Saturday 28 November 2020

A Lump In Your Throat

I've got a desk, which is very lovely and probably something everyone acquired in lockdown! Going through stuff to file in my new drawers I came across these snippets of rambling in a notebook. 


In November 2016 a lump appeared in my jaw line, it was bonfire night and when I caught sight of myself in the mirror, I noticed a swelling on the right side of my neck.

Initially I was alarmed but talked myself around, blaming the residual lingering cold I had. However when it was still there two weeks later my friends nudged me towards the GP. 

The doctor had a feel and referred me for a scan - just in case.

I had a simple jelly roll scan at the Whittington Hospital, the guy doing it got very excited: 

‘I know exactly what this is, but I've never seen one in real life - it is a plunging ranula, a mucoid cyst of the sublingual gland but it needs a deformed jaw muscle to drop through which gives it the plunging bull frog effect.’

[A rare benign acquired cystic lesion usually occurring on the floor of the mouth from minor salivary gland retention.]


Okay then, completely harmless, just looks weird, plus the bull-frog look was playing havoc with my jumper necklines.


In early May 2017 I dutifully went for an appointment at The Eastman Dental Clinic near King's Cross. The consultant told me although they were quite rare, he had recently performed surgery on one and it really needed to come out, as it might become infected.

Karlos his assistant asked all sorts of questions about allergies and whether I'd had an anaesthetic before.

I emerged to a beautiful day, the sun was beaming down and Calthorpe Community Gardens opposite was just opening up. I popped across for a coffee. The nursery plants and pots around the café looked absolutely parched, I offered to water them and trailed the water hose around after me for a joyful half an hour.

After the summer was over I went back to The Whittington for a repeat neck scan before the plunging ranula was to be removed. The young lady doing the jelly roll scan said:

‘Oh you have another little lump, have you noticed that before, I'll take a quick sample, just in case.’

I was referred this time to UCLH, I knew deep inside it was not going to be good news. TheGR asked if I wanted him to come with me, yes, I said I do.

In a different hospital, with a different surgeon:

‘We have found...’ he starts.

‘...cancer’ I finish.

‘Yes, you knew?’ the surgeon responded.

‘FUCK’ shouts TheGR.

[Post removal of my thyroid gland I need to go back to hospital for radiation therapy, to mop up any rogue bad cells.]

Monday 11th December 2017

High up in the lead-lined room on the 14th floor of the hospital I watch the cars and people below go about their daily business. A tail of red brake lights lead off into the distance towards Great Portland Street. 

Someone has left a pair of binoculars on the windowsill, I look through and make out a patch of snow still clinging to the hillside on Primrose Hill. 

It’s 2.30 in the afternoon, minutes ago I took a radioactive iodine pill. The pill was administered by a pharmacist, using a long glass tube from behind a lead-lined screen. It was wheeled to my room in a lead-lined suitcase cushioned within a lead-lined pot, lead is very heavy, hence the wheeling.

I have put on a pair of disposable gloves to write this. I have been instructed not to touch anything that may leave the room with me, without protection.

My mobile phone is in two disposable gloves. I don't think disposable gloves really offer much protection from radiation but I’ll do what I have been told to do.

There is a large flat-screen TV on the wall facing the bed, 3 remotes and a playstation. This room, it would seem, gets a lot of outside donations.  I try all the remote and get Judge Jules, three piles of DVDs sit on the windowsill, I organise them in size order.

The entrance to my room is a sliding door, which has now been sealed shut behind the pharmacist has a huge picture of a summer meadow, pink, yellow, green, ladies smock, dandelions and buttercups - a view I've not seen since I was 10 years old laying in the grass on Salisbury downs.

14th Floor UCLH

I’ve been instructed to drink plenty of water and given an anti-sickness tablet. I crack open a green smoothie and ration myself a cocoa and vanilla flapjack. 

I ponder the fact that everyone asked me if this was my first time and I don’t like it and determine it will be my first and last time for radiation therapy.

I watch the sun setting over the West End of London. It is 3.40pm, a deep orange disc slipping from the sky behind wisps of violet cloud, it picks out the silhouette of cranes and gleams from the sides of mirrored tower blocks, the room fills with an orange glow. 3.45pm two planes pass on another silently on the horizon.

14th Floor UCLH

The sky is dark but the city twinkles and moves with lights.


Every day has a sunrise and sunset we just choose whether we see them or not. 

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Other nonsense

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‘They tuck you up your mum and dad...’
Anon - after Larkin

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“It’s not the despair, I can handle the despair. 
It’s the hope I can’t deal with”

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Anais Nin

‘Come on Dover move your bloomin’ arse’.
Eliza Doolittle