Dedicated to all those who wrote to me and to Nick in the past couple of weeks and all those who rallied 'round to help Nick move into our temporary flat, to those who didn't yet get the news and those who happened to pause at this blog out of idle curiosity.
A couple of weeks ago, when I got what I thought was the usual bladder infection, I took the usual bladder infection medicine that I keep on hand. When it didn't do its usual job, I went to the doctor. Hmm, she thought it might be stones or, even, cysts and sent me for a sonogram. That doctor thought it might be cysts or something worse and sent me for an MRI, a CAT scan and blood tests, including marker indicators. The MRI guy thought I might have an infection, which is one of the things the markers can indicate and my GP was willing to go along with that. The CAT scan guy mumbled some of the same stuff, but when I asked flat out, “Do you think it's cancer,” he answered, “Yes,” and marched me over to the other side of the clinic to meet with the surgeon. The surgeon sent me home to pack and return the same afternoon to the hospital for surgery. That was last Monday.
I've lived the last 25 years in fear and terror of breast cancer. My mother died after her cancer had spread to every part of her body. My maternal grandmother had done likewise 25 years before that. And my aunt, my mother's sister, was a breast cancer survivor. Was. I don't know if she still is. She stopped talking to the family many years ago, but that's another story. I have a mammogram every year. Which is still clear, by the way.
Two years ago, when the endocrinologist found the tumours on my thyroid, my reaction (out loud, to Nick) was a terrified, “But I'm supposed to die of breast cancer, not thyroid cancer”! Anyway, the thyroid tumours appear to be benign, if lack of growth is an indication.
Back to the present, I went into the hospital on Monday and was operated on on Wednesday. Thursday morning, waiting for the good or bad news, I got the bad news. I'm not wholly clear on this, but I think the tumours have spread around my abdomen and /or are too big, so the surgeon just closed me up, again. He wants me to have a few months of chemotherapy to reduce the size or the tumours and then he will operate. He's making the appointment with the oncologist (23 August) and then perhaps all be clearer.
Since I don't know exactly what is wrong, I have no prognosis. So far, they've been easing me into the knowledge, sort of a day at a time. Also things could be worse than they're telling me. So I should be panicked, right?
Wrong. I feel like the usual me.
Maybe it's shock. Or maybe the antidepressants I've been on for the last few years (paroxetine) are even better than I think they are . Or, maybe it's the report I read last week about France having the best cancer treatment in the world (along with the United States, but here it's so much more universal). Or gratitude for not being in the U.K. (rated somewhere with the rest of the third world). Or it could be that age has made me into a philosopher. Or. . . damned if I know.
I realise I could die. And it seems better to face that possibility, since we're on the verge of buying land for a house that we intend(ed) to build ourselves. Even if I come out of this alive, I'm obviously not going to be in any shape for housebuilding for a few months, so it had to be discussed. Like, can Nick build the house while I keep him company or should we buy one? If I die, will Nick be better off in the village where he knows people or in Nyons where there are more distractions available? So we discuss it.
But I don't feel bad or sad or scared. I feel like. . . normal. Just get on with it and see what happens. I'm going to die – or not. It will be soon – or not. I don't know a whole helluva lot more than I knew a couple of weeks ago about my mortality, so I don't feel a lot different.
Some of my decisions, of course, have to take an imminent death into consideration; things like, uh, maybe I won't get a new puppy for awhile. On the other hand, the clinic where I currently reside is about 150 meters from a small shopping centre and, since they want me to get out and walk, yesterday I walked to the hypermarket and bought a pretty set of towels (slate blue and mocha; I'm planning on brown for the new bathroom) and new sheets for our new queen-sized bed (which we haven't bought yet). And a T-shirt, 7 pairs of knickers (a sale), and a kitchen timer.
There you have it. The new me and the old me, one and the same.
This status report should get rid of some awkward questions, like: what do you say? Answer: the normal things. You can ask questions, too, about my treatment or how I'm feeling physically or whatever you're curious about, just as you would about my thyroid treatment or myriad knee injuries. I don't mind. Shame about the puppy, though.
P.S. Our phone is being transferred to the apartment and we won't have the internet for 10 days. The next time you hear from me will be from the hotel/restaurant/bar up the road where they've just installed wifi.