Last year I had a load of fun with the NHS. A diagnosis of breast cancer meant I scored free shots on all their big machines, spent happy days crossing swords with consultants and learned to sound like an expert with a whole new vocabulary of medical words.
In addition, I attracted a veritable tsunami of unsolicited but well-intentioned advice on how to deal with cancer, including practicing mindfulness, trying acupuncture, and having turmeric colonic irrigation.
The first one I discounted because standing still and not talking is too much of a challenge for me. The second one I passed on, because I was having quite enough needles shoved in me by nurses, who are very good at it, and junior doctors, who need the practice. The third didn’t appeal, which is just as well because turmeric might have irritated the other cancer that was lurking in there.
Yep, whilst everyone was getting obsessed with my bosom, something equally nasty was lurking down in the cellar. In fact, it’s starting to look like my boobs and bahookie were hellbent on racing to a photo-finish to see me off.
Everything had been going swimmingly well with the radiotherapy after the breast cancer surgery, but some rather unpleasant symptoms had begun to make themselves known.
So, off I went to a wonderful GP, who endlessly assured me that she realised that it did look odd and yes, people might worry that it was cancer, but I mustn’t, because two separate cancers would be the height of improbability.
Tests were ordered. Blood was taken. It’s a wonder to me I’m still standing, what with the amount of blood they’ve siphoned off. My liver and lungs were subject to some fairly intensive examinations. Between that, and the missing blood, I was starting to feel like a potential haggis for Hannibal Lecter’s next Burns Supper.
An endoscopy was scheduled. To prepare for this, you have to drink two litres of something utterly revolting. It tastes like drain cleaner, which is exactly what it is. You spend a lot of time in the loo. I read War and Peace. By the end of the evening, I felt so empty I thought I was two-dimensional. Seriously, a turmeric colonic irrigation would have been a lot easier all round.
A charming chap took pictures. I’ll spare you the detail. Let’s just say he put that camera somewhere the sun really doesn’t shine. It’s not as horrible as it sounds. For one thing, it’s a bloke who specialises in this sort of thing, not just some random wedding photographer who happens to be wandering past, and it’s not like they advance towards you clutching an iPhone. It’s a little tiny thing, and guess what it photographed?
They very kindly took me into a side room. I knew at once. He said lots of new jargon. I said, for the second time in less than a year, ‘You mean I have cancer’
The reply, for the second time in less than a year, was ‘Yes. Yes, you do.’
Turns out the height of improbability is 5ft 2in.
Won’t deny, a bit of a blow, particularly since it came exactly two days after oncology signed me off and told me not to bother them for a year.
Anyway, the good news is that this is treatable, and so there is a fair old chance I’ll be about long enough to make extensive use of my free bus pass. The other upside is that the NHS clearly regards me as a bit of oddity. This has advantages, but I must admit that every time I get lost in the Western General I get the eerie feeling that there’s a red dot on my forehead. I’m sure I’m being stalked by specialists who see a prize specimen in front of them.
So, the bell has been rung and its seconds out for Round Two. It’s a bit of a faff and no mistake, but as ever, no matter what we might say about the NHS, when roused into action it is a magnificent beast to behold, even if they make you drink unmentionably horrible stuff and shove cameras up yer bahookie.
The bottom line is, take the test
Whilst we’re on the subject of things bahookie based, remember that letter you got from the caring, sharing NHS, where they asked you to send a sample of your unmentionable to test?
Did you do it? There’s a strong chance you giggled a bit and forgot about it. Lots of people did. In fact, less of us took advantage of the test in recent years. Do it. Colorectal cancer is totally treatable in the early stages, and all you have do is send a sample to Dundee.
It might save your life, and how think how happy that would make Dundee. Exactly. Spread the love, people.