The nurse ran her hand very high up the inside of my thigh.
But that’s jumping ahead in the story.
This is the story of my left calf. Since my cancer treatment, it has been vastly bigger than my right calf. Or so it looks. In reality, there is only a centimetre difference in their circumference. Standing in front of a mirror, though, it looks more like 10.
A swollen left calf can mean a blood clot. A blood clot can mean death, if it dislodges and ends up somewhere it shouldn’t be. Your lungs, for instance.
My oncologist and I agreed it wasn’t a blood clot. She based her judgment on decades of medical experience; I had spent 10 minutes with Dr Google. Nevertheless, she ordered an ultrasound, just to be on the safe side. I concurred.
At the hospital, the sonographers told me to take my trousers off (they weren’t nurses at all, but it worked better for the opening line) and hop up on to a bed. One of them produced a tube of gel. I was surprised at how cold the gel was. But not nearly as surprised as where she started applying it. Right in my groin region. Having studied Dr Google for 10 minutes, I know for a fact that this isn’t where the calf muscle starts. It’s somewhere below the knee.
She covered my entire leg in gel. I wondered whether she didn’t know where the calf was and was hedging her bets. Perhaps I should tell her?
Before I could instruct her, she dug the ultrasound sensor (a knobbly thing) deep into my inner thigh tissue. Another shock. My previous experience with an ultrasound had been very gentle—when they checked my heart as part of the rake of tests they did before I was diagnosed with cancer.
The sonographer’s colleague watched a screen intently for any signs of a clot. I couldn’t fathom what she was seeing at all. It looked like a mass of mess.
They were quite chatty at the beginning of the ultrasound. But halfway through, their tone became more serious and they started speaking medical speak beyond what Dr Google had taught me.
They stopped as abruptly as they’d started and told me I could put my trousers back on. They gave me a bulk of tissue with which to clean the gel off my leg. I needed quite a bit.
The sonographers didn’t tell me the results. By now they were all professionalism and no chat.
Clearly, I was going to die.
An hour later, I was told I wasn’t.
That was five months ago. My left calf is still as fat as before. I dislike the asymmetry of my legs. It doesn’t stop me from wearing shorts when I run. Though I wonder how long it will be before someone starts a petition to have them covered up.