Friday, September 28, 2007


I had an appointment with the doc on Tuesday morning but when I got out of bed my left leg was decidely uncooperative, about as supportive as a soggy salami. I limped onto a bus nonetheless and arrived on time at the designated waiting room, bothered and bewildered by this latest contretemps (stop showing off, Natalie: this thing?) Could it be DVT? You do know this stands for deep vein thrombosis? That which sometimes affects limbs which have been cramped/crammed during long flights? So I worried about it while waiting, long past my appointment time. If you want to get in touch with your inner fears and also wake up your compassion for the whole of frail humanity, all you have to do is spend a few hours in a hospital waiting room, especially an oncology unit. The less said the better about some of the faces you see there.

Finally I was called to my esteemed Mr. Surgeon's room and we had a pleasant chat but not really about the scan results because he was going to have a meeting the next day with his colleagues and they would all look at them together. So why did he want to see me today? Because he thought I wanted to see him, to talk about the operation. So he tells me about the risks, mainly age-related (oldishness) and (as we already knew) include emerging with "lopsided face" which would probably straighten out in three or four months but, occasionally, is permanent. What does "lopsided face" look like, I ask reasonably. He pulls his mouth to one side. Oh, I see; what else? Well, it's a three hour operation and anaesthesia for all that time can be hard on, er, oldishness but of course we would do an EEG beforehand etc. So I'm thinking: what if I said let's forget the whole thing? I ask him: what would you do if you were in my place? He says, that's a very personal question - I would bite the bullet because the risk of possible cancer is greater than the surgery risks. Reasonably, I have to agree with this. Gently he shows me the area around my ear where he would cut, going towards the back so as to avoid a scar down the neck. Are you concerned about aesthetics? he says. Of course, I reply, I'm an artist.


Sunday, September 23, 2007



Tuesday, September 04, 2007



The results of the latest biopsy, analysed by a pathologist who happens to be, apparently, the best in Europe, are that the lump might be cancerous. But also might not be. The only way they can know for sure which of those two possibilities is correct is to take it out.

Simple, right? Wrong. Not simple. Because taking it out has the risk (as we already knew) of possible damage to facial nerves, a risk increased by the, er, old-ishness of the patient and therefore also slower healing process. But leaving it in carries the risk of the thing being, in fact the Big C. Or if it isn't now, of its becoming so at a later date and then spreading and.....well, you get my drift.

So. I could choose to do nothing. But that would (probably) be daft. So I don't have a choice. The wheels have been set in motion. The week after I get back from New York, I'm booked to have an MRI scan of head and neck and then the operation. Two or three days in hospital, if no complications. I don't even want to say the words: Hospital Superbugs. There, I didn't say it.

Do I want my face cut up? Do I want a scar around my ear and neck? Do I want risks? No no and no. I am not upset. I don't actually believe any of this. I was listening to the calm, rational, considerate explanations of the two tall, handsome, competent, urbane surgeons who are going to be wielding the scalpels on my innocent little face and it was like being in a movie. The chief surgeon called me Natalie and ran his soft hand around my neck and jaw in such a warm caressing way. Quite sexy actually. And his registrar, the other surgeon who will be assisting him, was talking to me in such a frank, conversational, normal manner. I was wondering when the drinks would be passed round and I wanted to ask if they were bloggers in their spare time. But this is not a movie. It's real life and real life is serious. Isn't it?