Thursday, November 7, 2013

Shouting back at the Scary Man

I'd barely posted the last episode of this blog when Jools materialised on the other end of the phone in tiger mode, shaking a striped finger at me.

"Don't you let that fucking Scary Man get away with talking to you like that!" she growled. "Shout back at him, for fuck's sake!"

See, she's done a lot of work on the crap that our subconscious lays on us. She fights her own non-constructive little voices all the time, trying not to let their negativity rule her life. And she's told me before that it's helpful to put those annoying figures from the depths of our subconscious into a chair and nail them down on what they're saying.

And then answer them back.

So, what the hell. Let's do it! Sit down, Scary Man.

Yeah, you. The one telling me I'm going to be dead before the lagoon is cleared, and the pain over my ribs is metastases, and exercising is pointless, and all that other crap that's been whispered in my ear for the last week.


(The Scary Man looks a lot less scary when I put him in a chair. He's actually quite small, when I take him off my shoulder. He can't even look me in the eye.)

Lights... camera... ACTION!

Now, what was that you said to me?

You'll be dead before that lagoon gets cleared. Because that pain over your ribs is the cancer coming back. So why bother exercising? It hasn't made any difference.

Right. Number 1: yes, it's possible that I might be dead before the lagoon gets cleared, for any number of reasons. What exactly is the point of vocalising that possibility, hmmm? What purpose does it serve?

(silence, while Scary Man inspects his own manicure)

What, no purpose at all, other than to scare the shit out of me?

That'll do.

Well shut up, then. If you're not going to be constructive, you can fuck off. Now, number 2. What's this crap about my ribs?

It's metastases.

Listen, you little fucker. In the last week I've been doing any number of things that could explain that pain. Opening the coffee machine with it braced on my ribs, lifting heavy crates of wet salvinia out of the dam, picking up 20kg bags of stockfeed, getting bitten by a paralysis tick. The pain's in the tissue, not in the bone itself. It only hurts when I push on it, and there's no lump. So the likelihood of it being anything cancer-related is minimal. So why would YOU jump to that conclusion? Just because you CAN?

Yep. Once you've had cancer, every little pain is going to be cancer. That's your fate. Just reminding you.

Well fucking DON'T, thanks all the same.

But you had to take it to the doctor to check it, didn't you? And now you need to have that bone scan, but you're a coward. Nyah nyah-nee nyah nyah! Scaredy cat!

Listen, you arsehole. I don't remember you getting your medical degree. And someone who does have a medical degree is Dr Mellow, and I saw him today, for your information. And he took a damn good look and had a damn good feel, and he sees absolutely no reason for a bone scan. So shut up until you can compete with about ten years of study and god knows how many years of experience in the field of oncology, because until then I'm taking his advice, not yours.

You know you can't beat it. You're all talk. Half your family's keeled over from cancer.

Half my family didn't catch it before it metastasised and take the tough road through all the most brutal treatments known to medicine. And half my family didn't get the chance to take personal responsibility for their wellness on top of accepting all the medical help. And maybe I won't beat it, but I'm going to have fun trying.

Fun? (startled look)

Yes. FUN. I've got all these ways of exercising that I actually enjoy. I'm clearing that damned lagoon, and it's hard work and it'll take forever and a day, but I've already seen one new bird there just from clearing that tiny little bit and that was WONDERFUL. And I'm having fun playing the healthy-treat-replacement game, finding something lovely to eat that I would have told myself before was too expensive to buy and having that instead of crap. Like the punnet of figs I ate on the way home from Dr Mellow's, instead of the usual icecream or chocolate bar. And besides, I like being able to fit into size 12 clothes again. So you can take your 'why bother' and stuff it where the sun don't shine. Here, use this pitchfork.

(exit Scary Man, stage left, muttering 'this is no FUN at all' under his breath)


Dr Mellow was, in fact, far more interested in genetic testing and the future of my ovaries than the tenderness over my ribs.

"The radiotherapy continues to affect the rib area for quite a long time," he explained. "And you know, I've had people come in worried about a lump which was actually their ribs protruding- they tend to move a little and stick out more afterwards. It all looks fine to me."

Given my family history, he was reasonably confident that I'd qualify for a genetic test to see if I have a predisposition to gynaecological cancers, so he's writing me a referral. What happens from here could change if I get a positive result for one of the faulty genes they've discovered so far. At the very least the ovaries and tubes could be invited to take a last bow before hitting the bottom of the yellow garbage bin, and it's possible that a prophylactic mastectomy on the other side could be indicated.

I'll deal with that when we get there- the idea doesn't worry me too much. Better safe than sorry. In fact I'm relieved; it's good to have reached the stage where we can talk about it. For months I was fobbed off with 'let's get through the treatment first', which I'm pretty sure is oncologist-speak for 'let's see if you're still alive by then'.

I'm still alive.


And talking of getting through treatment, Dr Mellow says I'm still in active treatment now.

"Very much so. The Arimidex is an extremely active form of treatment for the next five years. It's doing a huge job in preventing recurrence, and it increases your chances of survival a lot."

That came up because I told him the Bear was having some trouble coming to terms with the end of 'active treatment', given his history. Mellow was surprisingly sympathetic to that side of things, and stressed that some counselling was definitely a necessary addition to the coping kit for both of us (a position he shares with Dr Tiger-Jools, who was also waving the virtual finger about that). He even told me how to go about it, and where we could go in town to get a psychologist who bulk-billed.

So I came home and rang Monica, my Breast Care Nurse, who is now chasing up the best psychologist in the district for us. Hallelujah to that, say I, because even though the meltdowns are interspersed with days where the two of us are completely in sync, I know when I need help. And when he does.


And then I breathed deeply and got back in the big lagoon. I could feel the tender area every time I lifted a crate, but you know what? It's actually on both sides. Who knows? I could come out of this with 6-pack abs.

Oh, and our new friend didn't turn up today, but I'm sure he'll be back now he's found us. Here he is, or rather, one just like him.

Sacred kingfisher. Photo by Jeff Melvaine.
Turquoise, to set off azure. He'd make anyone feel better.

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