Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Woe woe!

Not really, actually.

I'm happy to report that the First Stage is finished. I went to the Gemelli yesterday and spent the day getting into and out of my clothes, getting injected with radioactive substances and emitting photons and gamma rays. Had only one tiny little meltdownish moment that only Highly Trained Professionals saw. I've completed what one of the oncologists called the "mosaic" of information gathering. Now it is up to them to put all the information together and decide which bits of me they're going to chop out and which bits they're going to irradiate, and which they're going to poison with chemo. Test results will be available next week.

So, I've got a week to fret and obsess and imagine that the cancer has spread to every part of my body and that I'm going to die a horrible death twisting in agony get back to work.

In the meantime, I've learned a few unexpected things about getting cancer.

1. Cancer involves a lot more social obligations than one would have thought.

I've spent years and years honing my anti-sociability, bringing it to a fine point, insulting people on my blog, refusing dinner party invitations, ducking out of Mass at the postcommunion to avoid getting roped into the post-Mass lunch... This behaviour has helped me whittle down my social interaction to the people who really, actually, demonstrably like me enough to overlook/put up with it all. It's a self-correcting system that has worked well for me for many years.

One of the reasons I've developed this handy system is that I've always assumed that other people were, well, bad. Not necessarily that they mean to be bad, that they're wicked in their intentions, but - again this is probably a having-been-raised-by-hippies thing - that they're insincere, self-centred, indifferent and generally addicted to their personal fantasies.

Don't get me wrong, I do know this is actually true. But I think I'm learning that they are also, often, other much nicer things as well. All of a sudden, I've had all these people being unexpectedly nice to me all day long. Even going out of their way to do things to make my life easier and make all this medical stuff happen.

And, strangely, they seem to mean it. If I were a clever math-person I would come up with some kind of algorithm to work out how to explain it, but I'm stuck with making generalised observations: people are probably not so bad.

Naturally, I'm aware that this places an obligation on me to learn to be nice to them back, and I'd like to assure readers that I'm thinking about it. (This doesn't mean, I hasten to add, that the commbox rules are changing.) Fortunately, one of the people whom I haven't driven away, someone who has actual social skills, is teaching me. I'm learning to send thank you notes, to not treat people who smile at me with suspicion and, get this, to call people on. the. telephone.

2. Cancer (and possibly by extension other really important life-altering encounters with The Real) doesn't make you more annoyed with/alienated from God. I don't entirely have an explanation for this, but I do know that it is not completely dependent on the behaviour of other people I mentioned above.

One might have thought that a diagnosis like this would generate some amount of generalised resentment, but it seems to have had exactly the opposite effect. Maybe I'm just weird. All I know is that some kind of gulf I had previously been aware of but helpless to cross has been closed.

More later.



Just got the call. Going in for the consultation on Thursday. Am suddenly gripped by gut-wrenching, vertigo-inducing fear.


Update update:

3. I've discovered a few new things about myself. One of which is that I'm really not terribly brave when it comes to certain medical procedures. Specifically, that I can shrug with complete and unfeigned indifference at needles, IVs, blood tests and injections. I don't even get that old twinge of nerves at the sight of them. But even breathe the word 'catheter' and I have a full blown panic attack. Cry like a girl.

Sorry, sharing too much?

Get used to it.



DP said...

In times of horror, I have noticed that membership in the Body of Christ has lifted a big chunk of the burden off my shoulders. Even if my brethren aren't physically present. Let me grab some of that vertigo of yours for Thursday.

Had a bit myself lately, literal and figurative, if you'd like a distraction to pray about for a change.

Sean M. Brooks said...

Hi, Hilary Jane!

Very nice column. Hope all goes well Thursday. I will pray for you.

Yours, Sean

Hilary Jane Margaret White said...


Dale, you might be on to something. At some point, one of the Thermopylae posts is going to include an account of me trying to get my mother out of purgatory by using an interesting new discovery I made about how my vascular system reacts to IV drips.

Send me your woes

Dymphna said...

The catheter isn't that bad if you get a nurse with small hands who can get it plugged in with one try. Once it's in you won't even notice it.

HJW said...

I noticed.