves to fill in the gaps.
I have my CT scan on Monday (neck, chest, abdomen) and my brain MRI on Friday. Results the week after. I can hardly wait.
So say some prayers darling readers. And watch this space.