Nuns get it, apparently. Non-smokers get it. Ovarian cancer, that is. I can make no claims to anything in the nun department, despite the nunhood clearly being my destiny at 7 years old. Seven year olds are notoriously fickle, though, so by the time I was 8 I had the medical profession in my sights. Given recent events, I suppose some might say I still do. But smoking, that’s another matter entirely. I was such a boring wuss as a teenager I wouldn’t even try a cigarette, not even the ones that created the strangely scented cloud that enveloped all teenage parties in Jamaica, home at that time. Although, if I were a politician, I would probably have to admit that I’d inhaled. Apparently Jamaican villagers gave (?give) crying babies spoonfuls of ganja to lick; the West Indian equivalent of a baby bottle filled with Irn Bru, perhaps? Did you need to know that? I have never smoked. Not once.
We saw the oncologist on Thursday, Dr Melanie MacKean and, like Graeme Walker the gynaecologist a few days earlier, she was approachable, supportive, informative and most of all up-beat. I didn’t need the list of questions I’d cobbled together or my notebook to write the answers in because she did all that for me. There was masses to take in but, as far as they can tell, the cancer has gone. They didn’t find it anywhere else. Now, I’ve been around science long enough to know there are no 100% guarantees in this game, and everything is based on samples, risk, probability, percentages, informed guesswork but still, the odds are definitely in my favour. It’s clear too that I must be hugely grateful to an on-the-ball diving doctor who noticed the lump and a good GP who didn’t dismiss it as “just a fibroid”. It seems ovarian cancer is rarely picked up this early and my anaesthetist brother-in-law reported back that his colleagues were equally amazed it was spotted.
We’ve agreed on chemotherapy and it all starts on Friday. It’s very daunting, sitting here feeling fit and well, nothing obvious to see, knowing that I’m going to have to poison my body over the next few months. I’m reassured by the doctors’ confidence that this is the right thing to do and that I’ll come through the other end. I did feel a huge relief in tension after speaking to Melanie on Thursday, due, I think, to her positive attitude, making an informed decision and having at least some idea of the way forward. I feel as though I’m in good hands and that this is the NHS at its best. At every stage so far, people have been prepared to take time to talk to me, give me information, answer questions, tell me what’s going on and most of all treat me as a human being, and this openness makes it so much easier to cope. Friends have been fantastic, prepared to talk and question and listen. I haven’t been able to think about anything else for the last couple of weeks.
Here’s hoping this is the last self-indulgent bit of introspection and that I can start retrieving a bit of normality. Did I say normality? I’m about to start chemo. But I’m sure there’ll be stories to tell.
What I can’t decide is if I’ve just hit a patch of bad luck or good luck. Whichever, it doesn’t really matter – I just have to get on with it now. But maybe someone up there is smiling on me; perhaps that 7 yr old me made a big enough deposit!