Terror. Ecstasy. Fight. Denial. Flight. Failure. Forgiveness. Reconciliation. Hope. Love. Peace
23rd December 2015 5.45PM
What seemed about 15 minutes of crying …. sobbing, loudly, inconsolably in the carpark and then less violently sitting in my car. When I could, I drove the short journey home. I still had it in my mind that I was due in ‘town’ in less than an hour for our work Christmas night out.
Gail, and Aubrey (my wife and son) were both in full flow, busy preparing our evening meal, to all intents and purposes I had returned from a routine doctors appointment. I considered not saying anything (yet). Should I say something but play it down? I wasn’t sure. I wasn’t even sure if I could actually say the words? Or even what words – ‘have or probably have’ ?
Part of me thought that if I said it out loud then it would be suddenly fatally TRUE. Denial.
I took the initiative, and rather blandly announced ‘I have got a problem with me bum’. Thinking back, what a fucking useless thing to say?
Followed by ……It might be cancer, prostate cancer.
I had their attention. What? What did he say? The Doctor?
Based upon my blood test results and his examination of my prostate (this evening), I have cancer, prostate cancer
There, I had said the C word and I hadn’t instantly turned into a massive cancerous tumour and died. It had sounded detached like I was talking about someone else? I didn’t cry. It was out. I had spilled the beans. We ate our ‘T’.
The continuing conversation was something like…what else did he say, what are the next steps? So, its not certain then? I replied, I have been refereed to a specialist, a cancer specialist, in urology, cancer urology.
I showered and dressed in a posh suit ready for my works Christmas night out.
Well, that was a fun night.
I tried my best to have fun. That’s a lie I tried my best not to think about it.
I did not tell anyone. I smiled and laughed at the right times, in the right places.
The meal was shit.
The venue was shit.
It was a shitty night all-round. That I had arranged.
Nobody complained but the cards were stacked. We called it a day no later than 9.30-10.30pm. Gail, collected me from ‘town; and we a colleague, dropped Liz, then ourselves home. With Liz in the car we could avoid talking about cancer.
Christmas Eve. Work the next day. Early morning…..before 8.00am. Michelle, a work colleague asked if I was ok? I had seemed a bit quiet ‘off’ last night? I just blurted it out ‘I have cancer’ ….. her face? (I regretted saying it, instantly), she was upset, she was in shock. Same as my other close work friends, shocked, sad, supportive. Genuine. Good people. Good people.
I cannot remember every single time I told anyone? Only a handful of others? My oldest friend Jeff, he cried, almost as much as myself. My daughter, Perri (in Australia), I think Gail had told her prior to my talking with her. Everybody was supportive. Optimistic. Good people. Love.
As a teacher during the course of a single week I would regularly have face to face contact with 200 -300 staff and students? Not all are close friends but I would know each one of them, their names and them mine? Do I tell them? Should somebody else tell them? I decided no and let those wishes be known to my colleagues.
There was a part of me that wanted everybody to know, to feel the love, feel the good wishes and support in the hope that somehow it would make me better, fix me? Another part of me wanted to ignore, deny. To remain normal not to become John, with cancer and no longer John with the yellow glasses. People got to know anyhow. Good and bad. Most people are kind.
Terror is the word I choose.
It could have been many words. It is difficult describe what I felt with just one word.
Whatever the word, the feelings continued. Intense, overwhelming, relentless feelings of absolute, blind terror, despondency, without any respite. Ever. Terror mixed with shock, fear, helplessness, extreme sadness and guilt. Self pity? Self Loathing? The guilty shame I felt for feeling sorry for myself.
Soon, an even more powerful ‘feeling’ joined the party.
Intense regret, the deepest feelings of regret. About everything. My life. relentless scrutiny of failings provoked by the realisation that I was running out of time to ‘right any wrongs’.
It is (was) exhausting. Consuming. The last thing you think of before you sleep (if you sleep), the first thing you think of as you awake. I am going to die?
Followed closely by, when?
Will it be soon? Next week, next month, next year, five years, ten? Then worse of all what do I need to do? What do I need to ‘take care of’? No peace. Ever.
Sleep. No peace during sleep. Dreams. The fucking weird dreams….
Sleep, dreams, constant, insane, vivid dreams that make no sense (do any dreams make sense?). Dreams, featuring my (deceased) parents and other departed relatives. Dreams about my dear, dead dog(s). No sleep, ever…… without dreams.
Life goes on. Work. Physically, I felt different. Mentally I was a wreck.
Questioning myself, is this normal should I feel like this, am I over reacting, grow the fuck up, man up, you are not the only one who has cancer, get over it?
I had begun to consider every twinge and ache a little more than the previous week but in reality apart from sleep deprivation. I wasn’t physically different. I was able to and needed to continue to do my job, a job I loved, and cared deeply about.
Despite the Terror. Life goes on. Despite the terror.
Fight. I have to fight. Time to fight.
Thanks for reading.