Cancer 5 "Should I say something?" Acceptance

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Cancer 5 "Should I say something?" Acceptance

Paul Brasington 2023
Published by Paul Brasington in Good health · Wednesday 19 May 2021
Tags: Cancer
I had the CT scans on Monday. One of them was of my upper body, I imagine looking for secondaries. The other was a virtual colonoscopy, required because they had not been able to get beyond the tumour to look at the rest of my bowel in the conventional colonoscopy.
It wasn’t a particularly comfortable experience. Although the weekend’s restricted diets and laxatives had proved less onerous than needed for the full colonoscopy, the procedure still entailed having a tube inserted in your anus, a little balloon inflated to hold it in place and then having gas pumped into your bowel to open things up and provide the clearest view of what’s going on.
The radiographer, a cheerful professional with a sensible bedside manner, explained that I would feel the gas filling me up, and if it became too uncomfortable I should let them know. This was not a reassuring statement, particularly as it was also apparent that they would need to get enough gas in there for the scan to work optimally. As the gas went in it was as he predicted, a growing discomfort much like an intense need to empty your bowels, which in the circumstances would have been unpleasant for all, though I don’t suppose at that point there was anything left except gas. As the pressure increased I was wondering how much I could actually take, whether I was supposed just to lie there and endure it for the sake of the procedure, or whether he’d meant it: should I say something?
I caved in and mumbled
“It’s getting quite painful.” “Ok,” was the reply, though I’m not sure they actually stopped at that point.

The procedure proceeded, and I turned this way and that while being passed through the space-age doughnut of the CT scanner, and so it was done. To my great relief the tube was removed from my bottom. I had to wait around for another 15 minutes, in case the contrast solution they’d injected into my veins caused any kind of reaction (“just 1 per cent of cases” I was reassured), and finally it was time to have something to eat after some 26 hours without solid food.
The waiting
So now we have the indeterminate wait for the results, or more precisely, the conversation with the medical team about what they’ve found and what they propose to do next.
All we can do is wait, and this uncertainty is not easy to bear. It got to me last night, for the first time, a small remark tipping me over the edge, a place where I retreat into myself. I sat up here at my desk briefly, my thoughts churning, filling myself with unhappiness, and I realised that this was not what I needed to do.

Instead I went for a walk, out along the raised bank on the further side of the River Rother, passing through sitting sheep and their lambs, most of which stirred themselves to stand and shamble down the bank, though a few remained looking at me with apparent nonchalance. I wanted to say "it's alright, stay where you are, I don't want to disturb you," but sheep never seem to listen.

It was the last light of the day, the water shining, a blue cast falling across the fields and the mound of the town on the other side of the water. I walked slowly, thinking about Keats and the beauty of acceptance, the comfort of knowing all this was a beauty that would continue past my death, and it was a real consolation as I tried to ease the thoughts of my possible demise. This I understand is what it is to live in the moment, something I would not want for every moment (our sense of the past and future may enrich our experience of the present) but it was rather the consciousness that such calm joy could only be had in the moment, that we could never hold on to it, and that this was all we could hope for.

I returned home, and sat for a while on the bench in the garden at the front of the house, watching a bat dart through the near-darkness, listening to the crows still screeching around their nests in the tall trees behind the house. My son emerged into the light of the lamp above our front door, the steam from his vape clouding around his head and mingling with the condensation from the boiler flue, intent on whatever was on his phone so he did not see me for many minutes, the wheezing of the vape coming to me through the night, the blooming wisteria stretching along the flank of the house to where I sat in the shadows.

I felt calmer then, knowing it was inevitable that darker moods would overtake me from time to time. It’s not that my usual good spirits are a pretence: I’m always aware of the possibilities in front of me, including the grim ones, and most of the time I can deal with that awareness with good humour. It’s the waiting, the not knowing, that’s hard. It’s likely to be at least another week.

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