A Diagnosis

Jenny Diski in LRB:

JennyThe future flashed before my eyes in all its pre-ordained banality. Embarrassment, at first, to the exclusion of all other feelings. But embarrassment curled at the edges with a weariness, the sort that comes over you when you are set on a track by something outside your control, and which, although it is not your experience, is so known in all its cultural forms that you could unscrew the cap of the pen in your hand and jot down in the notebook on your lap every single thing that will happen and everything that will be felt for the foreseeable future. Including the surprises.

I got a joke in.

‘So – we’d better get cooking the meth,’ I said to the Poet, sitting to one side and slightly behind me. The Poet with an effort got his face to work and responded properly. ‘This time we quit while the going’s good.’ The doctor and nurse were blank. When we got home the Poet said he supposed they didn’t watch much US TV drama. It was only later that I thought that maybe, ever since Breaking Bad’s first broadcast, oncologists and their nurses all over the Western world have been subjected to the meth-cooking joke each time they have applied their latest, assiduously rehearsed, non-brutal techniques for telling a patient as gently but honestly as possible, having first sized up their inner resilience with a few apparently innocent questions (‘Tell me what you have been expecting from this appointment’), that they have inoperable cancer. Perhaps they failed to laugh at my – doubtless evasive – bid to lighten the mood, not because they didn’t get the reference, but because they had said to each other too often after such an appointment: ‘If I hear one more patient say they should start cooking meth, I’m going to wrestle them to the ground and bellow death into their faces – “Pay attention, I’m fucking telling you something important!”’ I was mortified at the thought that before I’d properly started out on the cancer road, I’d committed my first platitude. I was already a predictable cancer patient.

More here.