It’s been a while. In fact it’s now been a year since I went to my GP and said I’ve got this lump, pointing to my neck. As they say round here, it’s been a helluva year.
It feels like the worst is over, though my cautious self tells me not to be complacent. These regular check-ups happen for a reason. And one time when that camera on a stick emerges from my nostril there might be a silent moment from Mr A and he might say something about a curiousity or suspicious architecture or some such flannel. And the ordeal might start again.
So I don’t want to tempt fate. However, nearly eight months after my treatment stopped I have a long list of stuff that hasn’t happened for a while. I haven’t had a needle stuck into my arm for ages; no blood tests, no canulas, no sitting for hours with a bottle of chemo dripping away.
I don’t have to get into an ambulance every day and spend hours at the hospital. I don’t have to sit around waiting to be called, I don’t have to get hoisted up onto the radiotherapy slab, and I don’t have to listen to The Proclaimers.
It’s been a while since I was with a bunch of men who have prostate cancer, watching them sitting round drinking their pints of water before treatment, a while since I had a sleepover on that cancer ward, and a while since I saw someone die in front of me.
Reading back over this blog, I’m reminded there have been some pretty ghastly moments. I realise I’ve forgotten some of those moments, and maybe that’s no bad thing. Some of the horribleness is probably best left behind.
As I’ve said before, it hasn’t been so much as fighting a battle as enduring a sustained period of really bad weather. That I’ve been stoical and managed to put up with everything hasn’t really surprised me. Having MS is good preparation, I’ve had years of endurance.
One thing about MS though is that you’re often not believed. If you say you’ve got a symptom, say pins and needles, or you’re feeling whacked because it’s humid, you tell people and they’ll say oh yes, I get that, awful isn’t it? And you say yes but it’s worse with MS and the people nod, but they don’t believe you, not really. They’re thinking how can it be worse? And pins and needles, that’s nothing, isn’t it?
Maybe that’s being harsh but the truth is, however sympathetic a listener is, only another person with MS (even though no two of we MSers are the same) can understand the reality. The encompassing reality.
But I’m starting to steer away from my point. Which is that I found myself facing a bit of cancer unbelief that was very familiar.
I had a drink. In fact I had my first alcoholic drink of the year on 25th December. I’d talked it over with the dietitians first; they said if you want wine then white would be best, or a light red. I thought a Beaujolais, as it was the nouveau season. They said water it down if it helps, and don’t open an expensive bottle, just in case.
So in the spirit of the festive season I went for a bargain glass of Tesco’s (highly rated) vintage champagne. Which proved to be my mistake. And it was my mistake. No one made me do it. No one had even suggested it as an option. Call it over-confidence. Call it stupidity.
Over the next few hours my mouth became more and more painful. It was like the pain I had with that mouthwash, the one the nurse likened to battery acid. It did diminish, but only slowly. It was New Year before I was fully back to where I started.
And when I told the dietitians about this, I got sympathy, but I could tell they were thinking champagne pain? That’s nothing isn’t it? They said the pain shouldn’t have lasted that long. They implied, gently but definitely, that I was building the champagne pain into something bigger than it deserved. I was deluding myself.
It was a familiar kind of moment. Right then I wanted those dietitians to be me a fortnight before. I wanted them to drink that champagne and feel that pain, and I wanted them to keep on feeling it like I had. Then they’d know.
But of course that wasn’t going to happen.
They did tell me to avoid carbonated drinks for a while. Funnily enough I think I’d worked that out for myself.