I hurtle down the corridor, my shoes squeaking on the cold tiles announcing my arrival into the waiting room a good minute before I actually arrive. The queue for bloods had been long and that meant I made it to my CT scan with just 30 seconds to spare. I clumsily unpeel my coat, dropping my handbag and sliding into the plastic chair. In front of me the clock ticks. It’s almost 11:30am.
The All Important Scan
On the dot of 11:30 a nurse comes out and tells me to get into my gown. I listen to the usual spiel: “Remove your clothes, necklace off, knickers on, socks on, gown on and robe over that. Place your clothes in the locker and take the key”. I nod, take the gown and robe and pull the curtain around me to get changed. I look in the mirror, my bottom lip is wobbling, “It’s going to be okay” I mouth silently. I let my clothes fall to the floor, in the mirror my pale white body wobbles. I briefly look at my scars on my stomach before I sharply turn away. Blue gown on, scars now hidden, clothes placed in locker, identity locked away.
I follow the nurse down the corridor and into the room. I’m told that it’s a new CT scanner and it certainly looks shiny and new. I’m told to lay down and I hear the familiar words “sharp scratch” as the cannula is inserted. It stings quite a bit and I clamp my teeth down on my lips to stop myself from swearing. It’s my dodgy arm and I can feel that it’s not happy.
Doing As I’m Told
I listen to the usual instructions before the nurse retreats behind the closed door. She and the radiologist now look at me from the window. I can feel the beginning of tears starting to form. Inside I’m chiding myself “Don’t you dare cry. You’ve done this before. TWICE. You know the drill.” But still I can feel the tears threatening to spill. I put my arms up behind me as instructed and I slide into the doughnut. I’m now crying – silently. In my head I’m pleading and bargaining, “Please let this be okay. Please let there be no cancer”. Over and over I repeat it in my head. Over and over I do what the CT scan tells me to. “Breathe in, hold, breathe out. Breathe in, please let it be okay, hold, please let there be no cancer, and out” I go backwards and forwards, in and out. I don’t feel like me. I’m not Emma. I’m a specimen, a slab of meat. I’m being dissected and analysed. It feels like my future is hanging in the balance. Whatever is showing on that computer screen, behind that window, dictates how my whole life will go. Whether we will have the family Christmas of our dreams or not.
The nurse comes back out and tells me that she is about to release the dye into my veins. I know what comes next. The hot flush and the feeling like I have wet myself. I feel the panic start to rise and I take some deep breaths in and out. “It’s going to be okay”, I repeat in time to my breathing. Finally, it’s over. The cannula is sharply pulled out and a plaster pressed firmly down. I’m told I can leave. I analyse the nurse’s tone. Has her demeanour changed? Did they see something on the screen? Has the CT scan signalled the first ring of my death toll? I stumble out of the quietness of the room and into the busy corridor but now I can’t remember where the waiting room is. I look up and down the corridor, but I feel dazed and confused and the overhead lights suddenly feel very bright. After I’ve paced the corridor twice a nurse comes to my rescue and directs me to the waiting room.
Back To Normal?
I rip off the gown and I’m relieved to be back in my “normal” clothes. Mr C keeps asking me if I’m all right and I just nod until he asks if I want to sit down. I find myself sobbing noisily on a hospital corridor as I clutch the tin of biscuits I’ve brought for my colorectal nurse. Mr C hugs me until I stop crying and then he ushers me home, putting me to bed, where I sleep all afternoon. I have a fitful sleep and when the girls return from school I’m awake before they even clatter into my bedroom. They are full of hugs and fervent storytelling of how their day went. Their voices seem far away and I feel like I’m locked behind glass. I just want the day to be over with.
The next day I wake with a start. The gnaw of anxiety has returned. I feel sick. I drive the girls to school before I take myself for a run. It’s a beautifully cold day and the sea is as calm as a millpond. My heart is racing as I try to run. I’m concentrating on putting one foot in front of the other but I find the running hard as I can’t get my breathing right. I’m aware that I’m just trying to tick the hours off. I’m trying not to think. I just want my scan results. Next, I head to a coffee shop and I resist the temptation to eat yule log. I sip on my coffee and watch the world go by before I reluctantly leave the warmth of the room. I look at my watch, it’s nearly lunchtime and still no call from the hospital.
Waiting For News
At home I pick at a green salad before I leave to collect the girls from school. We head to the garden centre and I choose some cheery plants for the patio tubs. When I get back home I transfer the plants to the tubs, enjoying the feeling of the cold soil on my fingers. The tubs no longer look barren, they are full of colour and life. I go back inside and find my mobile phone; I have missed a call from the hospital – sh*t. They haven’t left a message. What does that mean? I pace up and down the kitchen floor, trying to decide what to do. In the end I decide to call the hospital back. My fingers tremble as I hit the redial button. No one answers and I leave a message.
I sit down with Youngest to do her homework. We work our way through her spellings, and just as she is starting to read her book – The Witches by Roald Dahl – my phone rings. I tell her to continue reading and I retreat into the kitchen and close the door quietly behind me before answering,
It’s my surgeon. He asks how I am, “Good” I reply. “And you?”. I’m making small talk although I’m desperate to know the results of my scan. I hold my breath as he begins to tell me, my fingers are crossed behind my back. The phone line is really crackly so I’m really pressing the phone into my ear,
“There is no sign of cancer”
I hear it.
“No sign of cancer”
The shortest yet sweetest statement that has ever been uttered down the phone line to me.
“No sign of cancer”
I practically shriek down the phone as I start doing a little jig around the kitchen.
“No sign of cancer. Take that Phyllis”
He’s still talking down the phone. He mentions blood clot as a result of chemo and how I will need to take medication for the next three months but it’s nothing to worry about. Tablets twice a day, for the next three months and job done. I’m so flipping happy. My next scan won’t be for 6 months. I end the call by wishing him a Merry Christmas and then I breathe and the tears come. Happy tears. Tears of relief, tears of joy, it all comes tumbling out. This is the best Christmas present we could have ever asked for.
No sign of cancer. No scans for 6 months. Breathe. I can breathe again.