Welcome to this segment, A Brief History of Beth, where I will talk you through my not very brief history of cancer.
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.
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:
- My back My advent calendar.
- 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.
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.