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A very small shark bit my arm – Part 3

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.

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About Shauna Reid

Ahoy there! I’m an author, copywriter and old school blogger. I love telling stories about life and helping my clients to tell theirs. Find out more about me and how we can work together.


53 thoughts on “A very small shark bit my arm – Part 3

  1. What the heck? How bloody stressful. I’m so glad you’re alright. My husband has a big scar on his face from a skin cancer removal last year. I hope you can somehow manage to wind down from that.

  2. I’m so glad everything is ok!

    On another note, I must have missed the funereal clothes post but I just went back and read it, and dear god it’s like you’re inside my head! My clothes are all made out of the same slightly stretchy black material… Its like the Von Trapp curtain clothes only with less fun (but hopefully a smidge more style?)

  3. Wow–what a great blog. But then why should I be surprised–you are such a talented writer. As I’ve mentioned hubs went through the same melanoma scare, but it was eight years ago now, and we only had to wait a few days for the results of the lymph node biopsy. Perhaps that says something positive about the awful state of health care in the states? I don’t know….but if we’d have had to wait for six weeks, I wouldn’t have been able to cope, I’m afraid. So happy your results were also good–our oncologist was full of stats at hub’s post-op, telling us he had a 95% change of survival. Of course a year ago hubs was diagnosed with stage 4 prostate cancer–terminal–eventually. It’s a little frustrating to have the cancers that are usually not deadly, but the KIND you have most definitely is lethal! Melanoma is BAD stuff, as is prostate cancer that has spread to the bones. There is only treatment, and at the end….when treatment no longer works, which WILL happen eventually…you die. So when you tell people you have skin cancer, I always always state, “It is MELANOMA–the deadly kind!” I think that’s important for others to know. The thought of dying does bring things into perspective doesn’t it? And I don’t know about you, but with hubs’ melanoma, I never felt completely, 100% free of the disease. I always worried about other spots, things he didn’t show his dermatologist, it was like the melanoma threat was always there….hanging over our heads. Of course all that has taken a back seat to the new diagnosis. So I’m telling you, if possible, ENJOY and APPRECIATE having caught that damned melanoma in time. Stay vigilant, and assertive with those doctors who say, “It’s nothing,” although I doubt you get that much anymore!

    1. Pam, I’m so sorry about your husband. I can’t imagine how you are both feeling right now. Thank you for your kind words and understanding here. I completely relate to what you said about melanoma. xxox

  4. Your strength has given me the courage to get the suspicious stuff that I have looked at. I’ve been dreading it…fearful that it may be “something”, hoping that is won’t change (or go away), but see that I need to face the fear. Hang in there, Shauna!

  5. I was thinking that the fact they kept you waiting so long probably meant there was good news. When my mum was first diagnosed with cancer we had an unexpected call from the consultant’s office asking her to come in later the same day. I knew immediately that we would not be hearing good news. I am so pleased for you and impressed that you managed to hold everything together during your treatment. You have written about this so well I think you should try and get something published as a way of encouraging others to get things checked out.

    (I always think the high incidence of skin cancer in Australia has something to do with the number of people who live there who are descended from Irish/Scottish people. We are not designed to be left out in the sun.)

  6. ‘Speck in an endless universe’ – oh yes, me too. I love my own insignificance. Thank you. I’m so pleased you’ve got the all clear, I trust that’s the end of it.

  7. Fantastic news and great to hear. All the best from (surprisingly sunny – but nowhere near as deadly as NZ/Oz) Poland!!!

    Scott F 🙂

  8. Oh, happy day! =) SUPER happy for you, and a delightfully told tale of the C word–quite the accomplishment.

    I had a maybe-cancer scare (had to wonder for ~9 mos.) & alls well (post-surgery, nothing malignant), but I TOTALLY went hedgehoggy. For AGES. Am still not back at exercise routine, but getting back out, here and there. Maybe that’s okay ’cause I was STRESSED about C for 3/4 of a year?

    I love that you got complimented on your fabulous new scar. That guy rocks.

    Re: sun–I’m not as fair as you, but blonde & green-eyed, grew up in sunny Calif. (pre-sunscreen days) and any time I’m in the American Southwest, I’m convinced Nature is trying to KILL ME. =) I’m way into hats & long sleeves. xoxoxoxoxo!!

  9. Besides being so grateful that you are OK, what kept running through my mind reading this, you are a fine person. Fine instincts, fine reactions-you are really something, and I hope you take the time to celebrate that!

  10. Thank you for posting your results Shauna. I’ve been compulsively checking your site for news – I’ve been worried about & for you. I am sooo glad for you. And Gareth and the Mothership and Rhiannon and everyone whose life is better with you in it. All my best!

  11. So glad you are ok!! Was so hoping for you. And yes, I understand the scandal binge. I had to get off the train when the torture stuff got a little too too.

    Confess I had to skip to then end of the post as I was so nervous re: how things would turn out.

  12. Dear Shauna I am so glad that you have the all clear, and hope that you recover completely very quickly.
    Best wishes to you and you beautiful family who must have been sow anxious for you. Love to all, I am glad you live in beautiful Scotland, good choice! 😉

  13. Oh I am going to be smiling about this for a long time. So very relieved for you and all those lovely loved-ones of yours. I could not bear to think the Incredible Diet Girl could be waylaid by a very small shark’s bite. Yeehaa! I’m off to toast to your very great health my dear.

  14. So glad to hear your happy ending. While I’ve been waiting to hear the end of the story I’ve been fretting about some of my own spots and warning my OH he’s going to have to help me make a “mole map”. : / Gotta love that Aussie sun – there is no sunscreen that stops me getting burnt. Wide brim hats and long sleeves? I feel like one big sartorial error when I step out of my house in summer. As another commenter suggested, I’m sure an Aussie magazine would love to publish your account – it’s one that still really, really needs telling here with your sense of humour to make it one people want to listen to.

  15. Shauna my lovely, I couldn’ be more delighted for you x. Yay to Gareth for hassling you to get it sorted x

    Also pleased it’s not just me that has random cafe / train convos!

  16. Shauna, still delighted for your good news! But also, this is a really great piece of writing. And I love space. Even if Sandra Bullock ruined it for me a bit.

    Scandal addiction here too. 😀

  17. “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.”

    Wet things, falling from my eyeholes…

    I am so glad you are ok my little friend xxx

  18. I’m so glad (doesn’t that word look somehow Scottish? but apparently it’s Dutch) to hear your news! I hope your arm is painfree soon, and that you treasure your badass scar. (It obviously attracts smart people!)

  19. So glad to hear the outcome was a good one. I just love the way you tell a story. If I were a writer I could wax more eloquent on how I enjoy your blog – and enjoyed your book. Could there be another In the works any time soon?

    1. Thanks matey 🙂 Julia and I just finished writing an awesome beginners running book. It will be out in January 2015.

  20. Oh Shauna – {hugs} <– special curly brackets, I'm sure they would have got you back a lot sooner if they thought that there was worse news.

    I'm debating starting the running again tomorrow with you – are you going to be doing the week 1, day 1 run?

    1. Thanks Simone! 🙂 I’m doing Up & Moving, the walking course. Tomorrow we start Warm Up Week for the 5K ladies, woohoo!

  21. so glad your story has a happy ending – though am also a bit shamed to say I use less suncream because I keep getting told about low Vitamin D and feel like I am damned if I do and damned if I don’t – though I do try not to go out in raging sunshine if possible (and you know it maintains the rage down here) – and I know what you mean about spewy green walls – keep trying to work out if there is any realism about the pretty green walls in Call the Midwife (if you watch that show) and thinking maybe the ones today are just faded ones that used to be a brilliant green like that – seems a nicer idea than someone choosing that colour!

  22. I’m so glad you got the all clear!!! I’m sorry I’m late to comment – haven’t been online much these days. Surgery and the “C” word are all very stressful. I’m glad you got through it ok in the end.

    As a Fitzpatrick Type II, I feel your pain. I get my spots checked regularly by a derm… And as a random side note, I don’t think the sunscreen was very good when we were kids. I burned and peeled and blistered despite my Mom’s best efforts. And that is in a country covered in snow and ice for several months, let alone Oz! And, more random: we were in Scotland on our honeymoon ages ago and I got a sunburn while hiking on Skye! The locals were shocked. 😉

  23. Glad to hear that Wally has left the premises. I’m not sure what skin type I am – not as bad as Fitzpatrick type 1, but really only venture outside in my giant lampshade hat and long sleeves. It helps that if I do get exposed to the sun in the tropics I end up in a a big UV induced rash. It’s a fine line between heat stress and sunprotection!
    @Laura: sunscreen goes off, and loses its effectiveness over time. Perhaps the sunscreen used on you when you were little was waaaay out of date.
    . I’m with you on the Scandal TV show- it’s addictive and yet so stupid.

    1. I get that rash too, isn’t it bloody annoying!?

      “addictive and yet so stupid”… YES! they really should put that in the advertisements 🙂

  24. What a beautiful piece of writing and understanding this is! Thank you for sharing the wealth of your experience. And, thank you for saying that about Scandal. Sending you lots of virtual love, Shelley

  25. A 24-year-old student who graduated from the school where I work has just died from melanoma from a birthmark. Such a tragedy. Rejoice, and enjoy every minute of your new lease on life!

  26. Hey Shauna,

    Just wondering how you are doing a year and and bit down the road. Are you still having frequent check-ups at Raigmore?

    1. Hey there Sally, thank you for checking in! I’m still having the check ups every 3 months, nothing dodgy found which is great news. I’m living back in Fife now so in the process of getting referred back to the specialist in this area so I can continue the regular checks. Thanks again comrade 🙂

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