There were no cushions!!*
(*see last blog for reference)
It’s been a funny old week.
Last Friday I got my first follow-up CT scan but to take my mind off things I went out for a beer or six that evening with a bunch of very supportive work colleagues.
The pub of choice was a newspaper-themed bar in the centre of Edinburgh which has just been refurbished and has walls decorated with blown-up images of high-profile tabloid front pages.
“Very nice” I thought as I arrived early and took a seat at the bar. Then I looked closer at the images – Bowie, Rickman, Lemmy… – it was a wall of celebrity death splash stories and cancer victims were very much to the fore. The irony klaxon going off in my head was deafening!
I was due to get the CT results at 9am on Monday morning.
It was hilarious watching Louise and I trying to act all relaxed over the weekend – like the spotty teenager going on his first date trying to pretend everything is cool and there’s nothing at stake, nothing to worry about.
But inside we were both pretty scared. And anyone that knows us knows that this sort of situation brings out the inappropriate black humour between us. I don’t think we’ve laughed as much in ages!
We arrived at the Western on time but it was as if they weren’t expecting us. The day room door was locked shut and we were shown to the ‘conservatory’, and small room that links two busy parts of Ward 8.
Inevitably the door kept opening, our hearts jumped, but it wasn’t the consultant. But we read the body language of everyone, looking for little clues. One nurse I’d come to know pretty well seemed to avoid eye contact…
We got into the day room after 20 minutes and although the seats were comfy there was a distinct lack of cushions or other soft furnishings. Then she arrived.
How was her demeanour? What were her eyes saying? What were her first words? (“hello, how are you feeling today?”) And what were her first actions? (kicking the door shut and locking the door!).
It was all happening too quick. I didn’t have time to analyse. I just had a river of sweat running down my spine, and very clammy hands.
“Well the good news is the scan results are excellent and show the swelling in the lymph nodes is pretty much gone and that the chemo appears to be having the desired effect”.
Don’t know why I put quote marks round that as I’ve no idea if that’s actually what she said, but it was definitely words to that effect.
The chemo’s been working, the treatment plan is very much on schedule, crack on with the next three rounds of chemo and start making firm plans for the stem cell transplant over spring and summer. Chuck in a colonoscopy and another CT scan and Bob’s your uncle.
We were delighted. Ecstatic even. And very, very relieved.
But we also quickly acknowledged that this is a battle won, but the war still goes on, and the odds are still not in our favour.
This is where the optimist, pessimist and realist come in.
In essence, all the CT scan showed was that what the hoped the treatment would do has happened. That we can continue on the path we’d always intended to take.
Yes, it meant that I wasn’t given devastatingly bad news at this stage, and with it decisions about whether to continue treatment etc.
But it’s not really bought me ‘extra’ time, especially if I’m an optimist who hopes the treatment gives me the longest life expectancy I can genuinely hope for.
The realist knows that this is still an incurable cancer and all we can do is throw the harshest treatment at it to give me the longest possible remission. And that’s what we are doing.
The realist is always with me – it would be foolish to become a fantasist.
But optimist v pessimist?
I think I’m actually, on balance, a glass half empty person. But my attitude, like my mood, can swing – by the week, by the day and even by the hour.
At the end of the day, we just don’t know. Nobody knows.
Louise reckons the rubbish I’m eating when I’m up for food will see me keel over from a heart attack before I need to worry about the effects of Mantle Cell Lymphoma!
But the real lesson here is to live for today. Appreciate what you’ve got. Look after yourself and those you love. Because you never know what tomorrow will bring.