Do you know what the very worst part was? No, it wasn't the needle going in. It was the shock of being told staying perfectly still for a whole hour meant that I wasn't even allowed to talk. Me? A whole hour of silence? Total torture. You should have seen the look of WM's face. He was trying so hard not to laugh, but he also looked like all his birthdays, Easters and Christmases had arrived at once. He never gets much peace and quiet with me around.
He was actually marvellous during that hour. There are definite advantages to having a Clinical Hypnotherapist as the love of your life. He spent the whole time making me totally relaxed (again something I'm really not very good at) and got me floating away in a lovely healing trance.
So it's done and dusted, and I get the results this Friday, so I've got the rest of the week to enjoy - in blissful ignorance as to whether or not I've got incurable cancer.
I'm dreading Friday, but not because it's results day. I've just made an appointment that is much more scary than that. I've got to have a tooth pulled out. So it's cancer news at 11.15 and tooth extraction at 2.45. I've had toothache for nearly a month now, there all the time but nowhere near as excrutiatingly painful as the couple of times I've had major infections. With all the comings and goings lately, I tuned it out and put off making a dental appointment. Last week, the worsening pain made a dental visit essential, and it turns out I've got a really nasty infection, and the reason I haven't been screaming in pain is because it's on a tooth that had root canal treatment donkeys years ago, so there is no nerve. The dentist gave me antibiotics, but warned me that I'd be lucky if they worked well enough to save the tooth. Root canal treatment a second time is a huge deal, only done by specialists, and prohibitively expensive because it's not available on the NHS. The 5 day course of antibiotics has finished and I've still got toothache. It took me nearly an hour to pluck up the courage to ring the dentist. Then they offered to do it this afternoon. Crikey wikeys. No way Jose. Sudden light bulb moment and I knew it had to be done on Friday. That way I will worry about the dentist rather than results all week. And if Friday turns out to be a bad day, having a tooth out won't make it any worse, and if it turns out to be a good day, well then I'll be walking on so much happy juice that even having a tooth pulled out won't rain on my parade.
Cancer isn't very pretty, and it's pretty devastating when you find out you've got it. The treatment for it is vile, and there is new research that shows that nearly 30% of people who survive cancer suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome, with flashbacks to the horrific treatment ordeals. But there are definite upsides to having cancer too. For many of us, new opportunities open up that would never have been possible without a cancer diagnosis.
Without cancer, I would never have written this blog, which is now read by people all over the world, many of whom have become really supportive online friends. Without this blog, I wouldn't ever had had the chance virtually dropped into my lap to turn it into a stage play, with me also being able to play the title role. Now how exciting is that? We have less than 4 weeks before we open at the Brighton Fringe on the 18th May. So much line-learning to perfect in such a short time. So few rehearsals to get the timing, the entrances and the props working in the right way. Most of the script has been lifted directly from the blog, but there are one or two new bits. We're calling it "Coke Floats and Chemo", but it could just as easily be called "Breast Cancer - the comedy". Most of it is hilarious, certainly during rehearsals, but peppered with the odd moment of seriousness every now and again because cancer actually isn't that funny. My problem is trying to keep a credible straight face during the darker moments because I'm so busy laughing my head off.
The blog and the play is only one part of the upside, there are so many others. In June I've been invited to talk at the NIVAS conference, addressing leading medical professionals from around the world about what it is really like to have needle-phobia. It is a very humbling opportunity to maybe just make a tiny difference to the way needle-phobic patients are perceived by those striving to treat them. Most humbling of all though, is the way my friends and family have wrapped me in loving, warm support from the moment this cancer malarkey started. Without cancer, I would never have known just how blessed I am with the people I love.
Other people have had similar experiences to mine. One very dear, new friend I have acquired online is Chris, who keeps a blog called "Chris's Cancer Community", here's the link if you'd like to read it.