Cancer, I found no poetry in you

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I was formally diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a cancer of the lymphatic system, on Valentine’s Day, 2006. I was 42.

I was told that my treatment had been successful, six months later, in October that year. I have now been in remission from the disease for just over six years. I am now required to visit the hospital where I was treated just once a year for check-ups.

The diagnosis, when it came, was a shock, but not a surprise. I had woken up on New Year’s Day feeling very sore down my right hand side. I thought I had slept in a draught. You can imagine the level of sympathy I enjoyed that morning as I searched the house for pain-killers. My protestations of having been sensible the night before fell on deaf ears.

The pain grew worse. I spent the first full evening of that year in A&E, having tests. These proved inconclusive, and were to persist in doing so, as I was hospitalised a week later, and again some weeks after that.  Much later, once my tumour had been found and identified as malignant, my GP told me it was ‘lucky’ that it had been growing in an area so full of nerve endings, otherwise they might not have found it so swiftly. This made me wonder what a slow diagnosis might look like.

I suspect everyone who has been diagnosed with cancer has a similar story to tell in that it involves many tests, a lot of false starts and hours of rather fruitless phone calls to friends and relatives giving descriptions of events that are beyond imagination.

I had two diagnoses. The second and more formal one was in an office, with tissues and a computer screen. The first came in a phone call, late on a Friday afternoon. I was at home, having just picked up one of my children from school. I had been promised a result of my biopsy a week earlier, and having heard nothing decided to ask if there was any news. The doctor was brief and to the point, merely confirming that it was what they had suspected: lymphoma. She paused and asked if I had a pen as she needed to give me details of the doctors I was to see next.

A great numbness came over me. Outside, very normal things were continuing to go on without me: a car being parked, a mother pushing a buggy with a toddler in tow. My first thoughts were not about dying, or heaven. I was much more exercised about keeping control of the news for as long as possible because my daughter was away on a school trip and had taken the sole mobile phone we possessed at that point. I did not want her receiving sympathetic texts from relatives when we had not told her face to face. I tried to continue reading the newspaper I had put down, but couldn’t. It was the last concentrated reading I was to do for months.

You can read the complete article here: I found no poetry in you, full article

I have published the full account of my treatment, Love for Nowwhich you can buy here and here

You can read how I wrote Love for Now here; and why I wrote it here

Thank you to all my readers for following this blog. Wishing you all a very happy Christmas and see you in the new year.

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