The Scan was at 9am yesterday. It was a CT Scan. This involves lying on a bed which goes through a polo shaped machine. You are hooked up through a cannula in your arm to a massive injection of iodine (to provide a contrast) which they inject into you seconds before the scan happens. The iodine makes you feel warm in your throat and your bladder strangely – for just a few seconds. The scanner person (not sure what his actual professional title is) was Polish. The same person who did my pre- chemo scan. After that scan I was convinced I could read his face and his face told me that not only was my liver riddled with cancer but that it was all over, bones, lungs, everywhere.
There is something about being near a person who has information about your condition before you do. You can’t help yourself, but you hang on to and try and interpret every twitch, every smile, frown, poker face. In this case my assessment was that he was being more friendly than last time. I put this down to my bandana - I was clearly a youngish women with cancer. Reason to be nice and kind. He chatted more than last time. I asked him if he could please take some really good pictures and he said he would do his best.
We had a funny moment. Prior to the scan I had to get dressed into a cotton hospital gown that ties loosely at the front. He had told me, in his relatively thick accent to ‘take off your clothes except your underwears’. I did so. Not long after, as I lay still for the initial mapping scan - the preparatory scan they take before the iodine goes in, he came out of the little command centre room next to the actual scanner which he retreats to when the scanner goes on and said ‘we have a little problem. I said to undress to your underwears’. Now I took underwears to include my bra. Rather stupid given the area I know they need to scan. So there I was with an big iodine injection attached to my right arm and my bra still on. I managed one handedly to undo it, thread it through the arm holes and hang it down the side of the machine (I keep my arms above my head). Very deft expert bra removal process. Note to self. Take bra off before next scan.
Once the scan was over my assessment was that he was not going to catch my eye. He put on his poker face. Not sure what to read from that given that last time I decided the cancer must be everywhere. Hoping that he has been expertly trained to give nothing away because if he were to smile and wink this time there may be a time in the future when he does not smile and wink so best to make no face at all, ever.
I will find out on Monday afternoon and will spend the weekend working out what questions I need
to ask the oncologist.
Visualisation – Dr Who meets Ghostbusters and the Numskulls….
In all of the books and testimonials of recoveries, visualisation plays a major role. People have a way of visualising their bodies overcoming the cancer. Now I have always been rather irreverent about such approaches. The last (and only time) I have really attempted visualisation was during my pregnancy with Tom. After Ella’s rather car crash birth I was determined to give birth to Tom normally and did every possible birth class I could to help me prepare physically and mentally. One of these involved yoga, breathing exercises and usually ended with a visualisation. As I had a small baby at home I would sneak off once we got to the visualisation session. But one day I decided I really needed to engage. I sat, willingly, open to the possible benefits it may accrue to my future birthing experience. I would not let my mind wander. I would take this seriously. It clearly works for many people, I just needed to open my mind to it. So the visualisation began. We had to close our eyes. Breath. We had to think of place, special to us. I thought of the hills of Mid Wales where my Dad used to take us on long hikes and climbs as children. After a while we had to sit down and look around us. We needed to find a flower nearby and focus on this. Then we needed to focus on the petals of the flower which would start closed and would then turn to the sun and begin gently opening. Hmmm. We needed to imagine our cervix, a bit like the flower, opening up. Well –what flowers do you think you would find on a hill side in Mid Wales? When I looked round I was surrounded by bracken and thistles. So my flower was a thistle. At which point I nearly wet myself laughing and had to leave the room. Visualisation was simply not for me.
But…I am in a different place now. Open to any strategy that my help my path to life. So I have been considering for a while what my visualisation should be. There are times (like when you are lying on a scan machine or you wake in the middle of the night) when you need something to help you focus your mind. I read about one person who imagined their blood was powerful and strong and would splat the cancer and dissolve it like an acid. I thought that would be a bit monotonous. There are only so many versions of a splatting motion. I thought about ants. Millions of worker ants trekking through my body, seeking cancer cells and collecting them all up. Then I considered miniature white morph like characters. But that didn’t last long. I had thought of a more military approach. Basically an army swot team planning strategically to take out those cells. This would involve lots of blasting and tactical plans. The dietary privations I would inflict upon the cancer would be akin to starving the enemy. I still think it works well but it was a bit anonymous. Faceless soldiers, blasting around my body. These cells are in fact my cells. Part of my body. Rogue, badly behaved cells, but mine all the same. I needed a different approach. So here it is. It came to me during my last pre chemo acupuncture session.
It has some of the essence of seek out and neutralise. It involves a team, rather than an army but it allows for the same strategizing and tactics. It is Dr Whoesque with a bit of the Numskulls – those people in the Beano Comic who control the person from the brain. They have numskulls to open the eyelids, roll out the tongue etc. In this case my visualisation involves a huge team ‘Team Lou’, yes, there is some funny Team Lou t-shirt or uniform (think paintball kit). Team Lou is made up the huge network of people who have simply overwhelmed us with their love and support. From our closest family to parents of the kids friends who just drop by out of the blue with a meal. The team has some distinct chapters. There is the prayer and spiritual chapter – those friends all over the world praying and doing medicine pujas etc. There is the food chapter. Diane and Jeff who come every Wednesday and cook all afternoon, producing at least 3 or 4 meals for me and the family. Christine who seeks out organic vegan recipes and creates meals she drops by with. And Rory who cooked a massive shepherds pie for the kids and dropped it off. My mother cooked a lasagne, Colleen a squash soup and homemade sourdough bread. Teams are not exclusive and people belong to a number of chapters. There are the regular text messagers, love and uplifting thoughts and sayings (Tim and Paula). The flower and present chapter – includes everyone – I have never been so spolit. Grizzle (Clare) sends weekly packages with presents – organic creams, notebooks, music, supplements. I have had books, CDs. The love and friendship chapter – is every kind action and thought that keeps me and my family, lifts for kids to places we can’t get them to or from, kindnesses and hugs. Then there is the medical and broader health and well being support team - the oncologist, acupuncturist, yoga teacher and lovely Ann Rose who smells of lavender and volunteers at the chemo unit, and has done for over 25 years, and massages my feet while I am waiting for chemo. So – this team (I still want to call them an army) – have been shrunk and transferred to my body, I have a particular Dr Who episode in mind, and they exist in miniature, dressed in their Team Lou kit with a Ghostbuster type machine on their backs, a cancer buster. This is a bit like a hoover which is used to vacuum up the bad cells which are then neutralised in the machine and spat out the other end as healthy new cells.
Currently most people are concentrated on the liver area of my body, as that is where the rogue cells are running amok. But I see my brother leading a team, which includes Ned and William, into the further reaches of my body, in search of any cancer stem cell five star generals daring to set up camp somewhere else in my body. Much of this affair is controlled by Marshalls (the Numskulls) from a control centre. Ella is there most of the time but Rupert is there, Tom and others at various times and my sisters. As I down one of my fiercely green juices or a green tea I imagine Ella speaking through the intercom system to warn people that the cancer cells will be particularly vulnerable as these pass through my body so to keep their eyes open for cells lurking in dark corners trying to avoid detection.
A rather bizarre and mad visualisation – but consider how many scenarios to I have to play with! The only problem with it is that if I wake up at night it is not a particularly calming visualisation and it is a bit like switching the telly on. So last night when I found myself awake at 3am I switched that visualisation off, Team Lou was fast asleep and I put my Reiki infused rose crystal a lovely old school friend sent me, around my neck. I splashed some Lourdes holy water that another friend from Team Prayer sent me and then crossed my liver with some powerful holy oil from Colombia, a friend from work gave me. Then I tried my yoga breathing as my heart was beating too fast and repeated the word ‘heal’. That was a bit more appropriate for a night time.
But the above mad and busy Team Lou scene is what distracts me at all other opportunities. It amuses the kids.
Louise’s first major foray into visualisation goes overboard.