The Difficult Second Blog

22 04 2013

The last thing I wrote here was about being told I had cancer, and I can’t help but feel there’s now a bit more of the story to tell. I’m a firm believer that all the best things in life come in threes- think Sugababes, Musketeers or Alvin, Simon and Theodore- so I thought I’d turn it into a trilogy. That’s right; you’re getting two more posts about cancer- wahoo! How delightfully upbeat!

A week after the second operation to get rid of Captain Cancer and his Cells (that would be a brilliant name for a 60s band, by the way) I was on a train. The train was hot and, by extension, so was I. And in an not-unreasonable action, I took off my scarf to feel the slight breeze wafting through the carriage. As I did so, I felt the gaze of the woman sitting opposite me; her eyes had rested on the bottom of my neck. I didn’t understand why she was looking at me. I’d had people stare at my face before (often followed by the words ‘why didn’t you brush your hair today?’) and I’ve had boys look at my cleavage before (you know who you are), but this was a region that wasn’t used to unwanted attention.

Being totally flummoxed and somewhat uncomfortable, I carefully curled my scarf back around my neck and had a think. The woman turned her head to look out of the window (a riveting view of a cow) and I realised what she’d seen- the new scar at the bottom of my neck. Now, I realise that to someone who hasn’t seen my Facebook profile or twitter feed (I know, I was shocked that those people exist too), it looks like I’ve gone mad and done some pretty intense self-harm. But really neat self-harm in a perfectly straight line, because although I wanted to hurt myself I’d be damned if it wasn’t tidy.

I wanted to tell this woman- I haven’t done this on purpose! I didn’t wake up and decide to do this! I haven’t joined a gang, I haven’t been in a fight with a pirate, I haven’t had an accident with a knife! I have cancer, and if anything this scar is a badge of honour to prove what I’m going through!

Of course shouting that on a train would make me look crazy, and I’d most likely be chucked out at Peterborough, and nobody wants that. Not even people who live in Peterborough. And really, did I need to explain everything to a nosy stranger on a train? No. But it made me realise there are people I do need to explain everything to- my lovely friends, caring family, and people who I might not see all the time but very kindly ask how I am and what’s been going on. And to be honest, if you’re reading this blog, you probably fall into one of those categories.

So. You know the beginning, right? I needed an operation to get rid of half the thyroid, yeah? Well. Let’s begin there.

The day of the operation was nerve-wracking. I’d never been under anaesthetic, and one thing no one told me is that it makes you incredibly weepy. The things I sobbed about that night are unbelievable- my pillow was too high, my pillow was too low, the lights were too bright, the lights were too dim, and- oh yeah- I had eight staples in my neck to hold it together. (Ask me to show you the pictures; just as I predicted in the last blog I did look like a low-budget Frankenstein). The day after was, I think, the lowest I’ve felt during the whole treatment process. I couldn’t believe I had this ruddy scar on my neck, it hurt to move my head, I was scared to sneeze or cough or swallow in case my neck came apart (a ridiculous notion, I know, but to be fair I’ve never trusted the staying power of a staple. I just thank god they didn’t use blu-tack). For about a week after I couldn’t talk for long (an awful prospect for someone who presents on the radio) and when I did I had to pause, at unnatural, moments in the, sentences, I was, speaking. I also couldn’t move my head without putting my hand behind it and taking the weight off my neck. And then when I looked in the mirror, I couldn’t see anything apart from this long, unsightly red mark.

I was not fun to be around.

The worst thing of the two-week healing process was that I couldn’t laugh at anything; I found nothing funny. The world had faded to grey and nothing could cheer me up. I actually spent one morning wondering if the right side of my thyroid had been my sense of humour in physical form, and now the thyroid was gone maybe so was my ability to laugh. Then I realised that was insane and I just needed to stop watching depressing episodes of Neighbours.

The morning I was due to return to London in a blaze of glory was the morning I was told the cancer had most likely spread, and I needed another operation and more treatment. I have no qualms in saying that crushed me. I really had hoped, and I think you can tell from my last blog, that I’d only need one operation to solve the whole thing. And the fact that it wasn’t over, I had to keep going, I had to spend more time planning for a thing that was consistently interrupting my life, was not one I enjoyed.

But we soldier on. Actually, in comparison to the first, the second was a doddle- the only thing that annoyed me was the woman in the next bed spending twelve hours demanding an enema; after about six hours I offered to have a bash at it myself if it would help shut her up. Anyway, this time I had eleven staples gripping my neck together and although it hurt and I was scared, I felt so much better than before.

And now I have this scar, proof of what I’ve been through. Admittedly so many people have it much worse…all that happened to me was a surgeon emptied a monthly supply of the WH Smith’s staples into my neck. Happily, I think the end is in sight; there’s only one bit of treatment left, where I get a few injections and swallow a radioactive tablet. I’m thoroughly disappointed to report I’ll gain no superhero-type side effects, but I will have the power to make pregnant women have mutant babies, so I have to stay in solitary confinement for a few days. Obviously I’ll let you know how it goes, but I suspect I’ll end up spending the whole time either napping or playing Peggle.

So now, when I look in the mirror at my scar, I see all of that. Sure, I’ll see the difficult stuff like operations, injections and waiting rooms. But I’ll also see the good stuff like the friends who supported me, the family who have been there every step of the way, and the fact that I, Bex Lindsay, aged 25 and three-quarters, got through a spot of cancer. And I hope that next time we meet, and you get a glimpse of my scar, you’ll see all of that too.

PS- I’m glad I decided not to tell the rude woman on the train where my scar came from. Part of me hopes she thought I was a cut-throat Al Capone mafia gal, and I would hate to ruin that image with a story about something as boring as cancer.




One response

5 05 2013

Aww Bex, so glad to hear that you’re on the mend!! And that your thyroid wasn’t the porthole to your sense of humour. That must have been horrible when you got the news about the second op – but you should be dead proud of yourself and how you’ve coped with it all.

p.s – you would be a terrible mafia gal – you apologise too much.

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