Tuesday October 23rd (the wee small hours) – three weeks after diagnosis
I’ve lived the last two weeks in some strange existence of near physical immobilisation brought about by uncontrollable racing thoughts all competing for my attention. The result – I was totally overwhelmed. I found it difficult to leave the house, to reply to emails, to prepare for what lay ahead. I lived in a limbo, imprisoned by thoughts of doom and gloom, and my failings, as a mum, to protect my children from this shit.
Becoming a mum, a little over 28 years ago, was the making of me. There has been nothing in my life to match the pure joy and meaning my children have brought to my life. I think I was a good enough mum – far from perfect – but my children were always there at the centre of my life, and still are, even though we are scattered across this land. I would have given anything not to put them through the anguish they are experiencing just now.
My appointment with the oncologist just 11 days ago was rather surreal. It was almost as though I had an out of body experience. Who was this poor women, who could not stop crying, who was hyperventilating, who could not string a sentence together? I thrust my typewritten notes at the surgeon and relied on my sister to fill in the gaps. He attempted to assure me with scientific fact that my tumour could not have grown at the rate I had said – this was my perception, because I was more aware of it. I gave him the benefit of the doubt. Hey – I’m a psychologist; I understand subjectivity and perception. Now 11 days later I still feel like I have this rampant parasitic beast growing exponentially between my legs.
My inner voice transformed into Sarah Millican delivering an endless barrage of fanny jokes. This seemed fitting given the endless barrage of one bollock jokes delivered in the style of Gary Delaney by the best man at my son’s wedding last year. It further transformed into some heavily armed hero type – think Sigourney Weaver in Alien or Bruce Willis in Die Hard – screaming “Die you mother f**ker” at that which lurked in my knickers.
The oncologist, following yet another impressively quick peek at my crotch, confirmed that this needed to be gone and I would be brought back for surgery within the next four weeks. It may be sooner – but four weeks was the usual. Did I have any questions? Yes, yes, yes! Could I process the information he had given me and formulate a coherent one? Could I hell. What I know is that the tumour will be removed, it will be tested, I may need more surgery and/or more treatment. It is uncomfortably close to my bum hole – and that may cause complications. There is a 50% risk of the wound breaking down through infection. No wonder I spent the next 10 days in mental turmoil.
Then yesterday, around 2:30pm, I had a telephone call. Was I sitting down and did I have a pen? We have a date for you – it’s Wednesday 24th. We need you to come in tomorrow at 10am. Meltdown. Absolute meltdown. Shaking, crying, snot all over the place. Fear, anxiety – vulnerable. I rang my calm, collected sister; her no nonsense, straightforward talk calmed me. Well calmed me enough so that I could do what I needed to do. Some urgent emails – cancelling this and that, postponing something else. Then calling the children – to be met by their anxiety and fear. More paralysis – unable to think. What do I need to do? A quick dash to the late night supermarket to get the essentials – a bar of Galaxy to gorge myself on before the nil by mouth kicks in. An evening with Victoria Wood while I gathered my thoughts and allow some calm to descend.
My alarm is set for 7am.