A few months ago, Mrs Hackenbush had noticed that a small rash on my chest that I’d been choosing to ignore had gotten bigger. “You should get that looked at.” she said, probably realising that it would take a hell of a lot more (well intentioned) nagging than that to get me anywhere near a doctors surgery. Not that I’m squeamish about doctors or anything, I just didn’t think it was that big a deal. And sure enough, I did nothing. Several months went by and the rash had grown. It didn’t hurt or anything (aside from itching a little in hot weather) so it never occurred to me that it might be worth investigating.
Eventually things got to the point where even I couldn’t ignore them any more. The marks (which in the 2 largest cases were now shaped like I’d been branded by an old metal iron) had spread and were now up my back and appearing on my arms and legs. A doctors appointment was booked.
After the topical cream my GP prescribed did nothing, she admitted she was out of ideas and suggested seeing a specialist dermatologist. The NHS being what it is, this wouldn’t be happening for another 6 weeks.
Flash forward 10 weeks. I’d had the first meeting with the dermatologist, a pleasant albeit hard-to-read man in his mid forties, and he’d taken biopsies of the largest rash and a lump on my right shoulder I’d assumed was an unrelated and somewhat stubborn spot. I’d had the fun and games of trying to keep the stitches from the biopsy sites out of reach of my slap-happy 15 month old daughter. And I’d had, after a fortnight, the stitches removed.
I’m sitting in the Dermatologists office and he’s explaining to me how the samples he sent off are being analysed further by additional specialists and that there is no conclusive result yet. He says that, despite this, there are two possible explanations for my mystery marks. The first is something called Benign Reactive Lymphocitic Infiltrate, which while it sounds like my body has been taken over by intelligence operatives, actually means that my immune system is fighting an unknown entity and the marks are a by-product of that process. Explanation two was Skin Lymphoma. A slightly less traumatic way of saying Skin Cancer.
My blood ran cold. Cancer? That’s that thing OTHER people get, surely? I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. I summoned all my composure and managed a considered and highly intelligent sounding “Guh?”
The Doctor went on to say that the lymphoma was just one possibility and that the fact my bloodwork had come back normal was a very good sign. He outlined the potential treatments available should Option 2 become a reality. These included radiotherapy which to my surprise had nothing to do with listening to Chris Moyles until death seems like a blessed release, and chemotherapy pills which are less unpleasant than regular chemo and are less likely to make your hair fall out, which is good as it took me bloody ages to grow this bloody Mohawk and beard combo.
I walked back home in somewhat of a daze, wondering how Mrs Hackenbush would take the news. It’s not, after all, the easiest thing to lay on someone, especially when that person is ill themselves.I mean, its one thing being a household with one disabled person and a carer, but two people sick? Suppose I need extra help? Who would look after Mrs and Jr Hackenbush if I needed to go for treatment of my own? Where the hell is *that* money coming from? We are one of those evil sponging families on benefits after all and private care doesn’t pay for itself. So many thoughts were whizzing round my brain I hadn’t even noticed that I’d arrived home.
Turns out I needn’t have worried as she took it like a trooper, telling me that whatever happened we’d face it together. JrHackenbush did her part by demanding a huge hug.
It’s now a day later and the air of unreality hasn’t altogether lifted but it has dissipated enough for me to write about things. Getting it all typed out has definitely helped straighten out my thoughts and at least this way I can direct people here rather than repeat the whole thing again.
Either I have cancer or I don’t. Fifty fifty. Not the best odds in the world, but a shitload better than many.