Jumping at shadows

Sorry for the relative quiet recently: it’s been a fairly unpleasant couple of weeks, and I spent most of July convinced that I had a horrible disease. Unfortunately for anyone who wishes I were dead, it turns out that I don’t.

If you’re interested, here’s the story: I’ve had a persistent chest/throat problem that I thought was the hangover from a chest infection, and after a couple of occasions where I found myself spitting blood I figured it’d be a good idea to go to the doctor. The combination of the word “blood”, my age and my smoking history (22 years of overly enthusiastic smoking, which ended three years ago) sets off all kinds of alarms, so the doc referred me for a chest X-ray at the beginning of July.

The X-ray results came back ten days later. There were two “abnormalities”, shadows on my left lung.

I think many smokers suffer from a kind of dour fatalism, a belief that the smokes are going to get you sooner or later. I certainly do, so when my GP said “shadows” I heard “tumours”. I was wrong – a subsequent CT scan and bronchoscopy (where they put a camera in your nose, down your throat and into your lungs for a look around, which is as horrible as it sounds) were both clear; the shadows were just artefacts, signs of nothing at all.

Thanks to yesterday’s bronchoscopy, I can finally relax: whatever I’ve got may be annoying, but it isn’t lung cancer.

I should probably stop binge drinking and feeling sorry for myself now.

One of the things that’s really struck me about all of this is the NHS. Without exception I’ve been treated very quickly, by very nice people, in spotless wards. The buildings may be knackered and the service hopelessly overloaded, but the important bits, the dealing with patients bits, have been wonderful. I don’t think it’s just because the bits of the NHS that do cancer diagnosis have been given loads of cash, either: when I was treated for carpal tunnel syndrome a couple of years back I had a very similar experience.

I spend most of my time moaning about things, so it’s nice to praise something for a change. From my GP to the nurses, porters and specialists at Glasgow’s Western Infirmary and Gartnavel Hospital, everybody’s been brilliant.