I saw this poem in the Guardian the other day, and it struck a chord:
Needle Biopsy 22/12/08 by John Updike
All praise be Valium in Jesus' name:
a CAT-scan needle biopsy sent me
up a happy cul-de-sac, a detour not
detached from consciousness but sweetly part-
I heard machines and experts murmuring about me-
a dulcet tube in which I lay secure and warm
and thought creative thoughts, intensely so,
as in my fading prime. Plans flowered, dreams.
All would be well, I felt, all manner of thing.
The needle, carefully worked, was in me, beyond pain,
aimed at an adrenal gland. I had not hoped
to find, in this bright place, so solvent a peace.
Days later, the results came casually through:
the gland, biopsied, showed metastasis.
Updike died of this cancer on 27th January 2009.
I'm not being melodramatic here, and our situations are very different....it's just that I've spent some time being tested in hospitals recently, and I think I sort of know what he meant. There's a kind of zen-like calm that descends when you are enveloped in an MRI scanner: you're there for a very serious purpose, of course, and the results may have a profound impact on your life, but whilst encased in that tube, I found myself oddly detached from myself and from my problems.
I found out this morning that my appointments for a lumbar puncture and for an evoked potential test are in the post. So it rather looks as though I'll be spending a bit more time yet in the immediate future desperately seeking that same sense of calm and detachment as a large needle is inserted between two vertebrae and into my spinal chord.
I was also contacted today by the company who will become the regular suppliers of the drugs that I'm going to take to try to control and to slow down my condition. At some point tomorrow, I will become the proud owner of my very own injection kit: needles, syringes, drug mix, injector thingie to shoot the needle into my thigh and even my own sharps box.... the works (delivered to my office, no less). I suppose that at some point shortly after that, I'll start the course of weekly injections that are going to become my routine for the foreseeable future.
It's all good, right?
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