Having a cancer diagnosis was a terrifying and immobilising experience for me as I imagine it is for many people. The amount of new information I have had to digest and then reinterpret at a later date once my hysterics had settled, is enough to write a compact medical book. I feel just as entitled as any doctor or nurse to use terms that were alien to me but are now part of my vocabulary.
I don't know where to begin with this 'story' so I'm just going to let it tumble it out naturally in it's own style. I will unpick it in a non-linear, ad-hoc manner in the hope that I can make some sense of it and lay parts of it to rest. Nine months past diagnosis I realise clearly that cancer will always be part of me - not necessarily in a literal physical sense - it has simply become another intrinsic aspect of what makes me who I am.
This week I started radiotherapy. This means that I need to drive to a hospital one hour away 5 days a week for three weeks, lay semi naked on a cold metal bed whilst scary, sci-fi like machines hum and click over me dispensing radiation. I'm so glad my husband and I went to the information evening beforehand and had a tour of the department. It was the first time in my life that I ever paid attention whilst someone talked physics!
It is surreal to sit in a waiting room with strangers, knowing that cancer links us. It doesn't discriminate - the room is filled with a cross section of the population. Some people come alone for treatment, other's bring back-up in the form of a spouse, friend, sibling, adult child. Yesterday I watched a youngish woman tenderly adjust the crumpled clothing of her husband who had just come out of a treatment room. He was frail and her love for him overwhelmed me and reminded me how lucky I am to have had love and care to help me through this. This week my husband came to the hospital with me twice, a friend came once and I went alone twice. Part of my plan to start reclaiming some independence is to do things on my own. This is important to me.
I have spent so many hours/days having hospital treatment in the past nine months that I see this environment as 'normal' - I long for it to feel alien again, because that means I have been cured and released from this protective custody. As a writer I realise that by writing about my experience I am reinventing myself in a story: I am creating my cancer survival narrative.
Survival is one of my new favourite words.