stitches


I was officially diagnosed with two different kinds of cancer in 1983. Since then, I’ve never gone more than three years without a biopsy, and subsequently, there is no nervous anticipation attached to the results.

The lab examines the tissue and confirms what we already know, repeat, ad infinitum.

Because of my history, the doctors take off a margin of flesh around all the suspected tumours. My ‘biopsies’ always, without exception, remove the entire cancerous lesion. Everything even vaguely suspicious comes off. This means I have some unnecessary scars, but never need follow-up surgery.

This is so normal to me I don’t even allocate time for the news. Today was no exception – I made plans to spend the day doing fun stuff with my daughter, with a brief stop to have the stitches taken out of my face.

It was quite surprising then to have the doctor usher me into an office, where he sat on the other side of a huge desk reading the histology report. The lab had found cancer, yes, but not the usual and expected variety. The doctor used some words I did not expect and do not like: malignant, rare, aggressive. He said this is a one in a million sort of tumour. He said “don’t worry.”

Then he said I would need “proper surgery” – immediately, not in the standard British 3-4 month wait list schedule. Within about three minutes the surgical suite was booked for next Wednesday, along with a plastic surgeon to put my face back together.

I walked out of the office into a bright, sunny, cursed day. My daughter was expecting lunch and we started to ramble through Marylebone. I explained, briefly, what the doctor said. I told her not to worry. I told myself not to worry.

I’m baffled, incredulous, and raging. But I’m not worried.


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