I guess it’s inevitable that there will be scares along the way but it seems particularly cruel that they tend to arrive so soon after the relief of a good scan. Back in November 2014 a week after the good scan, I found a strange lump had appeared on the back of my head. To be fair, I had been poking at my head rather a lot as one of the side effects that I’ve had from treatment is that my skin is very dry and I think I’d been scratching at my head and in doing this had then found the lump. So, I had a sleepless night and then thankfully as I was due a routine hospital check-up pre-treatment I was able to show the lump to my doctor. Her initial response was that it seemed pretty innocent but obviously it was hard to tell. It was either going to be a something or a nothing….
The Marsden once again were absolutely amazing and instead of leaving me to worry myself into a state they arranged a speedy consultation with a dermatologist, who backed up what the doctor had said and then arranged for an ultrasound to see what was going on. Obviously, this couldn’t all happen in a week when I had no plans – instead it happened at the beginning of a week when I’d arranged to do a pre-christmas pop-up shop and so was supposed to be baking and preparing with every spare minute that I had. On top of that, I decided to add to the fun of the situation it would be an excellent time to do my back in. So, on the Monday morning, having had a miraculous visit from a local osteopath the day before, I managed to drag my slightly broken body off to the Marsden where they speedily did an ultrasound. This thankfully indicated that the lump seemed pretty innocent but again, hard to tell and so they followed it up with a fine needle biopsy. I think if I had thought too much about this it would probably have freaked me out but I was pretty jittery by then anyway so just let them stick a lot of local anaesthetic in my head followed by a couple of needles extracting something from whatever it was I had grown. I then went home and got on with my baking. To my joy, my lovely nurse rang me first thing the next morning to say that it seemed that all I had was an enlarged lymph node. My something was a nothing.
The whole episode took less than a week but the anxiety it created for me and my family still managed to escalate because of the wider context. A lump is usually just a lump but when you’ve already been diagnosed with Malignant Melanoma a lump is just as likely to be an evil tumour. So during the small window when we weren’t sure what we were dealing with once again every possible scenario had to be thought through. If it was a tumour did that mean the treatment had stopped working, or simply that a stray bit of a cancer was up to no good but the overall treatment was fine. If it was a tumour, would I have to come off the trial… Despite the fact that it was a joyful storm in a teacup the anxiety was still very real and it was an excellent reminder of how precarious living with cancer is – there is no room for complacency.