The Fear That Doesn’t Go Away

It’s about time for Antoinette to have her annual mammogram.

And it’s something that both of us are dreading.

It’s worse this year, of course, because hospitals have become even more frightening and unfriendly than they were a couple of years ago.

Antoinette is worried that they won’t let her into the hospital unless she wears a mask or that they won’t give her a mammogram unless she has a covid test. And if they do find something in her breast, and she needs treatment, she’s worried that they might not treat her if she refuses a test or the vaccine - or both.

Last year she put a mask on (under sufferance) while in the hospital and collapsed. My guess is that the radiotherapy that she had on her left breast and axilla probably damaged a never particularly strong heart and the mask induced hypoxia was just one step too far. Two nurses told her to take off the mask.

But the mammogram visit is just the tip of a very large mountain of fear, of course. I don’t think either of us had realised before Antoinette’s diagnosis, surgery and radiotherapy for breast cancer just how nerve wracking a cancer diagnosis can be. Every pain that might ordinarily be dismissed and then forgotten becomes a possible harbinger of something more serious.

Is that pain in the arm a bone secondary?

Does that headache mean that there are secondaries in the skull or brain?

Is the pain under the ribs an indication that there is cancer in the liver?

I worry constantly, too.

Even when Antoinette doesn’t mention a pain or a headache or a something, I still worry.

And the covid hoax has made things a thousand times more difficult.

Will there be treatment available? What will the rules be about testing and vaccination and visiting? Will I allowed to be with her if she needs treatment?

Occasionally, celebrities will announce that they had cancer but have been given the all clear.

I’m sorry, but there is no such thing as an all clear with cancer.

We are constantly on the lookout for a sign (or signs) of the cancer returning or having spread.

And Antoinette has adapted her lifestyle (particularly her diet) to give her body the best chance of avoiding a recurrence. So there is never a chance to forget completely.

We aren’t alone in any of this, of course.

Anyone who has a relative or friend with cancer should remember that their anxiety does not disappear once the initial hospital treatment has finished. They may not say anything about their fears – but the terrors will be there, under the surface.

Vernon Coleman’s international bestselling book How to stop your doctor killing you is available on Amazon as an eBook and a paperback.