Monday, 28 March 2011

The Art of Waiting...

Since last week I've been waiting for the results of my CT scan. This is the last scan that I'll have before my operation, which I think will happen in a month's time.

I've decided that CT machines were probably designed by an engineer who really wanted to be a special effects guy on a Hollywood blockbuster. No, strike that. Maybe he once was a special effects guy, lost his job, decided to retrain, but couldn't let go of his dream. I say this because every time I enter a room where there's a CT scanner, I suddenly feel like I have the lead or supporting role in a 60s science fiction thriller. First there's the control room, which often consists of a glass cubicle, a sea of knobs and buttons and a human being dressed in scrubs staring intently into a monitor. All is white, all is man-made. From the circular white tube with its inner revolving, red flashing lights to the computerised voice that orders you to start and stop breathing, there is nothing like a bit of surreal technology to remind you of how serious your illness is.

I often think this as I lie on the narrow, tissue-covered bed and watch the radiographer insert the canula into my arm. When I feel the warm liquid course through my veins, followed by an intense feeling of warmth and wetness around my tummy and groin area, I think of all the interrogation scenes that I've watched on TV that start like this. As the machine moves across my chest towards my stomach and I try and try to sychronise my breathing (so that it stops and starts at exactly the same time as the strange woman's computerised voice) I wonder what this scan is seeing. Will its results change my life forever ? Will I look back on this day and wonder how blissful ignorance can be ? My mind doesn't stop chattering away like this until the needle is removed from my vein and I'm free to go.

And then there's the waiting.

The other day I watched a film called 'The Bucket List' with Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman. Both are exceptional actors who can often turn a mediocre script into a masterpiece. Yet both were struggling. The film-makers' idea of a cancer patient was someone with a bald head who spent most of his time crouched over a toilet bowl. Where were the anti-nausea drugs ? When films or books depict the experience of cancer, most focus on cliches like hairloss, terminal illness, vomiting and being bed-ridden. No-one mentions the sheer boredom of cancer. The days and weeks of waiting - for results, for scans, for operations, for doctors to see you, for the 'all clear' ... I could go on. I guess it's not easy to portray the experience of waiting. After all, who would pay good money to see this ? But beyond the baldness, here lies the true experience of cancer - but what do I know ? I only have the disease...

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