So yesterday was something called ‘Blue Monday’ – one of those made up days meant to depict the fact that it’s the middle of January, the New Year’s resolutions have been abandoned and life is generally crap.
A great day, then, to face not one but two of my fears – going to the hospital to get a mole checked out and getting my fillings done.
Who says the universe doesn’t have a sense of humour?
First up was the hospital appointment – which I’d not been dreading so much as completely ignoring.
A bit of background: when I was 18, I had a dodgy mole on the inside of my left calf, which turned out to be a malignant melanoma – one of the most serious types of skin cancer.
It was a very scary time. I was meant to be starting university but instead I was in hospital having a sizeable chunk of my leg removed while the word cancer was being thrown around.
I didn’t realise it at the time – my parents didn’t tell me – but the kind I had is fatal in about a third of cases.
Thank God, I wasn’t one of those cases but the next five years were spent in and out of hospital having check-ups to find out if I would be.
Every time I walked through the double doors of the hospital my heart sank. What if this is the time they give me bad news?
Every time I had to strip off and lie on a paper-covered bed, while the consultant felt for lumps and bumps, I wanted to cry. What if this is the time they find a lump?
Which is exactly how I felt yesterday when I went through the same old process for the first time more than a decade.
In October, I noticed a new mole on my chest and I panicked. I was in London at the time and I booked into The Mole Clinic, a private scanning clinic.
It turned out that the one on my chest was nothing more than a freckle but there was one on the back, which was of concern.
I was told to see my doctor – but I didn’t.
I went into denial. I didn’t want to think of going through all that stuff again and so I pretended it wasn’t happening. Irresponsible, cowardly and stupid – but there you go, that’s what I did. My mother will kill me if she reads this.
A couple of weeks ago, when I started this blog and promised to face fears rather than ignore them, I finally went to the GP and she referred me urgently to the hospital consultant. That appointment was yesterday.
Once again I walked through the hospital double doors and once again I lay on a paper-covered bed in mis-matched underwear, while a consultant, who looked young enough to be at university, looked and poked and prodded.
He asked to feel my groin – where the lymph nodes are and where the cancer might show up, if indeed there was any cancer – and I told him to go for it, knock himself out. I didn’t really. I just said ‘fine’ and felt my eyes prick with tears. They’re pricking now as I write this too.
The reason I put off going to the GP and going to hospital is because I hate being reminded of that time when I was 18 and scared of dying. I hate to find myself now 36 and scared of dying. I don’t want to die. I’ve wasted too much of my life worrying! I haven’t done it right yet!
All very dramatic, I know, but these are the crazy thoughts that a new freckle can bring up for me.
Fortunately, as it turns out, the consultant is not worried.
He’s going to remove the mole in a couple of weeks, to be safe, but he doesn’t think it’s a melanoma. There are no other signs of problems and all is well.
I left the hospital feeling as I did after every appointment I had from the ages of eighteen to twenty three – relieved and unsettled.
I sat in the car and had a little cry. I drove home through the park and vowed to appreciate everything and not worry about stupid stuff anymore. I vowed to be nicer to my parents and to be a better friend. I then got home and ate a cinnamon danish.
So after all that life and death stuff, the fillings were easy.
The dentist asked if I wanted a pain-killing injection. ‘Do I need it?’ I asked. He said probably not and we did it without. I had three yesterday and need to go back for one more next week.
I know, I know – it’s really bad. They’re the only fillings I’ve had in my life. The dentist says there must be some sort of change to my diet but I can’t think what. Maybe my cinnamon danish habit has reached a dental tipping point.
When I left, the dentist’s assistant told me I’d be very brave and I felt like I was 10-year-old getting a gold star. For the umpteenth time my eyes pricked with tears.
So, all in all, an odd day – but it worked out well in the end. Things are back in their rightful perspective: anything short of death doesn’t really matter that much. Karaoke here I come…Feel The Fear And Do It Anyway: How to Turn Your Fear and Indecision into Confidence and Action