It’s a funny old thing, going to the hospital knowing that you may be minutes away from hearing that you have cancer.
However much you try to fool yourself, and others, you’re a little nervous. Maybe even a touch scared.
Which is understandable given that most of us know nothing about cancer – the Big C – other than that:
a) It can kill you ; and
b) While there are treatments for some cancers – often very effective treatments – there’s no cure
In any event, that’s how I was feeling as Liz and I waited at the bus stop on the way to the Whittington hospital. I thought about my mother who had a pain in her lower back. Which turned out to be the lung cancer that eventually killed her. I thought about my father who recently had cancerous cells removed – and all the ensuing worries and complications. I thought about all the millions of people dealing with cancer on a daily basis. And I thought about all the people who, like me, were off to see their doctor that day to find out whether or not they have cancer.
I also thought, and here you may feel that I was being a little melodramatic, that I really, really, really, really, really wanted to go on living. Not just so that I can see what Liz and I do with the rest of our lives and all our various projects. Not just so that I can see a team I support win the World Cup. Or the Euros. Or the Champions League. Or the Premiership. Or the FA Cup. Or the South Highgate Over 40s Five Aside Cup. (Anything, really, would be nice…)
But mostly because I have two girls and I desperately want to be their father for as long as humanly possible.
Hang on, I hear you metaphorically cry. Last time we heard from you in one of these blogs you were running around West Africa. How did we now end up in the company of a frankly gloomy and somewhat self-obsessed man at a chilly bus stop?
About a year ago, Liz noticed a red mark on my cheek which seemed to get bigger and brighter over time. She suggested I see a doctor. I demurred. She re-suggested I see a doctor. I procrastinated. She insisted I see a doctor. I booked an appointment. Which I then somehow forgot to attend.
Eventually, I saw a doctor. He didn’t know what the mark was but made an appointment with a dermatologist at the Whittington. He couldn’t make a diagnosis based on a visual inspection alone so I had a quick op to take a biopsy sample. I was told that it could be a range of things including, in the worst case, a melanoma (a type of skin cancer that can spread to other organs).
After about 6 weeks of waiting for the results, I suddenly received 4 (sic) almost identical letters from the NHS, dated 5th January, telling me that I had an appointment at the Whittington on 10th January. When things are moving that quickly within the NHS, it’s hard not to fear that there might be something wrong. Hence Mr Introspective & Concerned of the Local Bus Stop.
The wait was mercifully brief at the hospital and we must have been in front of the consultant within ten minutes. The moment of truth had arrived.
“You have a melanoma”.
Bugger. Shit. And damnation. Do I not like that.
On the plus side, the melanoma appears to be early stage (ta very much Liz!) and thin (0.3mm). As Dr Esdaile put it, “If you had to go shopping for a skin cancer, then this is the one you’d take off the shelf”.
The Whittington has a fantastic system where you have your consultation and then, if required, move almost directly on to your operation. Within half an hour I’d had a local anaesthetic and was experiencing the odd sensation of being able to hear someone scraping flesh off my cheek without being able to feel it. The scrapings, or the ‘full pizza’ as the quotable Dr Esdaile described it, will now go off for further testing.
We should know the results in 3 or 4 weeks at which point I’ll have a further operation to, with luck, remove any other affected areas.
And how will all this impact my runs, the usual subject of these blogs? Well, I’ll have to delay my next trip by two days to wait to get the stitches removed (and to let the wound heal a little.) But otherwise, I’m ever more determined to complete my runs and raise money for cancer research. After all, now its personal!
Finally, let me end by giving some (obviously non-expert) advice:
- PROTECT YOUR SKIN FROM THE SUN!
Applying endless amounts of sun screen is a faff ; and wearing sun tops and hats is an affront to one’s dignity. But they’re worth it.
- IF YOU’RE SEEING YOUR MOLES, FRECKLES OR SKIN CHANGE, THEN GET THEM CHECKED!
- IF YOU’RE PALE SKINNED, FRECKLY, AND HAVE BEEN EXPOSED TO A LOT OF SUN AT SOME STAGE IN YOUR LIFE, THEN BE EXTRA VIGILANT!