Thursday, 31 July 2014

I Hate Checkups

I thought that as time went on they would get easier and I’d be more relaxed, because each time I go I get good news, but actually the opposite seems to be the case. The more time that has elapsed between my treatment and the checkup the more likely I feel that those hairy cells will finally, and inevitably, be back.

Once the appointment appears a week away in my diary, every pain, twinge, ache, and feeling of tiredness is taken as confirmation that it is back. My last checkup was in December when like everyone else I had a cold and I was convinced that the sore throat I had was cancer. The time before that I it was something else.

I make the inevitable mistake of Googling the symptoms of my phantom cancer and, as it happens, if I chose the results carefully I get absolute confirmation that my suspicions are true. It is amazing what the mind can do to exaggerate sensations in one part of your body when you convince yourself that something is wrong when in reality nothing is.

This time round I am focussing not on a part of my body but on my historical blood test results. When I was diagnosed my white blood cells were off the charts and I had hardly any reds. Looking at my stats for the last few years (since 2011) my reds have been on a gradual decline whilst my whites are on the up. 

These are stats my doctor has and in isolation he's always happy with them as they are within the normal range. Maybe this is just a slow return to normal after wiping out my whites with chemo and topping up the reds with transfusions. All questions I’ll be asking later today but right now, and for the last few sleepless nights, I can’t help seeing it as a slow and inevitable creep of leukaemia back into my system.

As usual when approaching a checkup diary dates, and meetings accepted for after the appointment are always done so with an air of tentativeness. There’s always the thought at the back of my mind that that may not happen or that life at that point will be viewed with very different priorities if, seemingly at the flip of a coin, life takes a bit of a detour.

I’ve been wondering over the last few days what I’ll do differently if today I find out I have cancer again. I’ve come down to the seemingly obvious: drink less alcohol, spend more time with Emma, spend more time with friends, enjoy the simple things, and go out and exercise more. A lot more.

Quite quickly I asked myself why I would have to wait for a bad diagnosis to do those things if truly I believe them to be the important changes I could make to the way I live now. In fact why should any of us plod through life from day to day and only correct our behaviours to what we truly believe to be important when something dramatic happens to us or someone we love.

So I’m making those changes now. The summer holidays allow me to sit up chatting to Emma while she falls asleep each evening. And I ran along the river yesterday -  which was I’ll confess a knackering experience - and I’ll do it again tonight. 

Its not been an easy week keeping the fear to a minimum but whatever the result today I feel the battle is back on. And if there is anything in your life that you’d change if you got bad news today then change it now anyway. 

Don’t wait.