43 days and five hours after cancer surgery came the news I'd been waiting for – Susan Morrison

Susan Morrison’s surgeons tell her that two tumours in her lungs can be swiftly removed and her liver is clear – so she can have her first glass of wine since the operation

By Susan Morrison
Friday, 21st August 2020, 7:30 am
Wine is back on Susan Morrison's shopping list after an enforced dry spell due to cancer surgery (Picture: Gary Longbottom)
Wine is back on Susan Morrison's shopping list after an enforced dry spell due to cancer surgery (Picture: Gary Longbottom)

The NHS carried out a thorough examination of my lungs this week and I am delighted to report that I have two, and in the right place. The scan had picked up two tiny tumours lurking in there. My ridiculously cheery surgeon is confident they can be swiftly excised, but he wanted to check I could breathe.

Breathing I can do. Why, I learned how to do it properly back when I was expecting the girl child.

Don’t get me wrong, I had cracked the old in-out technique some years before. In fact, my mother said that I took to this breathing lark like a natural from the very first minute I met fresh air, and proved it by fully inflating those lungs to belt out the sort of note at the sort of volume Bassey used to deploy when she did Goldfinger.

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This, however, was amateur league breath work. Whilst pregnant, however, I quickly discovered that I had been breathing all wrong. This didn’t surprise me. Just about the first thing you learn when you announce you’re having a baby is that you do everything wrong.

Advice from the Angel Gabriel

Take a look at one of those beautiful paintings of the Angel telling the Virgin Mary that she’s preggers, which, incidentally, is a heckuva way to find out you’re up the duff. Imagine that in your bathroom.

Mind you, Gabriel in all his celestial glory sure beats a wee blue line on a white plastic stick you’ve just pee-peed on.

But I bet your big-winged messenger followed up on his heavenly Annunciation to say, “You’ll really need to watch your diet now, love. Knock off the goats cheese. Ditch those high-heeled sandals. Got your birth plan?”

Professional standard breathing was apparently called upon for a happy labour, free of the need for pain relief, so I went to one of those birthing classes where I sat on a bean bag and thought about my happy place and listened to whale song.

Well, it might have been whale song. I do recall I had a lot of acid reflux back then, so it could well have been me, singing internally.

They were valuable lessons. I learned how to fully pump up those lungs at the peak of the worst contractions.

I hauled in air like it was about to be rationed. I exhaled with the power of a breaching whale spouting sea spray 30 feet up, locked eyes with my midwife and thundered: “Get me all the drugs you’ve got. STAT!”

So, I had few concerns when I went up again to the RIE, and met with a cheerful lung nurse, and promptly proved how healthy my lungs were, irksome little tumours aside, by talking at her non-stop.

Eventually she produced a thing like a snorkel and a nose clip and showed me how to fit the breathing tube in my mouth. At that point I realised she’d probably done that to shut me up.

Look, this is Fringe time. I miss audiences. What can I say?

Grape expectations fulfilled

My lung specialist nurse seemed very pleased with my breathing, but did I get a sticker? I did not. When my kids went to the dentist, they got stickers. Actually, in my childhood, when we went to the dentist, we got lollipops. I assume that was to keep them in business.

It’s been an NHS-heavy week, since I also had my follow-up with my liver surgeon. Queen’s Surgeon in Scotland, you know. I shaved both my legs. Needn’t have bothered. He’s a liver man. The rest of the body is just there to keep the liver off the deck.

He’s not alone in this body-blindness, all the specialists think their bit of the body is the best. Everything else is just frippery and decoration.

The lung nurse bigged up lungs like Simon Cowell selling a girl band. The great man didn’t even look at my scar, which I am ridiculously proud of, although my torso now resembles a road map of the Highlands.

He asked me how I was, and I said I was fine. My husband said I was noisy, which was a good indicator of my general wellbeing. The prof beamed benevolently, but again, no sticker. Did I have any questions, he asked. Yes, I said, when is the liver finished doing it’s Time Lord regeneration thing and when can I have a glass of wine?

Not that I was counting, but it was 43 days and five hours since the surgery. Honestly, not missing it all, although I have been spotted in the wine aisle of Lidl whispering “soon, my lovelies, soon . . .”.

Oh, he said, you’ve made a great recovery, your liver is clear, so I’d have a glass tonight to celebrate this good news.

He might have said something else, but I didn’t catch it. I had shopping to do.

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