You can tell a lot about a family by looking at the outside of their fridge.

If you sat in our kitchen and watched our refrigerator, you be privy too a flurry of activity throughout the day.  Doors opening and closing fifty odd times, and as the daylight changes in the kitchen you would see the buttery finger smudges of little hands on the door or some splashes of yoghurt on the handle.

Up high on the doors you will find numerous fridge magnets, the latest bills,  an assortment of pictures covering children’s firsts, kindergarten mug shots,  photos of cousins playing in mud.  There are newspaper clippings of past athletic results and ribbons from running club, name badges from previous employers, a train ticket from our wedding day. There is a reminder to have the dogs vaccinated.  A discount voucher from the video store, the latest party invitations and postcards from far away places.   All of this interspersed with children’s art and placed up high so a certain little human cannot grab it to experience the fun of ripping it all up into thousands of pieces.

Currently buried amongst all these family trinkets sit two medical imaging slips.  Fastened to the fridge with a magnet which is the front half of a cow from a Leap Frog children’s toy.   An order for a CT Scan and a chest Xray slip sit patiently.  Both were written up by my very thorough GP and have been hanging there now for nearly three weeks.  Just. Sitting. There.  Under the magnetic half of a plastic cow.

In the week leading up to Christmas I developed an annoying cough and although not too serious or too annoying, I noticed changes to my breathing.  Which is at times laboured and I have experienced a bit of dizziness on occasion. The cough began as an involuntary response when I inhaled.  And this coughing has stayed with me for just short of two months and is at times annoying.  But not too annoying.  There has also been some subtle abdominal pain.  And there is the relentless fatigue that I have on some days, and a nausea that prevents me from eating at times and this comes and goes.

For I wish that I could take my mind back to a time when I could be just a little bit sick.  But not too sick.  And the cause would always be something so simple.  So simple and so benign that I wouldnt require lengthy and expensive tests at  hospital, which potentially fill my body with more radiation or nuclear material or contrast.  I wish I never had to experience any more ‘scanxiety’.

But gone are these innocent days when all I had to worry about was a simple sniffle or the flu, or back pain from poor posture or a bout of gastro.

Cancer has changed everything.
photo 2

photo 1
From “A Day Off” by Tobi Tobias, pictures by Ray Cruz, 1973.

Once you are diagnosed with cancer, the notion of being only ‘a little bit sick’ is forever lost.  The perspective of  just having an ‘innocent illness’ is gone.  You are never again able to live truly free of the fear of this crappy disease coming back.

So this loss is lamented.

Now a perfectly sane  and healthy person, would just go and have the tests.  Or would have rung their radiotherapist or oncologist by now.  But once you have been through a barrage of cancer treatment, it’s easier to just stick your head in the sand.

This is the hand and the sand that post treatment cancer patients face. The dilemma of having symptoms, and more testing and then the ‘scanxiety’ that follows when waiting for results.

And when a young, vivacious, fellow, early breast cancer survivor  with very good prognosis, is found to devastatingly have their cancer progress to stage four this week it just feeds this cycle of worry.  And then the Dread Dragon returns for a visit.

Of course, there are loads of logical explanations for the cough I have. One being my lungs were probably burnt in radiation and there might be some inflammation. Which might heal with time, or there might be scar tissue developing. And if so, I should go and have some tests to determine the cause.

Perfectly reasonable explanations.

Another, the air is dusty at the moment and lots of people are complaining of sinus issues, and that might be causing me to cough.

Here’s another, I might be developing asthma.

And another,  I am simply a “Cancerchondriac” and it will go away and I will forget about it.

Or this one. There might be cancer in my lungs.

Of course, tests would certainly put my mind at ease.  But this week,  I’d still rather not know.   So I’ll wait till my one year appointment with my surgeon in nine days, and then see my oncologist a few days after that.  And I will see what they say.

And then I will find out if I am in fact just a little bit sick, but not very.

Oh, and I better get the dogs vaccinated.