Thursday, December 6, 2012

Communication breakdown

Well, my pre-chemo heart scan today had all the hallmarks of a complete balls-up. A right-royal, rollicking stuff-up. And I wouldn't have missed it for the world.

The punch line rocks.


If the cancer doesn't get you, the travelling will. It was hard leaving home today. I'd sat bolt upright at half past two in the morning, with my sinuses exploding in pain thanks to hay fever (oh, the joys of the Bungy summer). I was completely convinced it was morning. I was also in agony, and two Panadols took their time helping me out.

Then, of course, I had trouble going back to sleep; that was the Freeloader's cue to turn up and start whispering unpleasant messages in my ear about green-faced, nauseated, bald women with khaki rings around their eyes. And severe sinus pain to go with the nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea and general misery.

Fuck off, Freeloader. 

So I was dead tired. And then when I finally dragged myself out of bed, our next door neighbour turned up; he's home for a flying visit, the first since I was diagnosed. He's a good mate. I really just wanted to hang out and chat.

No, no, no. You Have Cancer. Your life is no longer your own. Get in the shower, do the exercises, do the massage, get dressed.

Spend half an hour panicking, because you have McFlurry brains and can't find the heart scan referral. 

(Oh, there it is. Right where I thought it was. But I didn't see it the first time.)

Get in the bloody car. Off you go.

Back I trudged to visit my old mate Hawkeye, the sandwich-press-blender-thingy in the Radiology Department. I don't even get lost any more in that hospital. It's a strange amalgamation of old building and new extension, with odd disorientating angles and a gazillion doors and staircases in unexpected places. I spent the first few weeks of my journey turning in wrong directions and losing the exit- but two months into my ride on the Cancer Express, I reckon I could find Radiology blindfolded.

It was the same girl behind the desk, the one who wanted to know about giving blood last time because She Has Cancer too. She was as chirpy as ever, despite the black nail polish, thinning hair and wan complexion. She's clearly a little ahead of me, well on the way to the khaki ghoul-eyes.

But she's still standing. Still working, even. Good on you, girl.

On the other side of the door, my sweetie from last time awaited too. We exchanged grins. I realised how much better I feel now than last time I was here. Knowing how sick you are is everything. No more nasty surprises- just deal with it.

Much easier.

So after two injections with a half-hour wait between them, the newly-radioactive me took off the necklaces and the lovely new silk scarf I made yesterday and lay down fully clothed on Hawkeye's loading device, ready to be shot down the tunnel. Or whatever.

Sweetie had been joined by Miss Brusque, who seemed to be pulling rank a little. I was a little surprised that the jewellery was all they wanted off in terms of a strip-tease, but hey, they're the experts. I did what I was asked.

Picture One required eight minutes of lying stock-still on my back. I counted to sixty eight times, aware of the discomfort in my left arm increasing by the second. It doesn't like staying still.


"Now for this next one, we need this arm above your head," said Miss Brusque, grabbing my left arm and attempting to rearrange it.

"WHOA!" I yelped. "I've just had a mastectomy over there."

Hello, please read the notes. People with mastectomies don't generally like having their arm yanked upwards. Thank you.

Eventually we reached a compromise. The blender whirred. The seconds counted down for Picture Two; another eight minutes of increasing discomfort.

Some three minutes into the count, Miss Brusque returned unexpectedly and stopped the machine.

"Are you wearing some sort of chain round your neck?" she accused.

"No," I said. "I took them all off."

"Oh. Excuse me."

She disappeared.


"Have you had any chest surgery?"

Read my lips. I'll say it slowly.

"I. Have. Had. A. Mastectomy."

"Apart from that," she said impatiently.

Oh right, excuse me for not being psychic.


"Is there any other metal in your clothing?"

I raised an eyebrow. Hello, you didn't ask me to take my bra off, but it's not underwired. And all bras have hooks.

"Not that I can think of."

Then I remembered: I'd reshaped the tubby teddy with bobby pins, to make it actually look the same shape as a breast before I stuffed it.

"There might be a bobby pin or two," I said guiltily.

"Hrmph. That wouldn't do it."

She huffed off outside again, leaving me wondering if they'd suddenly discovered some new and terrible tumour on my heart.

Huffed in again.

"Can you take off everything from the waist up and put this gown on." It wasn't a question. "We're going to have to start again."

Um, whose fault is that?

The rest of the test proceded to plan. I survived three more eight minute bouts of agony to my arm, got myself dressed, paid a stupid amount of money to the pale girl at the desk and was halfway home before I realised what had happened.

And burst into fits of laughter, rendering me a hazard to oncoming traffic.


Dolly Parton.

Whistler's Mother.

Gentle reader, I put a rock in my prosthesis.

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