Bodies are weird things aren’t they? And brains are even weirder.
In early May I developed a symptom of breast cancer. The night I discover it, I lie awake for hours imagining all kinds of scenarios, none of them happy. In the morning, I tell myself I am just being silly and try, extremely unsuccessfully, to forget about it for a few days. But I know I’m not just being silly, so I go to the GP. He says it is probably nothing to worry about but he’ll refer me to a consultant just in case. I try to focus on the nothing to worry about part of that sentence, but it’s almost impossible.
It takes less than two weeks to see the consultant. The NHS provides a truly outstanding service. But two weeks when you probably don’t but might have breast cancer is pretty much like two years of normal life. Overlaid with a constant unshakeable anxiety, which makes everything in your body so tight it’s like you’re a cashmere jumper that’s been boil washed.
On a biblical flood of a day, I see the consultant. She’s about the same age as my mother and very kind. She sends me down the corridor to have a mammogram. It hurts a lot. I say ow out loud, and the mammogram lady says sorry. I want to tell her that I’m not a wimp, that I’ve done childbirth without even gas and air, but I don’t.
There’s something there. I’m sent to have an ultrasound, which shows up two things. They might be nothing. But we’d better check, just in case.
So I have a biopsy. It’s horrible. Really horrible. But I feel an odd kind of relief. I’m going to find out what’s wrong and knowing is better than not knowing. Because I’m sure something IS wrong.
Back to the consultant who says I’m brave and there’s no point worrying. I drive home through the torrential rain and cry.
Another week to wait. Another week of imagining unhappy scenarios at three in the morning. There’s no point imagining the worst until it’s happened, I tell a friend who is worrying about something. Ha.
Back again to see the consultant on a warm sunny morning. A month to the day since I discovered the symptom and she tells me it’s good news before we’ve even made it into the consulting room. Whatever it was doesn’t require treatment or follow up. I can go.
I expect to feel flooded with relief but instead I’m numb and my scalp still feels like boiled wool. It’s as if my brain has got so used to worry that it can’t loosen it’s vice like grip. Intellectually I’m happy, but it’s hard to actually feel it. I know I’m lucky. Really lucky.
Life moves on but I’ve still got a headache. Brains are funny things.