The wall

Another day, and another person I know finds out they have cancer. It’s not surprising, I suppose – the statistics say that fifty per cent of us will now get it at some point during our lives. We’re living longer, we’re sedentary, we do all the wrong things for years and we’re fine and then suddenly – bam.  In my age group, people are going down like ninepins, all of a sudden, right now, and it’s scary.

The latest friend to be affected is still at the angry, confused, denying stage, which reminds me so much of where I was a year and a half ago and makes me feel I’ve come a long way – albeit unwillingly, down a path no one wants to travel.

It struck me that all those of us who have cancer now or have had it in the past are on one side of a great high wall. The rest of you, on the other side, are worse off in a way as you live in dread of having to cross over to join us, while we have had to come to terms with the view from here. We’ve gone through panic, fear, terror, exhaustion, resignation and eventually had no choice but to accept our own mortality, to some extent. Now that we’re here, how much worse can it get, anyway? I don’t want an answer to that, by the way!

Anyway, I thought now might be the moment for my helpful translation guide to cancer care. I’m not sure how funny it is if you’re in the thick of treatment right now, so don’t read it if you’re feeling fragile.

  1. We’re just going to run a few tests. We’ll know more then. Translation: we’re going to scan you a billion times in very scary loud machines, inject you with lots of strange things, and prod you around mercilessly. We still won’t know anything.
  2. We’re analysing the scans. It takes time because the data is complicated. Translation: we’re analysing the scans, and it takes time because we’ve never seen anything like this before.
  3. The scans come up with a lot of false positives. Translation: the NHS can’t afford to sort out all your problems, let’s just do the life-threatening bits.
  4. Don’t look it all up on Google, you’ll just worry yourself unnecessarily. Translation: we’ve just Googled it ourselves and it doesn’t look good.
  5. You’ll feel a sharp scratch. Translation: brace for pain.
  6. This could be uncomfortable. Translation: you may want to scream but try not to because we’re lovely people.
  7. It helps if you breathe through the pain. Translation: it doesn’t help if you breathe through the pain. 
  8. This procedure is purely for staging purposes. Translation: we don’t really know why we’re doing this operation, but it seems to work so go with it.
  9. We’re pleased to say the cancer is gone. Translation: Yay! The good old NHS pulls it off again. 

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