It’s a phrase I’ve heard a lot in the last week. “I don’t know what to say”. Said with shock, with sadness, with terror, with honesty and sincerity, and so often with more than a hint of guilt. As if you feel you ought to have just the right words there ready and waiting; words that would make it all better; words that would somehow convey that you care so much better than you feel you are doing.
Well here’s the thing. There is nothing to say. No words to ease my terror. No words to soothe my anger at this massive injustice. There is no reason that you should know what to say. You have no more power to change this than I do. I wish you did. And I know you don’t.
What matters is that you care. And when you say “I don’t know what to say” there’s a beautiful honesty in that that says you care more than anything else can. There is no need to say more. No need to feel bad that you can’t say more. When I tell you that I have cancer, “I don’t know what to say” is exactly the right thing to say.
…it’s the fear that gets you. I’ll own that. It’s the fear that gets me. I’m fucking terrified.
Five days in and the numbness is wearing off. I cried about it for first time today. Away from distractions, things to keep my mind off it, in the still calmness of the bath. Why is it so difficult to cry? Is that about fear too?
Waiting is easy. I’ve been waiting months for the results from my final college assignment. But I know I passed that. I probably got a really good mark. And if I didn’t, so what? But this is different. This is fear. Every little ache in my body becomes a portent of bad news. A week ago I would have just brushed it off as a sign of my ageing, of not being as fit as I used to be. Today that twinge in my back absolutely fucking terrifies me.
Pull yourself together Chris. You lugged two boats about this afternoon, twisted badly to get them down the side of the house, loaded them onto the car. Of course your fucking back hurts! But in my mind this is the end. This is a sign that the wait will end in the worst news. It probably won’t. But you can’t reason with fear.
Today is my first full day of knowing that I have cancer.
The knowledge changes everything. And yet it changes nothing. I still woke up at the normal time this morning. I’m still about to go off to work. By the time I finish writing this I’ll have come home from work, probably eaten my supper as usual. There is no denying it though; today is the first full day of a new journey. A journey I never wanted to take, but one that I can not avoid.
Yesterday a consultant perched on the end of a couch in front of me and told me in a very matter of fact way that I have cancer of the prostate. It wasn’t what I wanted to hear, but it didn’t come as a shock. It’s taken a while to get to this point. Blood tests. More blood tests. Biopsy. Waits for appointments. Waits for results. Much of that while it’s seemed the pointers were towards infection—even my response to the biopsy (huge discomfort) seemed to be suggesting infection. But by the time I walked into the consulting room yesterday, the clues were different.
When the hospital rang on Monday evening to ask me to come in on Tuesday I was at least expecting a definitive resolution to the question. To know where I stand, and to get on and deal with it. What became clear in the moments following the news that the biopsy had found cancer is that I’m still far from that point. Now we need to find out if it has spread beyond the prostate, and that means more tests. More waits for appointments. More waits for results. More uncertainty.
And it’s the uncertainty which is the real horror in all of this. This is the journey I am embarking on. Venturing into the unknown. Out of control. Waiting for things to happen. For results to come back. For appointments to be made. For treatments to work. The shitty day that was yesterday will be just the first day of a shitty year or two. There’s a good chance at the end of all this I’ll be cured, but it’s all set to be one hell of a ride.