So, today was my meeting with the oncologist, a handsome chap with a Greek accent.
‘Do you have any cancer in the family?’ he asks.
‘No, none,’ I answer confidently. Then I think about it. ‘Actually, three of my cousins have had breast cancer and another two had other cancers.’
His eyebrows shoot up. ‘First cousins?’
‘Yes, but I am one of twenty seven cousins,’ I add hastily, ‘so it’s not that bad is it?’
My cancer makes the fraction six over twenty seven. Even though I’m not prepared to take the maths much further, plain as day even I can see it’s pretty bad.
‘Any other family?’
‘Well…. Jean, David, Jimmy and Kay, my uncles and aunts, they all died of cancer.’
He scrutinises me with a clinical interest.
‘Meg, Bobby and Linty are still going strong, don’t worry,’ I reassure him.
‘On your mother’s side or your father’s?’ he asks faintly.
‘My mother’s. I don’t think she’ll get it though. She’s had porridge every day of her life.’
The medical student sitting on the bed looks baffled. I nod at him encouragingly.
The oncologist asks if I have any other symptoms.
‘Well, I have a bit of a dicky heart. It was going through patches of missing every third beat.’ If I’m going to have an op I want them to know my heart might give up the ghost in the middle of it. ‘So I gave up coffee and it got better.’
‘That particular arrhythmia has a name.’ He gives me the name but I forget it straight away.
He says they want to perform a single or maybe double mastectomy in five months after four months of chemo. ‘We feel it’s safer to sterilise your whole body first.’
Shit, does he know that I never mop the floor? I stifle the desire to come out with ‘Are you calling me a pikey? Are you disrespecting me though?’ That wicked Catherine Tate has a lot to answer for.
Later he asks if I have any questions. I ask him if I can fly. He says they would prefer if I don’t travel over the next four months in case I suddenly get a high temperature or other dodgy symptoms and have to be rushed in.
‘Greece is too far, right?’ I know the answer already. My booked flights will have to be given away. “Bovvered, does this face look bovvered?’
‘You like to go to Greece?’
‘I love Greece. I studied Modern Greek at uni. Spent a year in Thessaloniki.’
He smiles. ‘I am from Thessaloniki.’
We talk Greek. I feel like I have an ally. I don’t call him Malaka or Pousti this time. We are not that familiar yet.
Then he examines the breasts. The first time, two weeks ago in the doctor’s surgery, this felt slightly awkward. Since then the breasts have been felt ten times by different people as well as being prodded and pricked for the biopsy and ultrasound. It is beginning to feel a bit routine.
Afterwards the attendant nurse hands me my bra. Sweet.
I have to go again on Thursday this week for an MRI scan. Chemo will start on Friday. Exciting! I wonder how it will feel.