2. Crazy Day

Crikey. What an odd day. After having to forego breakfast for this procedure, I was expecting to progress through the PET scan unit in a hungry but sedate fashion and then go on to do a huge amount of work at the office before I signed off for chemo. The universe obviously had other ideas. I made it to Southampton hospital with a few minutes to spare and proudly reported to the mobile scanning unit ahead of time. The staff explained that the scanner was having some checks done so they were running a bit behind schedule. I had about half an hour reading Gareth Malone’s ‘Choir’ then was called to have the injection which would send a radioactive marker and glucose belting round my system. The nurse inserted the cannula so they could give me the injection more easily – getting so used to all the needles that I didn’t even register the ‘sharp scratch’ they like to warn you about. She explained that once I had the injection the staff would keep their distance – fair enough. She wasn’t kidding. I was shown back to the cold little cubbyhole that was my ‘rest area’ and waited for a while. A few minutes later the door was flung open and she rushed into the room with a metal box that was beeping in a loud and very alarming fashion. This was beginning to feel a bit like a Denzel Washington film. In less time than it has taken me to write this sentence, she opened the box – bleeping got louder just to hurry her along a bit (I think it also flashed red from inside but I’m not completely sure about that) – took the end off the device, injected the liquid through the cannula, closed the box, turned around and ran out calling ‘you’re all done, I’ll be back in an hour!’. Wow. I expected to start glowing, or feel at least somehow different. I’ve never been radioactive before (at least not to my knowledge) so I was very interested to see what would happen. Nothing. I had about 45 minutes more of Gareth then the nurse sidled back into the room and from the corner explained that the scanner was in fact broken so they couldn’t scan me today. I sat there for a moment waiting for it to make some sense to me. So what were they actually going to do with this (by now) very hungry and highly radioactive person? Actually there must have been several of us at this point, all sitting very confused in our little cubby holes wondering what the rest of the day would hold for us. When my wits returned, I explained that I needed to be scanned today as I am starting chemo tomorrow – so I could go somewhere else if there was another scanner available. She suggested Portsmouth, which is about another 25 miles on from Southampton. I left several minutes later with a map to the hospital and the stern instructions ‘Get there as fast as you can. And don’t go near any babies or pregnant women as they could be harmed by your radioactivity.’ Soooooooooooo. Hospitals have a fair amount of babies and I did have to go past the maternity ward on the way out, so I had to kind of skulk past people pushing buggies and was horrified when I nearly brushed by an expectant lady. I reached the car (which by now seemed like my refuge) and hurtled out of the multi-storey car park. The car park takes you out a different way from where you go in. People who know me well are constantly amused by my ability to get lost anywhere and today was no exception. I have no idea how Southampton is laid out and I was very quickly lost. Bearing in mind that I was radioactive I couldn’t exactly go into a shop to ask directions (don’t have satnav – well I do have an iPhone but the battery was unexpectedly flat) so I managed to accost a postman, at a distance, to get directions back to the motorway. Several minutes later I was happily and hungrily belting down the M27 towards Portsmouth hospital. It did occur to me that if I went very fast I might attract the attention of the police and maybe I could even get them to escort me with the blue lights and everything. Can you imagine the conversation? ‘And why exactly were you going so fast, madam?’ ‘Well, officer, I’m highly radioactive and I have to get to the hospital as fast as I can…’ In the end I decided the sedate approach was probably better and would take less time in the long run. And less explaining. I reached the hospital in good time and was rushed through the reception area. I felt really sorry for the people who were also hungrily waiting, as they were being told they would have another 2 hours before they would be seen – the escapees from Southampton had arrived! It seems that 3 of us had come straight from there and the lovely folk at Portsmouth slotted us in with only about 10 pages of Gareth in terms of waiting time. After that it was plain sailing. The actual scanning took about 45 minutes. It wasn’t too claustrophobic, but I was getting quite fed up with playing statues by the time it finished. I was back in the waiting room by 2.30 and sat down to enjoy my ‘break-fast’ of slightly warm cheese sandwiches. Made it back to the office by about 4.00, so needless to say we didn’t actually leave to come home until about 7.30.

The lovely thing about today was that when you are in this kind of situation, you just have to go with the flow. When you give up any sense of control, life becomes much easier. This is quite a lesson for me as I am a total control freak – and I suspect the coming months will be an in-depth study in the art of giving up the illusion of control. Accepting what comes. I have no choice about the fact that I am now ill, but what I can have some control over is my attitude and my approach to dealing with this illness. Today was fun in a really weird kind of way – I met some lovely people and had quite a few laughs at the absurdity of the situation. Long may it continue.

Thank you to all of you for your beautiful words. I am touched to my deepest core at your kindness, and I will carry it forward with me into hospital tomorrow and thereafter.

Good night!


About Margaret Cahill

After diagnosis of Mantle Cell Lymphoma in 2013, I started this blog to stay in touch with friends, family, and and an ever increasing network of lovely people who sent me healing. The readership increased and I ended up blogging for all I was worth to try and stay sane through the chemotherapy and stem cell transplant. Then after I went into remission (thankfully) I was enjoying the writing so much that I have carried on, and the blog seems to have become a bit of a resource for people, which is lovely. The original year of blogs have now been made into a book, Under Cover of Darkness: How I Blogged my Way Through Mantle Cell Lymphoma. It fills in a lot of the gaps between the blogs, and the tone falls somewhere between graveyard humour and explicit details of chemo treatments. I do hope you enjoy it :-) Mxx
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16 Responses to 2. Crazy Day

  1. Bernadette Brady says:

    Hi Margaret – Wow what a day! Your comments at the end of your post – you cannot control the external events but you can control your mind are deeply Stoic. So when you have finished reading Gareth you might want to venture into Epictetus a 1st century Roman slave/philosopher – one of the great Stoic voices. Something to save for when you are glowing in the dark! Love and hugs


  2. Darrelyn Gunzburg says:

    And you say you can’t write!!



  3. Neil says:

    Glad it all turned out okay, here’s to going with the flow (radioactive or otherwise). Your humor is shining through the dark clouds, thanks for keeping us posted. I was hearing Charlie Chaplin music in my head reading your post, or should that be Benny Hill? Love, Neil xx


  4. Kris Brandt Riske says:

    Amusing take on the day’s events by a marvelous story-teller! Hope today (getting the port?) went well and that you sail through tomorrow’s first treatment. All good thoughts! xoxo


  5. Judy Hall says:

    Hi Margaret, do you remember introducing me to Rob Schwartz? With regard to what your mantle cell is hiding, I was rereading him today, he says: ‘As we enter the physical plane, we are love temporarily hidden from itself. When we remember who we really are, our inner light, our love, shines forth for all to see.’ You are beaming bright and clear! Good luck for tomorrow and all the days thereafter. Remember the pink lightxxJ


  6. Branka Stamenkovic says:

    That’s the way to do it: with humor! Years ago, I read somewhere about a guy who, upon learning that he is suffering of some dreadful disease or other (can’t remember which one), decided to lock himself in a room for a month and watch – comedies. All that laughter did wonders for his body, and later doctors confirmed that the disease has disappeared. So, stoics and philosophers are all ok, no doubt. But try books with jokes, too! :-)

    Sending you love and support. Stay brave and laughing!


  7. Baris Ilhan says:

    Good luck Margaret. Love from Istanbul.


  8. Cindy Chapelle says:

    Keep writing Margaret – and am sending you many good thoughts xxx


  9. Sue J says:

    Hello Margaret
    I couldn’t catch the blog address on my phone. Thankfully Judy has emailed it to me. Hearing loss is such a nuisance but I can tell I am about to see that’s all it is.
    Looking at your blog from a Readers point of view, this has been quite something, very absorbing, brilliantly upbeat. Although I’m a horribly earnest creature you made me laugh – several times.There can’t be many with the ability, the wit, and the will to produce something like this
    From a Writers point of view you’ll know how ‘lucky’ you were to have had this extra ‘drama’ on the first day!
    From a personal point of view – not!
    But from now on if you find yourself in another OMG patch think of us the readers; one in 3 or is it 4 of us, is going to have to face something like. And certainly most of us will know (or will have known) someone else going through a similar experience. Some of your readers will be saying in recognition ‘Yes, it is (or it was) like that! Your family, friends, colleagues,and those connected to fellow patients (strangers to you perhaps?) will gain insights which they can pick up and revisit when they are properly in a position to absorb them. And not just them; there are the medics (and hospital managers!) who, for all our sakes, also need these insights.
    Is that a euphemism for truths? No; an insight is surely a deeper truth. But in this instance the standard truth will be quite enough for anyone – that while indisputably ill, you had to dash irradiated from one hospital to another (how many miles?) because the (one and only?) scanner had broken down. Not too many could make a laughing matter of that.
    Now I will take another hopeful look to see whether you have written some more!
    Love Sue (J) xx


  10. Fei Cochrane says:

    Hi Margaret, I am very proud of you. You are such a strong and extremely brave to handle such situation alone. Good Job. Your such a wonderful model for all of us. Hang in there and continue to be strong. You are always included in my prayers.


    • Hi Fei, Thank you so much for your prayers and wishes. I feel amazingly supported by everyone online, and have the most fabulous partner and friends who make sure I am never facing this alone. If anyone in this situation could think themselves fortunate I think it would be me :-)


  11. Deb says:

    This post is nearly 3 months old as I read it. I know it shouldn’t, (since I’m aware of the seriousness of your condition), and yet it makes me smile. This is life – crazy, chaotic, dramatic, but also comedic, even in tragedy. I haven’t read what happens next, but am hooked on your story Margaret – the thought of you panicking out of concern of passing your radioactivity onto others epitomises why the human condition is so glorious :)


    • Lol. I think that is what keeps me sane. If I stopped too much to think about what I’m going through I would just give up. There are dark moments, to be sure, as you will no doubt find out as you read on, but there is always room for laughter, isn’t there, even if it is just at the absurdity of the human condition in all its technicolour glory :-) M xxx


  12. Caron Rogers says:

    Wow, what a crazy day that was but who better to spend it with than Gareth Malone, even if it was only the book. Whilst the first series of Choirmaster was being shown on BBC2 (not too many of us watched that one) I bumped into him on Bournemouth railway station, he was charming & I find him so inspiring. I keep promising myself that I will learn to sing, dance too! Cx


    • Ah lucky you. He was fabulous company in the hospital so I can just imagine how nice he was in real life. If you want to dance I can put you in touch with my teacher, she is also fabulous and writes on the blog sometimes. In fact when you get to the blog about me dreaming of foxtrotting she added a comment that I actually can:-) So you could get in touch through that if you wanted to. Definitely dance. It is so good for the soul….Mx


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