“We’re not totally sure, but these kinds of results can be an indicator of cancers like Leukaemia or Lymphoma. Can you come in for an emergency appointment today, and is there anyone you can bring with you?“
At 08:36 on Monday the 10th of September, I received a call that was to completely shatter any sense of normality in my life from then on. It would upend everything that I took so readily for granted and, like some malignant black hole, wrest into its uncharted chaos those who love me the most.
I didn’t see it coming. After six months of unrelenting back pain, I had become intimately familiar with the feeling of haphazardly ricocheting from one potential diagnosis to another. At first it was muscle strain, then sciatica, followed by connective tissue disease, then arthritis. Not in my wildest dreams had I imagined it could be cancer. What mostly-healthy-but-definitely-not-a-saint 30 year old does, I suppose?
The rest of the morning was a frantic scramble for some semblance of structure. My colleagues, lovely as ever, took it upon themselves to phone my partner and to talk to my manager. Before driving home, I took a deep breath and dialled my parents, a call in which I coerced myself into gentle stoicism so as not to worry them (what a ridiculous premise – as though a trembling voice would have worried them more than the fact that their daughter has cancer. But a moment etched into my mind nonetheless). They dropped everything to make the 3.5 hour trip straight to me.
When I got home, I quickly realised something that I would feel throughout this ordeal; it’s the waiting that’s worst. Especially if you’re as impatient and as ‘control freak’ as me. Those in-between moment when nothing is how it should be and there’s fuck all you can do about it. Normally an ‘organiser’ type, there was no list I could write, no decluttering I could do that would help make this go away, or even change the outcome of what my doctor would shortly tell me.
And tell me she did.
Suspected Leukaemia (though it would turn out to be Hodgkin’s Lymphoma), with my MRI results showing growths on my lower spine, pelvis and right hip.
What can you say to that, in that moment? I sat there, in the company of my amazing doctor, my loving partner, and his wonderful Mum – and I felt the loneliest I’ve ever been.
That’s the thing about being sick. Your loved ones make the biggest difference in the world to you throughout this, and an active support network is vital; but in the end you alone will face the disease. You will fight it in your body, will feel the aches and pains, the needles and the poison.
Of course it’s scary. But it’s not impossible. This is just the start for me, and I’m going to attempt to keep a record of it all – the highs, the lows, and the slows of one cancer fighter.