Friday, 26 October 2018

The Doom Lifts

Doom Day. It is dark and raining. The road to Cambridge is closed by a “police incident” so we take the back roads – normally deserted, but now following a long slow caravan of diverted traffic. We sit in silence. Edwin sings some modern song in a low voice. Ann sits quietly without speaking. We wait in Addenbrookes' coffee lounge until the appointment at nine. The talk wanders over what might be said, what the future might bring. I am resigned to having a radical cystectomy, and life with a bag clinging to my side like an unwelcome leech. I say I do not want to die, so will probably opt to follow the consultant's advice, taking the discomfort and pain to come.

The waiting room is divided in two by a trellis, with a sign by the opening clearly saying, "Clinic 12 on this side". A large woman keeps trying to go through, insisting to her husband he should be that side, while he refuses to follow her and the receptionist keeps insisting, "your clinic is this side." She must be deaf as well as blind; but perhaps, like us, she is distracted by the severity of her husband's disease.

Mr Turner, the principal urology team surgeon,  is a solemn man whose eye never wavers from me. He explains with great  detail the situation, and outlines the possible road map ahead, and I appreciate his directness. Then his message begins to get home. The cystectomy is not the first choice; indeed, he emphasizes that the odds are equally balanced between radical cystectomy and radiotherapy, giving me the choice. Either will follow a bout of chemotherapy, which will be done by the oncologists at Bury. My chances either way will be about 50:50, which are considerably better odds than a diagnosis of terminal cancer, and would be very good odds  in a horse race, well worth a punt.

Coming out, I feel I have been granted a reprieve. The rain has stopped and the clouds are lifting. On the pavement, we overhear a conversation by a man with a wide grin, "They say I don't have cancer!" and his friends and rels cheer and laugh with him. Edwin says, "Mum, if you hold him, do you think we can break his arm?" Ann replies, "No. I'll break it on my own!"

By the time we're home, the sun is shining and the skies are blue. I had lived in dread of radical life-changing major operations. These other treatments I can face as they come, and the side effects should not last for ever. Now we can begin to live again and enjoy cracking the wild walnuts I collected from the tree in Clare.

Clare walnuts

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