Sometimes you just have to give yourself over to the experience and engage with it. Even if the experience is making you want to run away screaming.
As I got into the car this morning to go for my blood test and CAT scan, I actually admitted to the Bear that I was terrified. I told him that my legs were shaking. I told him that I was worried about my scan lighting up like a Christmas tree. And I told him that courage isn't being fearless. Courage is being shit scared and doing it anyway.
And so he gave me a big hug, and said "I know" to all of that, because he does know; he's been here before. And he opened the gate for me and off I went.
It must be hard, working in these places where they suck blood out of sick people and squirt dye into sick people all day, every day. You must get pretty jaded after a while. I think my Vampire-of-the-day was jaded. She didn't want to engage, didn't want me to crack jokes about my Freeloader turning up just in time for my birthday. Happy Birthday, Candy. You've got cancer. Very business-like, she was, just sucking my blood up and sending me out the door, and I tried not to judge her for it.
She was so businesslike that I had hours to kill, actually, before the next ride at the fun fair. I drove all the way into the CBD to use the internet cafe, parked, walked, got myself a computer upstairs and realised I'd left all my coins in the car.
Okay, so maybe I'm not meant to be pouring gold coins down the internet right now. I went back to the car, drove to the hospital and parked there instead. Two hours early.
Maybe I should acknowledge that I'm flustered and confused by all this. I mean, this morning I was all ready to leave and I could not for the life of me find the referrals that I'd had in my hand 15 minutes earlier. Not in my bag, not on the table or bench, not by the computer. They'd vanished into thin air.
Flustered. Not a state I'm accustomed to.
Once I'd sat down and stopped panicking- (panicking? ME? I never panic!)- I realised where they must be (tucked into my appointment diary as a book mark). I also realised that I need to be a bit more prepared for all this running around the fun fair. None of this throwing myself in the shower an hour before it's time to leave, grabbing my stuff and vamoosing. I need an appointment bag, and I need to pack it the night before.
Dammit, this thing is already changing me. I am SOOO not a pre-packed type.
Back at the hospital, I decided to move into the waiting room and just feel the atmosphere for a while. Oprah on the widescreen did nothing for me, so I tuned in to the other folk in the waiting room.
That was interesting. There wasn't nearly as much raw fear as at the BreastScreen clinic. Maybe my fellow-travellers over at the Aussie Breast Cancer Forum were right; maybe it gets easier once you know what the treatment regime's going to be, and you can just turn up and give in to the experience, one day at a time.
I let that thought soothe me. I buried my head in my Millenium book. And drank my litre of water.
Endless pages later, Salander had exhumed herself from her premature grave (sorry about the spoiler) and I was called in to find out whether I might get a reprieve this time too. I chose a daffodil-yellow shapeless garment, the Cancer Council's signature shade, rather than my preferred dark purple. Denial can wait at the door, thank you.
In contrast to Vampira, the radiologist was so engaged with me that we almost got married before I got out of there. The information flowed- THANK YOU (will you marry me?)- and everything I was politely asked to do was bookended with gratitude when I complied.
That young woman will go far.
Things I never knew: A CAT scan machine doesn't look like a space-age coffin. It looks like a giant space-age vanilla doughnut. I was shot full of dye ("You'll get a hot flush followed by feeling like you're wetting your pants, and you'll also get a metallic taste in your throat- THANK YOOOOOOU!"), monitored to see if I was about to spoil the party by dying of anaphylaxis on the table (dying of dyeing, perhaps?) and then inserted through the hole and out again while it made bizarre whirring noises as though we were all taking off together for Planet Diagnosis.
"Take a deep breath and hold it."
Maybe the dye was making me hallucinate, but I was suddenly 20 years old and riding The Rotor at Luna Park, stuck to the spinning walls as the floor fell away. I chose not to share that vision with my almost-fiancee.
Three minutes of happy snaps and I was done, and busting to get rid of that litre of water. Not to mention curious about whether it would be blue yet (it wasn't). Dressed once more and waiting alone in the observation area for my cannula to be removed, I had harsh words for the Freeloader.
"Did you enjoy the ride? If you brought any little friends along to crash the party, they're about to be discovered and ejected."
And magically, that made me feel a whole lot better. Dammit, it's better to engage with the bloody tumour than to dance around its edges. I'd had hard words to say to it on the morning it was revealed to me- something really creative and cultured, along the lines of Well, YOU can f*** off- and I realised that I've really got to keep that pressure up. The Freeloader needs to be told, out loud, regularly.
He is SO not on my Christmas card list.
Talking to a tumour? Maybe I'm just hallucinating again.