How (NOT) To Get Diagnosed


Welcome to this segment, A Brief History of Beth, where I will talk you through my not very brief history of cancer.

breif history of beth

This is my book, A Brief History of Beth.

I would probably liken my struggle for a diagnosis to that slow, shitty train you get home that stops at every station after a long night out; you wonder what you’re still doing stuck on there after what seems like years, but you persevere and in the end you get a cancer diagnosis (see, it was all worth it). And so although my struggle was annoying and I will need a good few posts to tell my story, it did allow me to make that amazingly creative, albeit slightly depressing, comparison. So today I will be talking about the events that set the wheels of the cancer train in motion…

It was early December, and my alarm went off… It was half seven. Anyone who knows me can vouch for the fact that I am NOT a morning person; the only sunrise I’m having is a Tequila Sunrise (what a party-girl, am I right?). And so I awoke, bleary eyed, cursing the world I was brought into. But then I saw my advent calendar hanging on my door, and I realised that it wasn’t such a bad world really…


As a child my mum would never buy us chocolate advent calendars, but when I was nine, my nan, who as my friends know is Queen Quilter, made me and my brother these absolutely amazing advent calendars. Since then, every December my mum has filled them with chocolate and continues to up the chocolate game each year. And in 2015, sure enough, each pocket was filled with Freddo bars with popping candy and a few pockets even had white chocolate Galaxy presents.

So, I arose from my bed and staggered towards my advent calendar, reaching for number 15. And as I did so I fainted, ever so gracefully, falling backwards, hitting my back, against the edge of my chest of drawers.

This is me with a dreaming of my beautiful Advent calendar. It was the best dream of my life. Notice the quilt, which was also made by my lovely Nanny Rabbits.

I will mention here that the previous week I had got a back tattoo, which I still firmly believe is a good idea, and was not the mistake my mum insists it was (her primary concern being that if I get married one day and want to wear a strapless dress, it will ruin the whole look). That, however, is not the point; the point is that falling onto a freshly tattooed back is possibly one of the most painful things I have ever experienced.

So anyway, I quickly awoke on the floor, surrounded by chocolate, with a throbbing back and two main concerns:

  1. My back My advent calendar.
  2. My back.

Obviously this was all very distressing for me so I fixed my calendar (priorities), sneakily changed number 15 and 22 around so I got to eat the big Galaxy chocolate (sorry mum, but I felt quite faint and needed the extra sugar), got back into bed and took the day off because I was too busy wallowing in self pity to listen to some shit about black holes.

And that was how it started…

In reality, this had nothing to do with my illness. It was just a random thing that happened at an unfortunate time… because a few weeks later I started noticing my symptoms. Initially it began as a tingling in my right leg when I was in bed, which I ignored and didn’t mention to anyone, since I am never one to moan.


This is Ibuprofen. Be aware, it does not cure cancer.

The tingle rapidly became painful, so in January I went to my GP who did what she loves most: prescribing Ibuprofen and Paracetemol… as if I had not already tried that.

In February, I was referred to an orthopaedic surgeon called Dr He-who-shall-not-be-named-because-he-missed-my-tumour-but-it-is-not-a-problem-because-the-semikin-family-hold-no-grudges-especially-mummy-semikin-who-isn’t-mad-at-all, or Dr H for short. Dr H ordered an MRI, expecting to find some sort of slipped disc type scenario but after reviewing my images assured me there was nothing abnormal on my MRI. Not a thing in sight. He got out his big plastic spine and gave me a little educational talk about my bones and nerves. It was all very impressive… and I believed him, because apparently the ownership of a big spine makes me immediately trust anyone. No euphemism intended. The appointment ended with him recommending a five-week course of osteopathy, followed by a steroid epidural if that didn’t work. And that is the first episode of the incredibly interesting saga that is my recent medical history.

And so I will end leaving you wondering whether the osteopathy worked, which even I have to admit must be the dullest cliffhanger ever. I am hoping that instead you will return to read my next post in this segment on my promise of a story in which I completely humiliated myself on my osteopath’s table.


I just wanted to add, as a little aside and hopefully a reassurance to anyone awaiting an MRI, the following words:

I wasn’t particularly nervous about having my first MRI, but no matter how little this kind of thing bothers you, there is still a little seed of doubt and worry that begins to grow as you change from your clothes into the super chic hospital gown. I soon discovered that these nerves were entirely uncalled for because, yes the MRI machine was incredibly loud and yes, it was a little boring (although I fell asleep in my first MRI and have continued to do so in every single one since), but every radiographer I have come across, and I have come across a lot, have been amongst the most lovely, caring, accommodating medical staff I have met, and have never failed to make me feel safe, even immediately after I have received incredibly bad news. I know a lot of people worry about feeling claustrophobic inside the MRI machines and I cannot pretend to understand how it feels to suffer from this, but although the machines I have been in were reasonably narrow, they were also all very light and airy, and were not the dark dingy tubes I was beginning to worry they would be. And of course, they are always a chance to chill and gently drift to sleep to the deafening sound of magnets doing their thang. Which is no whale-song.

About the Author


allison semikin

Beth Semikin, most shocking thing in all of this. What the beep, you swapped your chocolate order around in your Advent calendar, do you know how long that took to arrange? Minutes for goodness sake, minutes!
Seriously though, another amazing blog from my amazing daughter. Love you very much Beth xxxx


Awww thanks mum, love you lots and lots!! Also I apologise, but what can I say?! I lead an altogether different life at university.


I can’t sleep I’m too excited to know if you got that epidural? Honestly though, fab post and your back tattoo was not a bad idea I love it. Keep up the blogging! Xxxxxx


Cheers b, I’m hoping to get that postcard from Le Pain Quotidienne or whatever it’s called soon, because I’m a fiver up when we do – no tat regrets at all! Hope to see you soon, I have your bday present remember! xoxoxo

Anne Jeps

morning Beth, reading your blog has been a great start to my day, you’re a natural writer, looking forward to reading your first book. Beaming you love and support x


Hi Anne! Thank you, I’m so glad you enjoyed it! Haha I will be approaching publishers very soon… maybe! I really appreciate the message of support, it is very encouraging knowing people are behind me xoxoxo

Lisa Breeden

I was totally absorbed in this latest post Beth. I was almost gathering up that chocolate with you! I’m now late getting ready! Looking forward to the next instalment. Was lovely to catch up with you and mum yesterday. You are two amazing ladies xxx


Hi Lisa! Thanks for your message and your kind words, I’m glad you enjoyed this post. It is always worth being late for work if the reason is that you were eating, or even just thinking about, chocolate xoxoxo


I’ve wanted to do a blog since the start of my journey I called it but I wrote a diary instead. I too had sarcoma mine was a “soft tissue bone cancer the base of my skull the name for it being wait for it cos I can spell it “chrondrosarcoma” a mouthful I know. I too had surgery to remove it but they had too leave that little bit which I then had proton in Oklahoma I’m great now 3 years in remission and can’t wait to hear the rest of your story bless you only 21 still a child my eldest was 16 when I was told and she took in her stride to look after me “mum” and her other siblings it’s a journey no one wants to go through but when you had the support of family and close friends it all helps xxx


Hi Andrea, thanks for the message! I’m so appreciative to receive messages from people who have gone through a similar experience to me, not just because it is extremely comforting and it gives me hope that I, like you, will make a full recovery, but also because it means a lot to know that my blog means something to others who have had or have cancer. I hope your good health continues, and good luck for the future. Thank you for sharing your story with me, and you are exactly right in saying that the support of my family and friends is getting me through this. If you did enjoy the blog and haven’t already, please feel free to subscribe so that you will receive an email notifying you when I have posted anything new xoxoxo


Hi Vera!! Hope you are well! Thank you for the message 🙂 I will say that I have enjoyed writing this much more than I have enjoyed physics for quite a while… not an equation in sight and I’m loving it! Lots of love xoxoxo


Your title is well deserved, and you are renowned amongst my friends for your fabulous quilts! Love you lots xoxoxo

Hannah Cunningham

Great post! I am on tender hooks waiting for the osteopathy story 😉 Sending so much love your way xxx


Hey Hannah, glad you liked it! Don’t worry it’s coming soon.. hopefully tomorrow!! xoxoxo

Sue Cunningham

I think you missed your vocation Beth….you are a natural writer! Love reading your blog and look forward to reading a ‘happy ending’. Much love xxx


Hey sue! Haha thank you, I have to say I am enjoying it a lot more than physics… Not an equation in sight and I’m loving it! Hope to see you soon xoxoxo


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