For the first time in my life I feel truly mortal. I lived in Newcastle for 4 years – I don’t mean mortal in that sense! I’ve been drunk many times before, but this is a whole other level of disorientation. In blog number 3 of this series I am going to talk some more about the initial feelings, thoughts and actions experienced in the hours that followed my initial diagnosis.
This follows on from the previous blog Finding Out, where we left with me having a blood test. The first hour was a crazy, hazy experience but everything began to calm down and piece together in my head after that. Let’s pick it back up from there…
The Second Waiting Room
After my blood test I wandered aimlessly towards the x-ray department. In truth, I got lost and ended up standing still, staring into space for god knows how long. A nurse clocked that I was lost and pointed me in the right direction. In the waiting room there were two old geezers, clearly in their 70s or older, sat on opposite sides of the room. They looked fed up, worn out and frustrated by their face masks.
A nurse came through and apologised to them both profusely, informing them that their ambulances will be along any time soon to take them home. The gentlemen were not impressed but extremely polite in their response. They both slumped back into their seats and shared a collective sigh. I felt incredibly sorry for them. I had no reason to, I had no idea what their story was. Perhaps I was reflecting, taking my mind off my own situation to imagine theirs. For whatever reason, their faces stuck with me, and I hope now that they are both alright.
Thankfully, my wait didn’t last long and I was in and out of the x-ray within minutes. Up until that point it was very surreal but I was still within the hospital’s care, I’d had tests to take and different departments to see. Now I was finished. There were no more steps to take or departments to see. The automatic doors open and you walk outside back into your life, but this time with cancer.
The Car Park
For a moment I didn’t know where to go or what to do. I was still catching up. The car park isn’t too far away from the hospital so it isn’t too long before I’m finally able to whip my mask off – and collect a parking ticket. Can you believe it!? As if the day wasn’t bad enough! I overstayed my welcome in the NCP by 12 minutes. God forbid!
I sat in the car, shut the door and was finally by myself. I thought the tears would flow and I would break. It didn’t happen. Having to go for tests and stay in the hospital for a little while sort of prevented that from happening, I guess. Maybe it was never going to happen? I sat just as stunned and as silent as I did in both waiting rooms.
Before I started the engine, I thought about my family. I thought about my partner, my friends and even my dog. How was I going to tell them? How would they react? I didn’t even want to tell the dog! How can I tell them in a way that doesn’t upset them? In truth, I didn’t know enough to tell anyone anything. The urologist might as well have spoken to me in Dutch. At that time, letting my loved ones know was the next hurdle.
Telling Other People
Before starting the car I made two phone calls. The first one was to my mam. I told her the news calmly and said I wasn’t in the position to talk about it, I just wanted her to know. This was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to say to my mam before. I was expecting the usual motherly reaction, to tell me everything was going to be okay and to smother me with sympathy. But my mam knows me better than that. That’s not what I wanted. Instead she sent me a text message after I had hung up the phone.
They will treat it, it will be gone and you will be fine. The man you have turned out to be guarantees it. I’m so proud of you. I will be here when you need me, anything, anytime. Love you loads xxxMam
Cue the tears. This is when I broke. Bloody mothers! If it’s not one thing it’s your mother! It meant the world to me that message and I love her to bits for it. We spoke again later that day and I gave her a proper rundown of what I could remember.
Phone a Friend
The next phone call I made was to a close friend, one of the lads. I needed to speak to one. I could have called my dad or my brother, but I knew my mam would be informing them and the rest of the family. No disrespect to them either, but I didn’t want a family member to talk to next. I wanted a pal. Someone with empathy but the ability to take the piss out of me at the same time. I needed to laugh. I’d just got a bloody parking ticket the same day I found out I have cancer – if you don’t laugh you’ll cry!
My friend’s reaction was exactly what I was looking for. He was shocked, saddened but then immediately on the banter offensive. He asked me if he could call me Hitler from now on, and if my new favourite song was Great Balls of Fire. The tears now were ones of laughter. He also reassured me that the chances of surviving testicular cancer are extremely high. This call was exactly what I needed and I can’t thank the man enough for it. I hung up the phone, started the engine and made my way home.
When I got home I spoke to my partner about it, and then to some of my wider family members and circle of friends. They were all beautifully brilliant. The difficult part about telling people is that you repeat yourself quite a lot. People who care about you want to know the finer details, and understandably so. You find yourself repeating the words ‘I have cancer’ or ‘I have a tumour’ as you tell the details to each person. The hardest part is not saying it, it’s hearing yourself say it. Yet, telling yourself is as important as telling other people.
I am only 31 years of age. Cancer does not discriminate and we all know this, but still, you just don’t expect to be saying those words at this time of life. I feel old. I felt I was leaving my youth when I turned 30, only one year later and I feel incredibly old. Saying those words was incredibly weird and difficult for at least 2 or 3 days after I found out. Coming to terms with it and being comfortable saying it will make it a lot easier to talk about with other people. But it is a double edged sword.
Your loved ones and family members care about you. More than anything, they just want to know that you are alright. You want to be comfortable, positive and informative when you speak to them about it. But to get to that point, I certainly felt like I needed to talk to people first. In a nutshell, I wasn’t ready to talk about it, but I needed to.
If this is how you feel, it is perfectly normal. My advice is to talk. Even if doing so makes you break down in tears, do it. You need it. Talking to others normalises it and relieves any stigmas around it. Repeatedly telling people the same story actually provides practice saying the words ‘I have cancer.’ It becomes easier every time. My partner and I spent the second night randomly repeating this once every hour or so, just to make it normal. It really helped, a lot.
When Life Gives You Lemons
Make vodka lemonade. And that’s exactly what I did next! In true Mancunian fashion, the night I found out I have a tumour, I got absolutely slaughtered. This wasn’t a mission to drown my sorrows – it was some spirits to lift my spirit! My partner and I drank into the early hours and shared tears, laughter, hugs and deep conversations. Again, it was exactly what I needed.
Keep a lookout for blog number 4, where I will write about the hangover and the follow-up call from the urologist. This is when the initial shock in the reaction subsides and the focus is on my treatment – so more positive and less of the sad bits moving forward! If you like what you have read so far, sign up to receive notifications for when the new blogs come out!