Having cancer and enduring relapses is a bit like living through a cup competition. With each round the competition gets that bit tougher. In football terms it’s like starting with Brighton and Hove Albion (or “Brighton and Herb Albion” as my mother once frantically wrote trying to make a note of an FA Cup draw on Radio 2 for me sometime in the early 80’s), going on to play Arsenal and then ending up having to beat Barcelona.
My first relapse didn’t feel like too much of a shock simply because it came so quickly after Brighton had been despatched in round one (might as well really stretch this metaphor). I finished ABVD in the Spring of 2009 and by the summer the symptoms were back and a stiffer challenge lay in wait. The symptoms were pretty innocuous – my legs were really itchy. The only pain I encountered was from occasionally banging my head on the desk at work when I bent down to scratch them (I’m really not kidding).
So, it was time for another round of investigations. I went back to the same surgeon who’d done the initial biopsy and he wasn’t too keen to start poking about in the area at the base of my neck where the Hodgkin’s had reappeared: “I’m not going down there, it’s tiger country”. It reminded me a of a conversation we’d had after the first, failed biopsy, when all this kicked off. I never really got a full explanation of the ‘dead end’ that they came to in my chest where bits seemed to be fused together that shouldn’t have been, like overdone lasagna welded to an oven dish.
Eventually CT and PET scans confirmed the diagnosis that the cancer was back. This time the hospital in Slough referred me on to the Churchill in Oxford, where I would mean the legend that is Dr Chris Hatton and face, appropriately enough for the “Arsenal” of Hodgkin’s, the heavy artillery.