There was a lump on my testicle and it needed to be investigated.
I went to the doctor and she sent me to the hospital for tests – a bad sign. There was a lump and the doctor was worried.
I walked around those few days in a trance. I couldn’t taste anything. I felt like my whole body was inside my head and that I was one step removed from what I was doing, like there was a pane of glass between me and the world.
Maybe I should have been thinking about all the stuff I still wanted to do with my life but actually all felt was fear. It consumed me, froze me, jellied my brain. I couldn’t talk to people properly but I didn’t want to tell anyone what was going on. I just wanted it all to go away, I didn’t want to be me any more and I really didn’t want to be ill.
I went to three different departments at the hospital and in the last one you could see people who actually had cancer and were going through treatment. I remember one guy in a wheelchair being pushed past the seating area I was in. He had no hair, his skin was pale white, he had the sweats you get when you’re feverish, and he looked totally zoned out, in a daze.
This guy looked really ill and I think he was going to die.
‘Todd Green?’ – my turn.
I stood up and walked with the doctor through to a dark room. I lay on the bed and the scan began. My head started spinning and it was like in books and movies where you see all the things you’ve done and people you’ve loved whirling past at once.
The doctor stopped scanning.
‘Mr. Green, you’re ok. It’s not cancer. You’re all clear.’
Thank fuck for that.
‘The lump is just a …’ – I don’t actually remember what it was because as soon as I got the all-clear my brain was flooded with relief and gratitude and love for this wonderful life and all I wanted to do was run up a mountain and jump the moon and sing ‘You and I are gonna live forever’ from the roof of that terrible, beautiful hospital.
If it really had been a film then some profound life change would have happened that day – as I walked out through the hospital doors I would have gone down on my knees and sworn to the universe that I would never again take anything for granted, that I would love and honour my fellow human beings in some new and cosmic way, and that I would immediately quit my self-serving job and dedicate my life to helping the afflicted.
That didn’t happen.
But the thing that has stayed with me, nearly four years later, is the feeling of fear.
For that short time I really felt utter, engulfing terror. Writing this has made me peer back into the abyss but I was a few steps down there for a while, and I can barely imagine what it must be like for people who live there for real.
I’m pretty sure my brain prevents me from feeling that fear every day – the whole experience has been assimilated now because in the end I wasn’t ill, and because otherwise it would be difficult to get on with stuff.
And I’m glad of that, because I don’t want to be thinking ‘Make the most of today, who knows what tomorrow will bring!’ all the time, or even ‘This could be your last pizza, better enjoy it!’.
But revisiting that experience is a powerful thing, even if it’s only once in a while.
It does make me more excited about the day. It does make me more grateful. And it does make me worry less about what’s 5 or 10 years down the road, and focus on what’s happening right now.
Today I’m writing my blog, playing tennis, and going for dinner with my girlfriend. And I’m going to bloody well enjoy it.