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Shauna Reid

Welcome, weary traveller! I'm Shauna Reid, an Australian writer who moved to Scotland eleven years ago in pursuit of adventure and kilts

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Thank you, Cat People

22/Jul/2014

… for your fab and funny comments on the last post. I learned a lot, too. Who knew there were microchipped cat flaps that only let in the right cat?

I think the cat must have sensed all the adoration coming its way as he’s been extra aloof this week. No interest in affection; too busy trying to catch insects and snoozing on the shed roof.

Cat on the roof

The borrowed cat

15/Jul/2014

I’ve fallen for the cat next door.

Wallcat

Until now I never understood Cat People. What is the point of cats? They’re so indifferent to you. They don’t seem to care if you’re alive or dead, as long as they’re being fed.

But then the black and white fluffball above moved in to the little house on our left. It immediately started a turf war with the evil green-eyed cat that lives to our right. The battle ground? Our tiny back yard.

Both of these cats share their humans with a dog, so I can understand why they’d fight for the right to lounge peacefully in neutral territory.

After a few weeks of staring contests (as depicted in photo above) and midnight hissing, the new kid came out on top.

At first he just plonked himself under this dense, scraggly bush in the yard, the perfect position to keep an eye on both his own home and the home of his green-eyed enemy. But then he invited himself inside.

Our flat is small; it’s a third of a converted outbuilding. We’re overlooked on all sides so it can feel stuffy and oppressive. We keep the awning window in the bathroom open most times to let some air in. It’s a small window, but just big enough for a determined cat to squeeze through.

One evening Gareth got up from the couch, opened the living room door and nearly jumped a foot in the air when he found the cat sitting on the other side. The cat sauntered in, jumped on the armchair and made itself comfortable.

On the couch again

Neither of us know anything about cats, so we just kind of stared at him. He stared back, then decided he was bored and demanded to be let back outside (at that point, it could climb in through the window, but had yet to acquire the skills to get back out).

Since then he’s just dropped in whenever he damn well pleases. I came home from a meeting to find him conked out on the bed.

Bed cat

Having only had relatively obedient dogs as pets before, the audacity of this cat was fascinating… and endearing. My cat-owning friend LaLa explained to me that many cats take up “second homes”. Evidently he’d decided on us for his crash pad.

I also didn’t realise that cats in boxes is really a thing. I mean I love Maru on YouTube, and had a book called My Cat Likes To Hide In Boxes when I was a kid, but had never really thought about cats ’til now. When this guy snoozed in the beer box for four hours straight he won me over forever.

Box cat

I also didn’t know that cats sleep for up to 20 hours a day. Gareth googled it. He was mocking me for being smitten, “You love that cat!” but he’s just as bad. Here they are reading Cat Facts together.

Cattop

The creature is totally shameless. He will snooze for hours in a suitcase or mooch next to you on the couch, but then he’ll hear the footsteps of his Real Human arriving home, the One With The Food, and he’ll spring up and trot away without a backward glance.

Three times this past week he’s even sneaked inside in the middle of the night. We wake at 6AM to find him dozing on the foot of the bed or on the floor. He looks at us all bewildered and regretful, then jumps off and heads back out the bathroom window. We watch him slink down the path back to his real home, like a walk of shame after a long night out.

In some of my jealous, pathetic moments when I’m working from home and just want the company of another living being for a bit longer, I consider offering him a snack. But that would be crossing a line, and it’s kinda great that he hangs around without ever begging for food. He just uses us for a quiet and comfy place to sleep (like four hours in the laundry basket yesterday) and that arrangement is working nicely.

Bag cat - Lap cat

Sometimes I wonder if I should just get my own cat, but I really don’t want one. I’d have to deal with stinky cat food tins and vet bills. Plus, it wouldn’t be as good as this cat. I’m besotted with that Don’t Give A Fuck stare, the wiry whiskers, the belly as fleecy as a sheep’s and the complete disregard for our feelings and furniture. What a champ.

Cat yoga

Everyday Life: June 2014

08/Jul/2014

While the whole melanoma thing was going down I kept thinking, I mustn’t forget how this feels once I get through it. How life got vivid and simple, every detail amplified and important. How I felt present and appreciative and determined to send postcards to my grandparents more often.

It was like when I started going out with Gareth and I bought lots of fancy knickers and vowed, I’m always going to wear fancy knickers! I’ll never take this for granted!

Then the mundane sneaks back in and work is a bastard and next thing I’m buying a multi-pack of undies from Marks & Spencer and/or forgetting that a few short months ago I was worried about wandering skin cancers.

But overall I think I’m doing pretty well at holding on to that Life Is Brilliant feeling. It’s all about the daily habits. If I start the morning with a walk, taking in the birds on the river and the cascading roses and the holidaymakers in the B&B windows tucking into their bacon and eggs… then my eyes tend to stay open for the rest of the day.

I wanted to rip off one of my favourite bloggers Tracy from Shutterbean, and her Everyday Life photo series. I’m addicted to the weekly glimpse into her San Francisco life. I will spare you guys a weekly post but I’m going to try a monthly one, as an extra reminder to look out for the good stuff!

Summer trees

Summer trees

Cat next door drops by to drape itself on the furniture.

Cat next door dropped by to drape itself on the furniture.

Plastic decoy pigeons at Highland Industrial Supplies

Plastic decoy pigeons for sale, at Highland Industrial Supplies

Finally tidied the desk.

Finally tidied the desk. Chaos in rest of room not pictured.

We visited the Speyside Cooperage and saw whisky barrels being made. Totally mesmerising!

We visited the Speyside Cooperage and saw whisky casks being made. Totally mesmerising!

Sold!

Sold!

The Anderson pub ready for World Cup action

The Anderson pub in Rosemarkie, ready for World Cup action

Whisky + Mogwai at Glastonbury. Still haven't got round to getting a new telly but this did the trick.

Whisky + Mogwai at Glastonbury. Still haven’t got round to getting a new telly but this did the trick!

Sunshine on the pedestrian bridge

Sunshine on the pedestrian bridge

Cape Wrath + the remotest public toilet in mainland Britain

01/Jul/2014
Cows on the beach, Durness

Cows on the beach, Durness

The third day of Northern Jaunt consisted of exploring the fluffy edges of the west coast. For such a relatively small area – at some points we were barely 60 miles from Inverness – the contrasts in the landscape were mind-boggling. First we headed north from Kinlochewe, along Loch Maree then around the coast to Poolewe then taking the slower coastal route back down to Ullapool. We lucked out with another fine day so could take in all the grey jaggy mountains, white beaches and stonking sea views, with no company but the occasional campervan or motorbike.

We took a spontaneous detour around the Assynt area, another sticky-out bit north of Ullapool. This is where you trot out words like rugged, dramatic, spectacular then mop the drool from your chin. The weather had turned all misty and moody but that just added to the experience. From Lochinver we went along a crazy single track road that included this sign:

Beware of the toads

Beware of the toads

Then came dozens of lochs, full of lily pads in full bloom. Gareth said I would regret not stopping for a pic and now I do! It was such a weird sight; like nowhere else in Scotland. I love this country so much. I can’t think of anywhere that packs so much contrast into such a small space.

Confusing.

Confusing.

We took another detour to Stoer Head, where in the middle of bloody nowhere you’ll find a lighthouse, assorted sheep and seabirds, and apparently The Most Remote Public Toilet In Mainland Britain.

Loyalty card

Loyalty card. First visit is £1, but subsequent visits are only 50p!

There is some controversy as to the legitimacy of this remote loo claim, but I was busting so didn’t really care.

The remotest loo

We get it!

 

View from the loo at the light

View from the loo

Finally we headed north again into Sutherland, where the landscape gets even more spectacular. Total photographic fail there; I had to sit back, shut up and drink it all in. The mountains are grey and rocky and desolate and ancient and you can imagine some epic murderous TV series being filmed there. Ahhhh I loved it so much. Me have no words.

On the fourth and final day we had a quick walk along a beach in Durness…

Cows on the beach in Durness

Further Beach Cows of Durness

 

Cowpath

Cowpath

… then on to the main objective: a visit Cape Wrath, the most north-westerly point of mainland Britain. It’s called CAPE WRATH… how can you resist a name like that?

Although part of the mainland you have to catch a ferry to get to Cape Wrath. I feel this wee boat really stretched the definition of ferry…

Cape Wrath ferry

Cape Wrath ferry

Much of the cape is owned by the Ministry of Defence and is used as a military training area, including a live firing range. We had to wait about 90 minutes once we got over there as they were cleaning up from exploding some top secret things.

You shall not pass

You shall not pass

Finally we were able to journey across the bumpy road to the lighthouse…

xx

No neighbours to get in your face

… with some beautiful beaches along the way.

One of the bays on Cape Wrath

One of the bays on Cape Wrath

… but mostly miles of bleak moorland that’s perfect for testing your evil weapons.

Finally we got to the lighthouse and enjoyed the cliffs and seabirds swirling around…

Next stop, Canada

Next stop, Canada

… plus Mainland Britain’s Most North-Westerly Cheese and Pickle Sandwich.

Please note that there is NO PUBLIC LOO on Cape Wrath (perhaps under threat from the Stoer Lighthouse people). So if you do want to indulge at the cafe, be careful about your beverage consumption.

Mainland Britain's most northerly cheese and pickle sandwich?

Tasty

Once ferried back we drove the 2.5 hours back to Inverness, which seemed very sedate after all that dramatic scenery.

I spent ages drawing this stupid squiggle to show the trip route now I’ve realised I totally left out CAPE WRATH. I am not going to redo it a 15th time, so just imagine that top left-hand corner is also conquered!

Rough route of the whole journey

Map of over-ambitious holiday planning

Escape to the north

24/Jun/2014
The foxy Loch Maree

The foxy Loch Maree

Last week Gareth and I went on a four-day jaunt around Skye and north-west Scotland. We lucked out with 75% blue skies. Between this trip and Islay last July, I feel like I’ve used up my Good Scotland Weather allowance for life!

I don’t know what possessed us to plan 850 miles of driving in such a small time frame. Some of those miles were due to a ferry cancellation, but every time we stopped in yet another stunning, chilled out locale we’d say, “Why the hell didn’t we just stay here for three nights?”. I think it’s a hangover from my backpacking days when I felt like I had to cram in as many places as possible before I got deported.

I want to slap a general disclaimer on this whole post and say my iPhone snaps don’t do this stunning landscape justice. The clarity of the water and the scale of these mountains was overwhelming. It was falling in love with Scotland all over again. Also, many times there was so much glare from the sunlight (gasp) that I couldn’t see what I was shooting.

Our first stop was Mallaig and this beach where the film Local Hero was partially filmed. The sand was dazzling white.

The beach fae Local Hero

The beach fae Local Hero

Then off to Skye…

The Cuillins on Skye

The Cuillins on Skye. Ahh I wish you could see how huge and menacing and awesome they are.

Middle aged holiday highlight: two of out the three B&Bs we stayed at provided face cloths/flannels. I always pack my own as I haaate when they only give you soap to wash with. I don’t feel clean unless I can get a good scrub happening. Is anyone else with me on this!?

Kilt Rock in the background

This is a big ass cliff, with Kilt Rock in the background. At 10pm! Love the Scottish summer nights.

Talisker Distillery

Talisker Distillery

If you’re ever in Skye and visit Talisker Distillery, be sure to go to Talisker Beach as well. It is stunning. The sand is a moody silvery grey and the bay is utterly peaceful. Look at other people’s pictures to get a better idea!

Shit photo of beautiful Talisker Bay

Shit photo of beautiful Talisker Bay

Walking back from Talisker Bay

Walking back from Talisker Bay with new pals

After Skye we headed for Kinlochewe which is at the end of Loch Maree, one of my favourite lochs in Scotland.

(By the way, Loch Ness is one of the most batshit boring lochs in Scotland, IMHO. That’s why they had to make up the Monster; to get you to go there.)

On the way to Kinlochewe the evening was so clear and bright that we couldn’t resist a detour over Bealach na Bà, the notorious pass over to Applecross. It’s full of crazyass hairpins and dramatic views. The haggard clutch of our car was begging for mercy (it’s done 230,000 miles!).

Applecross

This is steep as hell!

Applecross

This be steep as hell, too.

Clear skies looking back to Skye

View from the top of the pass with G for scale – clear skies across to the mountains of Skye

Mountains near Kinlochewe

Mountains near Kinlochewe

Closed, dagnabbit!

Closed, dagnabbit!

Stay tuned for the last two days, including more cows on a beach and a visit to mainland Scotland’s Most Northerly Public Toilet! Yep, we know how to party.

A very small shark bit my arm – Part 3

06/Jun/2014

Daffodils on the River Ness

Continued from Part 2

This is typed up stuff from my journal. It took a week of voice dictation bumblings before I remembered… hey, you have one good hand and a selection of PENS!

Waiting – Week 2
If you tell people you’re sensitive to the sun they kind of roll their eyes as though you said, my cat can only eat filet mignon.

But I promise it’s no exaggeration to say that I burn extremely easily. The sun glares down over Australia with special kind of harshness. That is no country for Fitzpatrick Type 1′s. During the Oz visit last April, each time I stepped outside it felt like my skin had caught fire, heat blazing up my arms and neck and face like the map in the opening credits of Bonanza. And that was only Autumn!

This week I’ve felt calm during the day, but when I go to bed my mind churns with a montage of sun exposure. The Mothership dousing me in sunscreen and ugly hats at the beach; me burning regardless. Babysitting the sheep beside the railway line in January. Frying on the playground during school assembly. Swimming carnivals, sports days, pool parties; my friends turning bronze while I rotated from white to pink to white again.

Even Scotland has been no escape. It’s not ant-under-magnifying-glass evil like Australia, but I’ve been caught out despite the lashings of SPF 50. Not to mention visits to the sunny Continent. Shit. Now my hundreds and hundreds of freckles look like little time bombs.

The thing about melanoma is that there’s a strong possibility that everything will be fine. They’ll have scooped out the dodgy bits and I’ll feel like an idiot for worrying. On the other hand, 7 people die of melanoma in the UK every day. With Wally being such a fat old bastard, would I equally be an idiot for not acknowledging the possibility?

I’ve decided to work from an assumption that all will be well. At the same time I’ll keep telling Gareth and Rhiannon and Mum and everyone how great they are and how thankful I am to know them. Regardless of outcome I want them to know that anyway. Why hold all that sparkly stuff inside?

I’ve also told Rhiannon which notebooks to destroy in the event of my demise, just in case. Mwahahaha.

Aside from my squirrel brain, I’m doing well. Still off work but I’ve ditched the painkillers. They were giving me violent dreams and an even more violent stomach. I ventured out for a walk on Friday, my arm stretched out like a Hitler salute, and ended up vomiting on the banks of the River Ness in front of a bunch of tourists. I managed to spare the daffodils!

Waiting – Week 3
Back to work. I’ve got a stack of pillows on my desk to rest my arm on while I shout at the computer, trying to make the voice dictation software understand me.

I need to let this thought out so I can let it go. Why wasn’t I more pushy with the doctors when they kept saying it was nothing? I knew it wasn’t right. And I should have known when Gareth kept pestering me. It took him years to tell me that he didn’t like the bread I was buying, or that my wardrobe was looking funereal. If he’s actually offered an unsolicited opinion, I should know that it’s serious. Maybe he’s like that dog that sniffed out breast cancer!

Waiting – Week 4
I spent all of last Thursday at the hospital getting some post-surgery issues checked out. It’s funny how when you’re first in a new environment you don’t see it properly. I had tunnel vision at that initial dermatology appointment; no real awareness of my surroundings aside from those numbered signs, the shape of the floor tiles and the doctor’s voice.

Now I’m comfortable in the hospital and the camera has pulled out to a wide angle. I could buy a cuppa while I waited and calmly take it all in. The elderly couple queuing up for a scone at the cafe, the line of wheelchairs in the hall outside the x-ray, the zap of the overhead lighting; the pale spewy green of the walls.

It’s always the fear of the unfamiliar. If had surgery again tomorrow I’d be about 84% less bonkers. I know the drill now. I know what to pack, I know to remove my polish so the anaesthetist can see the colour of my toenails; I know that the doctors do this stuff every day.

While waiting around I thought about friends going through stuff right now. A major accident, a tricky heart, meaner cancers, lost parents, chronic illness; the end of relationships. And M-I-L Mary‘s brave recovery. Everybody is dealing with something. Your heart could get totally overwhelmed by that thought. I sat there in a stupid paper gown, watching people in all kinds of pain being wheeled through the corridors, with this total duh of thought that to be alive is to have things happen. Maybe I thought I had some sort of control over it before? Things will keep happening, over and over until the end. What can you do aside from roll with it as best as you can, and try to be a decent person along the way? I don’t know.

Waiting – Week 5
It’s been so bloody long now that I’m confident that there’s nothing dodgy. The hospital say there’s a backlog because of all the public holidays lately. Surely they wouldn’t sit on it if they’d seen anything.

Despite that I feel strange. I’ve gone into hedgehog mode, curled up and hiding from reality. I’m binging on chocolate and episodes of Scandal. That show is completely ridiculous but I cannot stop watching. Why can’t I stop!? It’s like Days of Our Lives in the White House. I need to know if other people on the internet feel the same…

Scandal bad acting
Scandal overacting
Kerry Washington overacting
Huck from Scandal overacting
Cyrus from Scandal really bad overacting

Waiting – Week 6
ALL CLEAR!

Ding dong, Wally is gone!

I got the call this morning. Then I phoned Gareth and burst into tears. Then I danced round the flat like a loon. The relief! Holy shit, it feels amazing.

Yesterday there were two good omens:

1) I was working in a cafe when a bloke sat down across from me. “That’s a great scar,” he said, “What have you done to yourself?”.

We got chatting and turns out he was a retired engineer who did a stint at NASA on the space shuttle programme. We yapped for an hour about space and planets and life. He described looking through the Hubble space telescope. He saw a bunch of galaxies at the same time, and because of all the light years they may not have existed by the time he saw them (forgive my highly technical explanation).

He said his wife always found that unsettling; how space goes on and on and there’s no “fence” around us. I said I felt the opposite. It’s comforting to know I’m a speck in an endless universe. No matter what happens, it sprawls on without us. That gave me an awesome peacefulness, despite the three-shot latte.

2) After chatting to Space Bloke, I went off to get my eyebrows threaded. It was a different person than usual and she went totally thread-happy on me. The result was brows so ultra-arched that my face is incapable of showing any emotion aside from EXTREME DELIGHT! Therefore there could not have been any other outcome.

Up & Running June winners + a consolation discount

04/Jun/2014

Thanks for all your giveaway comments! If you missed out but would like to join us next week, you can use the code RIPWALLY at checkout for a nifty 20% off until Monday. This discount also applies to Up & Moving, the perfect course if you’re new tof fitness or getting back in shape. You can kick my butt while you’re there (I’m on Week 2!).

Here are the lucky winners as declared by the Random Number Generator:

  • Puja
  • Amy
  • Andrea P
  • Rachel
  • Judy
  • Eva

Congratulations, folks – I’ve emailed you with the details. Please get in touch ASAP to claim your prize.

All aboard for the Up & Running 5K

 

Intermission… giveaway time!

30/May/2014

UPDATE: Apologies to those who tried to comment earlier when I had comments disabled for this post. Derr Shauna!

Thank you for the kind comments on the shark posts. It’s been good to let it all out!

With all the melanoma wafflings, I nearly forgot to do my Summer Up & Running giveaway and the courses start in just over a week. So, do you fancy training for 5K or 10K glory with your own running coach? And a devoted cheerleader? (that would be me)

Our 5K Beginners Course starts on Monday 9 June and the 10K Course starts on Thursday 12 June, each going for eight weeks.

What’s it like to run with us? Have a gander at this rockin’ new video, in which some of our lovely graduates spill the beans about their U&R experience…

I’m giving away five free places, with the winner choosing the course they’d like to do. All you have to do is leave a comment on this blog post and tell me, which course would you like to do and why would you like to run?

  • Entries close 11PM GMT on Wednesday 3 June.
  • There will be five winners and they have their choice of 5K or 10K courses.
  • The winner can gift the prize to a friend, so you can enter if you want to surprise a friend.
  • Winners will be randomly selected.
  • Winners can be from anywhere in the world. Previous winners are eligible to enter again. Remember the Courses are for women only.
  • Sorry for the awkward transition of subject matter. I’ll wrap up the Wally saga soon!

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A very small shark bit my arm – Part 2

29/May/2014

Get Well Soon

Shark postcard from the amazing Frances.

Continued from Part 1.

Mid-April
I went down to Edinburgh for the surgery. Here’s the painkiller-soaked version of events that I originally posted on the U&R forum. It was also the first time I used the voice dictation software so it’s a bit bonkers, but it captures the spirit of the moment!

I was prepping myself no, CRaPPING myself, on the way to Edinburgh as I’m not a big fan of horses no hospitals.

On Wednesday I had the nuclear medicine part. It went fine. They injected the isotopes then I had various scans. It was a bit claustrophobic inside the scanning machine so I borrowed a tricks from you guys, to go through the alphabet and name somebody awesome that I know for each letter. Andrea Alex Anne Angela and so on all the way Z. it made me teary happy and totally calm.

I checked into the 2nd hospital on Wednesday night.

I was in award at six. No. A ward of six. Women. One lady had caught a fish fork no no no. PUT A fish hook through her hand by accident and it got infected.

Another lady had been beaten by her own C a T. Not beaten, B I TT EN by her own cat. She was a bit crazy but really nice. She was showing Fish Hook Lady pictures of her dog, which was named beyonce.

I was nervous on the morning of the surgery. I told the anaesthetist and the nurses that, quote I’m crapping my pants right now unquote.

Beneath the test beneath… no. the anaesthetist replied, quote only an Australian could get away with saying that unquote.

Then he asked, why are you living in Scotland?

I said, because I’m hiding from the sun. But that didn’t work very well did it? Ha ha!

They all laughed kindly and next thing I was under.

When I woke up it was two and a half hours later. I couldn’t believe that it was over. I asked the recovery nurse if it was really over.

She said yes and that they didn’t have to do A skin graft after all! they managed to close up without it.

I kept saying over and over, is that true? Really?

And she said yes, and I just started crying like a real ugly cry honk honk honk.

Was so relieved and then my teeth chattered violently then I felt so so happy smiley.

I was worried I would say something stupid like when I was sedated for my wisdom teeth. The only thing that I said was when I overheard two nurses talking about a doctor who always writes snotty e-mails. I yelled to them, Well he sounds like a real fanny!

Waiting – Week 1
It’s good to be home. Arm is very sore and sleeping is awkward but I’m totally fine.

Went to the plastic surgery nurse in Inverness today. She took off all the dressing and bandages. My armpit looks pretty good, the scar will be neat! My wrist looks horrific. It was quite a shock. I have a very strong stomach; growing up on a farm you see a lot of boyfriends no no no. gory things!

This dictation thing is so funny.

Anyway the WOUND is gruesome! I thought I was totally cool and even kind of impressed, but then I stood up to leave and my stomach dropped and I nearly fainted. How embarrassing! The nurse made me lie down for a while. He he.

She said I need to keep my arm elevated for another two weeks to help with this swelling. Also dr said last week that biopsy results Will take A minimum of two weeks so that is nearly 1 week down.

I’m feeling calm and it’s not just the TRAMADOL. One step at a time, and as mother-in-law Mary said, be strong!

Continue to Part 3…

A very small shark bit my arm

27/May/2014

Raigmore

I’ve been updating this post offline for months, but was too chicken to publish until I knew if there’d be a happy ending. Spoiler alert: there was. Woohoo!

December 2013
There’s a mole on my forearm, two inches above the wrist, that Gareth has christened Wally.

“When are you going to do something about Wally?” he keeps saying, “I don’t like the look of him.”

I’d asked my Dunfermline doctor about it in 2012 and again in the summer of 2013. Both times she said it was nothing to be concerned about, but the second time I insisted on getting it checked anyway.

She wrote a referral to the specialist but with waiting times, I’d moved to Inverness by the time an appointment came through.

So I visit a new GP, who says she can remove it at the surgery, rather than restart the referral process.

“It’s up to you though,” she says, “It looks innocent and doesn’t need to come off. The scar would be bigger than the mole itself.”

I’m a total wusspants about needles and gore so briefly consider leaving it, but end up booking in. It’s annoying and I keep knocking it on things. And it does seem to be getting darker and taller, rising like a rogue panettone.

January 2014
Is 36 too old to ask for a jellybean? I try not to vom as the doctor digs away at my arm. I inform the doc and the nurse that the mole is named Wally and they crack up.

“Did you want to take a photo before we chop him out?”

“No thanks, I don’t want to see his sorry mug again!”

The nurse holds up a little vial with the floating blob of tissue. “Say goodbye to Wally! He’s off to Raigmore now!”

One week later
The doctor calls me in to talk about the test results.

“Unfortunately it turns out you have a malignant melanoma. I have to say I’m completely flabbergasted. It did not look suspect, at all.”

I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone say “flabbergasted” out loud before. It sounds charming with her English accent.

The report says the tumour is quite deep, possibly larger than the biopsied area. Further excavation is be required. So the GP writes an urgent referral to the dermatologist at the hospital.

I feel shellshocked. But being an Aussie I know a gazillion people who’ve routinely had these things chopped out, no worries.

All I can think about how is how Wally was born and bred entirely in Scotland. I’ve spent nearly eleven years trying to convince the locals that even though their sun is pissweak and elusive, it still wants you dead. And now I have PROOF! I feel strangely triumphant, but kinda shitscared.

February
Raigmore Hospital has a SYSTEM. Holy crap I love a good system! Instead of a baffling array of ologies and ists and isms, they’ve sorted the departments into numbered categories. So instead of wandering around for hours trying to find where you’re meant to be, you just report to your number.

The dermatologist is a funny guy, combining bluntness with a calm, “let’s keep our heads here” that I find reassuring.

He begins by explaining Wally’s size. “1mm, we’d be concerned, so 4mm? That’s a thick one”.

I must have looked a bit blank so he says, “You do appreciate what a melanoma is?”.

“Oh yeah, I grew up in Australia!”

“You grew up in Australia?”

“Yes. But I was always fanatical about sun protection!”

He pulls a face like I’d told him I’d camped on the surface of the sun itself.

He explains that it could be a simple matter of taking a wider chunk from my arm and that’s it. Or it could be that the rebel cells have spread since they’ve been there quite awhile. There’s something about his matter of fact way tone that almost makes me laugh. I feel kinda humbled and powerless. What can I do about any of this? All I can do is wait and deal with it as it comes.

He looks over my galaxy of freckles then feels my lymph areas. He notices the Fitbit clipped to my bra. “Now what is that thing?”.

“It’s a Fitbit. Like a pedometer.”

“Oh really?” he raises an eyebrow and grins, “Or is it actually… a recording device? And a hidden camera too? Are you from Channel 4 Dispatches or BBC Panorama?”

He says the procedure is too involved for a local surgery, so the next step is a consultation with the Plastic Surgery department.

Afterwards, Gareth and I flee to the Dores Inn for that mega scone.

A week later
The plastic surgeon says they’ll do a wide local excision, which means going out about 3cm in each direction from the original site. This is to catch anything left behind and to help prevent it coming back.

Because of the melanoma depth, family history, and my young age (sorry doc, say that last one again?), they’ll also do a sentinel lymph node biopsy, which involves injecting radioactive isotopes into the Wally Area. That will light up the nearest lymph nodes in my armpit. They’ll remove those nodes then test them to see if the cancer has spread.

Apparently I will wind up with a cool scar and a kind of dent in my arm. I poll my friends for crafty ways to explain it. It’s where the aliens implanted the chip. It’s a skateboard ramp for tiny squirrels. I decide to go with, a very small shark bit my arm.

March
The doctor calls me with surgery dates and reads out the letter from the dermatologist. “Did you know you are a Fitzpatrick Type 1? Have you heard that term before?”

“Does that mean… ginger as f*ck?”

Apparently it’s a numerical classification schema for skin colour. Type 1 is pale white; blond or red hair; blue eyes; freckles. Always burns, never tans. Yeah, that’s the fella!

April
The surgery is two days away and I’m bricking it. I keep thinking about the skin graft and having a piece of my thigh being welded to my forearm. I’ve never been a fan of my thighs, and now I’m going to have to look at them, on my arm, every day? That’s crazy talk.

This is getting long so I will continue later in another post!

Update: here is Part 2.

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