On being normal

I went for an oncology check up again this week. I’ve finally got it down to every six months. And I feel great. But of course, instead of seeing my gorgeous radiation oncologist, I had to jump through the registrar hoop first. And rehash the details all over again. And again. And correct him with the dates. And explain to him my reconstruction that he’d never heard of. He was a really lovely guy. Nothing personal. But sometimes I feel like we know so much more about what’s going on than they do. And of course we do, don’t we. Isn’t it interesting how through all of this we become the expert.

And so it drives me crazy when going through the symptom list there was nothing I could give him, but he wouldn’t let it rest.  Probably quite surprising for him. To have been through all of this and have no issues. He might have felt a bit useless, I guess. And so fishing around he asked about headaches. Something I never get. But for some strange reason I have had a dull ache the last two weeks. Not enough to take panadol. Just a bit of tension, moving around, different places in my head. Most likely the relief of six weeks of school holidays, no rest and my body screaming ‘thank God’ as they go back to school. Much as I love them, I love the opportunity to miss them too. And he pounced on these headaches. Probably just tension he said. I wonder if he has kids? But if they don’t subside we’ll do an MRI. Nothing like the suggestion of a brain tumour to start the day. Funny thing is headaches rarely indicate a brain tumour. ‘Well’, I retorted, ‘I’m pretty sure I’m fine’. And I decided to test him a little. I’ve got a really wicked streak sometimes. Love to stir that pot. ‘You know I dreamt I had the cancer?’. ‘Really?’, came the response. Ahh, permission to continue. ‘So I figure if my body can tell me I’ve got it, it can tell me if there’s another problem’. And to his credit, he rolled with it.

Because I am so fed up with this magic number of five years out and you’re all clear. I know of some people that hit five years and get the long awaited ‘all clear’ only to get a recurrence. Or a different cancer. And I know of many more people who don’t. Which means that many of the ones that don’t were clear at 12 months and the ones who do weren’t clear at five years at all, they just didn’t know it yet. And so I don’t need a doctor to tell me I’m all clear. It’s just a sense that I have that I am. And I am comforted to know that many people who have spontaneous remissions from different diseases often report the same thing. They just know when they are healed. A deep inner knowing you can’t explain.

And so I long to be normal. Whatever that is. In my books it includes no longer visiting the doctor for this magical check up and pat on the head every six months. Not looking for the slightest sign of a problem in everyday experiences. Not paranoia about my blood pressure, my blood sugar and any other body function you can test as if there is going to be an issue just because I’ve had cancer. Just getting on with living. And doing it with gusto! A doctor insisted once she check everything, ‘we’ve got to be careful with you?’ she said ‘Why’ I was genuinely surprised. ‘Because you’ve had cancer’. For goodness sake, it’s like we’ve been branded. All this jumping at shadows. And it drives me nuts. After all, don’t ‘normal’ people get headaches from time to time…

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