CHRIS’S TEENAGE CANCER JOURNEY – PART 6

It was the end of January 2015, merely a few frustrating days since that bone crunching fall – or should I say dive –down the stairs at home.  For the last few days since the fall, doubt had begun to creep into my mind like thief in the night. Had I broke something? Was it just a ‘dead leg’? ahh those dead legs: every time someone hurt their leg at that age it was classed a ‘dead leg’ . But was it actually ‘dead’ so to speak? Well, the big bruise the size and colour of a plumb above my knee was somewhat of a giveaway. This certainly wasn’t ‘just a dead leg’, I had that suspicion from the moment it happened. During those weeks playing golf had become something of a chore and that was not something I was comfortable with. When had golf ever become a chore to me? Never, was the answer.  Golf had always been something I was madly in love with, and if it were a chore, it didn’t justify my time-worthy investment into it. After all, who can actually seriously say they enjoy chores? Nanny McPhee perhaps?

Funnily enough my walking had only been minutely affected by the plumb stuck out my leg. I had only – ‘only’ – developed a slight limp as a result. What was funny was that this made me fit in with a minority of St Helens, who were either limping because they were tripping off all the drugs they’d been taking, limping because they were trying to blag drugs to take, or limping because they had odd shoes on that they most likely found hung from a telegraph line. Anyone who knew me well could clearly tell I wasn’t any of the latter. I was a good lad. I worked, payed taxes, didn’t do drugs, always tried to do everything correct in accordance with the morals I’d been brought up on. I most certainly wasn’t a ‘faker’. I thought back to a saying that I learnt through rugby a few years earlier: ‘Football players spend 90 minutes pretending they’re injured, rugby players spend 80 minutes pretending they’re not’ . Deep down I’d always had that fighting, play-it-down type attitude associated with rugby players, and I hadn’t lost that just because I’d now swapped over to golf.

Ibuprofen and Paracetamol were the drugs of choice – which I now know are like the Fiat of the painkiller world: take an age to kick in and only last a few hours before you have to fix the problem again. In all seriousness though, they did help to an extent.  This was a problem that would force me to side-line golf onto an unknown trajectory the, take it easy at work and simply wait out to see if it would resolve itself. Over the years I hadn’t been scared of going the doctors, it was more like I couldn’t be bothered. The GP practice receptionists really infuriate me when, after queueing on the phone for 25 minutes just to get through to them, they turn around and say ‘ Are you free at 3:21 in two weeks on a Thursday Mr Carberry’ well hang on let me just check my fucking diary to see if I can still walk by then. ‘Have you not got anything earlier as I’m in a really bad state here?’ ‘Well, Mr Carberry, we’re all booked up I’m afraid. If you would’ve rang a few minutes earlier at 8 o clock we would have been able to get you a same day appointment but we can’t now I’m afraid’. How stupid! I’d be on the phone at 8am and I’d have to queue just to get though, by which time all the same day appointments had gone and I’d have to repeat the same process the next day over and over again. It was this frustrating process which made me sceptical of whether to go the doctors over such an issue as my leg. On top of that was then then almost impossible job of convincing a doctor that, in fact, there is something seriously wrong worth following up. NHS politics at its finest.

By early February that year, things had settled down significantly: the plumb, gone. My limp, gone and so too the majority of the pain. My  19th Birthday was on the 9th and fast approaching and as I’d recently started going out round town or Liverpool on nights out, I thought it’d be rude not to go out and do something. I was feeling fresh, energetic and now that my symptoms were fading away, optimistic that there was no serious damage to my best golfing leg. I decided to go out round Liverpool with a few mates I had at Edge Hill University – which was only six or seven minutes down the road from mine – and my mate throughout college, Kurtis. In all there was about five of us hitting the town that night. We started in true, cheap-skate university style by drinking anything that was the cheapest and swiftly available before catching the last train at around 11pm into Liverpool central. As I recall, I did lay off the painkillers that night, because apparently alcohol and painkillers can send you a little over the edge and I didn’t want that looming over influencing me into a deep state of paralysis on my birthday night out. In Liverpool, it’s very multi-cultural and anyone who’s been out on a night round there would probably agree that it’s much more up market than the likes of St Helens and this brought me to my next stage of growing up. Girls.

I wouldn’t say I was a ladies man in the slightest but when I started going out, it was only when I went to Liverpool that my eyes finally started opening to the fact that, yes maybe girls would do my head in and take time away from me and my beloved golf, but they also had a lot more to offer than a set of golf clubs. I didn’t know what I wanted in all honesty. Someone to play golf with? Certainly not. Someone to spend spare time with? Probably, yes. There was a hole in my life and that needed filling and that was: what to do on those boring nights after work and golf. Since school, I’d often filled that time gap either playing violent, unrealistic games on the Xbox, or more recently, world war two films on my Iphone. In truth, I found this beyond boring for years and years and since hanging out outside the co-op in Rainford wasn’t really on my agenda, I decided I needed a girlfriend.

By the beginning of March 2016, I’d done just that. I met a girl named Jess on a night out and we soon got together thereafter. She had blond hair and blue eyes- much like me and a great figure too. She almost looked similar to me too and being around 5ft 10 ish made her the same size as me which, admittedly seemed a little unusual to me considering I was now a giant in my house, towering a fair few inches above my Mum, Dad and my sisters. The physical attraction was most certainly present.  As for everything else, only time would tell if she was the ideal type of person I had in mind. I had this vision of someone who had a similar sense of humour and morals to those of mine. Somebody who wouldn’t mither me to death and who’d let me carry on with my golf, mainly. Thinking back, I could have been a lot more fussy. When I met Jess, she was living with her dad in a pretty rough area of St Helens. I lived in Rainford, which, not to be snobby, is one of the nicer areas of St Helens. I could of quite easily been put off by several things, namely, the area and other certain aspects which formed my first impressions. But that wasn’t and isn’t who I am. I wasn’t there to judge anyone because I’ve known them for all of five minutes, I was there because I was interested in her and my mind was telling me not to be judgemental.

My first funny issue came with introducing Jess to the family. For the best part of a few years, my family had thought I was gay – apparently it’s okay when your own family is judgemental- for some reason. Probably because I loved my golf clubs more than anything or anyone else? I don’t know. I was both shocked and surprised when I found out that my family had already known before I’d intruded her. How had this happened? It was already embarrassing enough as it was! Sneakily, I deemed it better to bring her home to my sisters before my Mum and Dad, so they can brief them in the secret way families do. Despite my exceptional social skills, in the back of my mind, I didn’t know how to act. Do I do the talking or do I let her? I thought. Do I make it a flying visit? These were dilemmas that in the great scheme of things weren’t important at all.

After those first few encounters with my family, my nerves seemed to settle and I could then zone back into golf and the now invisible niggling pain in my left leg. It’d been over a month now and whilst the swelling and plumb bruising had gone down, the pain was lurking around like a bad fart in a car. Surely this swelling is gonna go down soon I thought. Maybe it was the bone crushing loads of bricks, blocks and steel beams I was lifting at work. Maybe it was the violent twisting around my left leg in my golf swing. Quite frankly, it could have been a whole host of thing. Foolishly, I adopted the rugby player mentality of put up and shut up, but that would only be viable for a certain amount of time before I should start to feel concerned. Blinded by the illusion my life was perfect, time sped up and before I knew it months fuelled with ignorance had passed. It was only a matter of time before frustration would kick.

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