Part and parcel of dealing with cancer is tests – blood tests, CT scans, MRIs. In the space of about a month last year I’d had two CT scans, a PET scan, two blood tests, an appointment with a gynaecological oncologist, a colonoscopy, gastroscopy and a laparoscopy. I felt like a radioactive pincushion.
Post-op, at least for a while, it’s not much different. Repeated investigation is needed because cancer is an a-hole and won’t just go away when it’s told to. It’s nerve-wracking time especially when, like me, you have a cancer they expect to return.
For my first two rounds of scans/blood tests, I felt OK. I didn’t suffer too badly from scanxiety and both times the scans and blood tests came back clear – nothing on the CT scan and tumour marker levels all where they should be.
I am now up to my third. Last week I had my tests done and now I wait for my surgeon to fit me into his schedule to assess my scans and call me with the outcome. For some reason, I feel really uneasy.
I’ve never been one to get nervous at the scans and blood tests. Honestly I’ve had so many now it’s just like going clothes shopping – it’s not fun but a necessary evil. And at least with the scans, I always come away with something to show for my efforts. Clothes shopping, not so much.
I always go to the same place for my tests because I didn’t want to have to keep a log of where I went for what. When I ring to book in they always say “So have you had…oh, you’ve done this before. A lot.” Yep, I know the drill! I arrive half an hour early to drink the awful stuff they give you beforehand (although I didn’t have that this time) and then get taken through to the imaging room. The imaging place has panels in the ceiling with a picture of a tree on it. Whilst I judged it the first time I saw it, I’ve grown quite fond of seeing it now. Same as the staff who, sadly, have become familiar faces.
Once that’s done I wait for my scans then cross the road for the blood test. I never used to be scared of needles but since my hospital stay, I always get a little nervous these days like my body is screaming at me “no, not another one”. I sat in the chair and looked out the window. I remembered I liked the pattern of a piece of wall art on the house opposite and then laughed at the things you notice when you’re in crappy situations. I felt oddly comforted that the artwork was still there even though I hadn’t thought of it since the last time I was there!
The lovely lady took the blood from the arm that wasn’t used for the CT scan and I was off. I’d had to fast for the scan so I went and got breakfast (I don’t even remember where now) which has become a bit of a pattern. Why? Well, cancer. And poor impulse control!
So now, I wait. This is the worst part. The waiting. Waiting to check if my disc was received by the surgeon, waiting to hear from him about the results. I can’t help thinking “will this be the time it comes back?” And as you wait, you notice every little thing in your body. “Oh, there’s a pain there. It must be cancer, it must be back. Maybe it’s just from pilates. Yeah, that does feel like a muscle. Nope, it’s back. I know it.”
I used to get home from the scan and whip out the films, holding them up to the light to see any signs of cancer, to prepare myself. All that does though is remind me again that I have absolutely no idea how to read a CT scan. Or the exact location of half my organs. The half that are left anyway!
I feel like I walk around during this waiting time looking like Edvard Munch’s ‘The Scream’. In reality I fear I look far worse!
No matter what the results of the scan are, we’ll deal with it like we’ve dealt with all the other curve balls in the last year. It’ll either be clear, dodgy but watch and wait, or dodgy – let’s have more surgery. I know which one I’m hoping for!!