What you see here is the remaining 400ml of the barium swallow I had to drink before undergoing a CT Scan two weeks ago. Ideally, you’re supposed to gulp down the lot, but – trust me – that’s a lot easier in theory than reality. It’s part-orange, part-chalk, part-soup. However, seeing as it was full to the brim when the pathology assistant handed it to me, I don’t think I did too badly.
I made a face as I took it off him.
“I know, it’s a lot,” he said.
I tried to set my face, smiled, nodded and said I’d do my best. As it turned out, I would have another hour or so to drink and wait to let it go through my system – something I wasn’t told over the phone – and so we settled in for the wait. Yes, we. Keira was home ill, still getting over her own bugs, and came along too. The last thing I wanted to do was let her know I was having more tests, in case it worried her. Turns out I needn’t have bothered on that score – she was perky (a suspiciously miraculous recovery from that morning, now I think about it), fascinated and blithe whenever my gag reflex kicked in as I was drinking the barium and I struggled to keep it down.
“Just drink the barium,” I said to myself. “Let them inject you with the iodine. Get those pictures. Get those answers.”
A week later, they came through.
“There’s nothing anatomically wrong,” my doctor said.
“What does that mean?” I asked as I sat in front of him.
“No nasties. No cancer.”
All clear. I breathed out a breath I’d been holding for months.
I’ve lost 4.5 kilos since all this began, and although some of that might be put down to marathon training, a great deal of the reason is due to the gut issues. “Please see your doctor if you have unexplained weight loss” is what the websites tell you. Well, I did. I have. The weight keeps dropping.
I was all by myself on the weekend. The kids and Adam went away camping. I was due for an outside long run and so I went, spending two hours in crisp, glorious sunshine. I thought a lot while I was out there – about the ultrarunner Scott Jurek, whose book I’ve just finished, noticing the surroundings. There were the cute couples out walking their Scottish Terriers in matching UNIQLO puffy jackets. I ran past two separate games of football. Cars were parked on the perimeter, watching. One man caught my eye as I went passed and he smiled, kindly; in a ‘good on you’ kind of way.
I also thought a lot about this blog. What I want to write about, goals, putting myself back in the frame. That’s what the marathon training has shown me so far – it’s not going to get done unless I make the time to put in the work. Or, perhaps it could be done without work, but at the risk of breaking me. I don’t want that.
This used to be a beautiful glade of trees. Wandering through it would be a part of a regular walk we would take as a family in the woods behind our house. The same glade a newspaper photographer who came to take my picture took me to because our house was too ugly. Now it’s gone. I didn’t know until I ran past. I was angry. I am angry. But life is change, I guess.
I mightn’t like it, I could rail against it, but it won’t alter anything.
I thought about all this as I ran, and it helps ease my mind. I can’t tell you how much of a relief that is.
Two family members have recently been diagnosed with cancer. Fuck cancer.
Here is my shadow, this is me. I am strong; I drank the barium.
Time to get on.