Remember at the end of last year when I spoke about the difficulties I’d encountered and how they had inspired a new blogging direction? Remember a month later when I described 2017 as the year that broke me before it made me? Well, if I’d known then about the sh*t storm that was about to rain down on me in 2018, I think I might have kept quiet.
I don’t think there’s anything on earth that could have prepared me for what was just around the corner. Losing a baby, going through a month of severe bleeding and cramps which eventually culminated in a D&C, and then just one month after it was all over, while I was still in deep grief over our loss and coming to terms with the fact that society made it so hard to talk about my miscarriage, being diagnosed with cancer.
I got the call on the 20th May, following a series of tests on a suspicious lump on my thyroid gland in my neck. “We need you to come into the hospital as soon as possible… Can you come right now?”. I already knew what they were testing for, and therefore I already knew what they were going to say. They wouldn’t be speaking with such urgency and would be able to tell me over the phone if it was good news, surely?
When I got a call from a nurse ten minutes later asking if the doctor had already spoken to me and to check whether I was on my way in, it confirmed it to me.
At 32 years of age I have cancer. What happens now?
I somehow managed to summon enough strength inside me to call Mr Sunshine and ask him to meet me at the hospital, to call Baby Sunshine’s nursery and ask them if I could bring her in even though it wasn’t a nursery day, and to hold it together while I dropped her off and drove the fifteen minute journey to the hospital. All the time my mind was reeling.
When the doctor delivered the news, I finally allowed myself to let out the emotions that I’d been holding in since this ordeal began, and began to cry. His mode of communication left a lot to be desired. The overall message was lost in a sea of garbled explanations and scientific terms, and he didn’t utter the word ‘cancer’ once – instead, I was forced to look up at him through teary eyes and ask through gritted teeth, “So, are you saying I have cancer then?”.
I don’t know why I asked, I already knew the answer.
We waited ten days. It’s compulsory in Qatar – every time there’s a cancer diagnosis, it has to go to a medical committee to sign off on the next steps for treatment, and Ramadan had just started so nobody could tell me when the next meeting might take place.
Never has a week and a half felt like such a long time. The days stretched out indeterminately, yet at the same time they all seemed to blur into one. If you asked me now what I did during that time I don’t think I could tell you with any accuracy. My mum flew over, I saw a few friends, I tried to go on living my life as best I could, as I struggled to keep my head above water.
Positivity was the only thing keeping me afloat.
I had to train my brain to think on the bright side, to keep me getting out of bed every day, and to slowly will myself back to full health. I kept repeating to myself over and over, “By the beginning of June this will all be over and I’ll be healthy again.”
Two days before I was called in for the operation to remove my thyroid, I put up a Tweet, which I thought would fizzle out amidst the noise of my Twitter feed, and awoke the next morning to hundreds of likes and retweets, stories of amazing acts of kindness and messages of support and positivity. My whole world was uncertain but through this adversity, more than a handful of people had been inspired to #spreadalittlesunshine in the world. A little sunshine began to seep back into my own and my faith that goodness and hope always prevails was restored.
When the doctor sat with me to explain the results of my medical review and talk me through the procedure, I was beginning to feel a little lighter. I was about to undergo major surgery, and I’d be losing a thyroid gland, but that could possibly be all I was going to lose. They’d caught this thing relatively early, and the odds were most definitely stacked in my favour. I could do this.
And do it I did. Five days later, having spent my days tethered to a drip with a tube coming out of my neck, I was eventually allowed to go home. I’d missed my family and my own bed, and despite feeling exhausted to my very core, I was ready.
Ready to hear the sweet words that my lymph node test had come back clear and the cancer had not spread. Ready to shake off the horror of the past few months and start life from scratch again. Ready to face whatever chapter came next.
…That was, until I received a call this afternoon.
“Hi Polly, it’s XX Hospital here. We have the results of your second medical board review following your surgery here and we need you to come in urgently. Can you do so first thing tomorrow morning?”
The words sounded oh-so familiar. I felt that habitual sense of dread begin to creep back in. I’ve known for a while that occasionally the next step after a total thyroidectomy due to cancer is a special form of radiotherapy which involves ingesting some radioactive iodine and remaining in isolation for up to a week while it attacks the remaining cancerous cells that might have been left behind. But the doctor had given me every indication that I wouldn’t require it and that this was the end of my treatment.
Could the board have overruled his decision?
All I know is this: after the hell that I’ve been through so far this year, I can do anything.
Whatever they tell me tomorrow, I will face it head on.
Bring it on cancer. I will not let you or anything else that this year decides to throw at me defeat me.