So my hate – hate relationship with the CT Scan Department continues. My first encounter with this smiley, all singing dancing department is buried in the mists of that inital diagnosis four years ago. Buried but not lost. I remember vividly the absence of any suggestion in the letter I was sent that might have warned me I would be spending several hours in the department. I also remember waiting for maybe an hour in one of those unflattering gowns in the equivalent of a corridor with no idea what was going on. I particularly remember leaving in the early evening in a truly foul mood, worrying about the children I’d abandonned for far longer than planned.
Scan No 2, last summer, was more straightforward but perhaps more fraught. With No. 1 they weren’t expecting to find anything and indeed it was clear. No.2, on the other hand, was most definitely looking for something and sure enough, they found things. Ho hum. Hardly the fault of the CT Dept, of course – they were only doing their job, finding what shouldn’t have been there. But a smile or even some eye contact from the receptionist might have helped things along.
Scan No 3 came in the autumn, following the clearing out of all unsavoury abdominal bits. For the benefit of readers Continue reading →
Today I washed my hair for probably the last time in several months. Tomorrow Gail is coming round to cut it all off. Right off. Gone. Hair today, gone tomorrow (sorry!). It’s due to fall out in the next few days and I’m not going through that trauma again. I’ve bought some hats, which I may or may not wear. I’ve ordered some buffs, which I’ll probably wear. I’m in the process of choosing a wig, which I’ll keep for best, otherwise known as “not standing out from the crowd”.
The week in hospital was most definitely a detox week, the sort of system clean out that I suspect people pay good money for. Flush the system out first. Then remove anything unsavoury followed by several days of clear soup and a spoonful or two of porridge. Definitely no alcohol. It was one way to lose 6kg but perhaps not one that I could recommend.
I realise I’m very scared. I’m really quite fit at the moment, and well although the CT scans might indicate otherwise. By tomorrow evening I know I’m not going to be fit for anything and, once the chemo starts, it’s going to take months to recover. I’m assuming of course I will recover but I also realise I have no idea what’s going tohappen.
Tomorrow seems to be the start of a whole new phase of my life, and I’m not in control. That’s why I’m scared.
“Stoma” he said. “We have to talk about stoma.” Stoma? Isn’t that a little hole on a leaf for plant respiration? I’m sure I picked that up during a botany class. The only problem is that this was the gynaecologist talking, the one who’s about to cut me open to remove whatever has taken root on my pelvis. Oh dear. I knew, when I was first told that there was a chance the cancer had relapsed, that they had taken out everything disposable four years ago. There’s not a lot left in there that I don’t need. I suppose I could spare a kidney at a push and maybe the appendix could go. Other than that, I’d like to hang on to all my bits, thank you very much.
There had been a minor moment of relief when the oncologist showed me the CT scan with something showing in the pelvic area. Nothing enormous, not spread everywhere, didn’t seem to be attached to any major organs, operable they thought. That relief evaporated a few days later when the surgeon began to talk about the bowel. The bowel which might just have to come out, to be replaced with a snazzy little bag. The must have accessoryof the colorectal ward. Panic, panic. My life revolves around activity – diving, running, swimming. This sounded like the start of the end; was everything going to grind to a halt? Would I be able to dive again? It seems it was a good job that last autumn I ticked manta rays off the list of Things I Still Want to See. Whale sharks are still on the list, though.
Oh, I’ve been so complacent. So complacent that I could be accused, quite rightly, of being smug. Cancer? Pah! Caught early, had the treatment, done and dusted. No one was expecting it back; I was one of the success stories. I would go for checkups at 3 month, then 6 month intervals, saunter in unconcerned and saunter out again a few minutes later with a date for 6 months hence. At 3 1/2 years, I was really starting to put it all behind me. Fit and well, getting on with my life, rarely thinking about cancer, happy with my lot, telling anyone who asked that it was gone.
Had I missed the point, that check ups are for a reason? They wouldn’t be doing check ups if there was no risk. Continue reading →
I’m sure we all have friends hovering on the periphery of our consciousness. Friends who have been important in a particular stage of our life but with whom we may have lost touch. Even so, we think about them often and know that if we were to meet up, we would pick up just where we left off all those years ago. Julia was one of those friends. We were at University together in Durham, mainstays of the diving club. Every weekend we all piled into the university minibus and headed off up the old A1 to St Abbs where we dived off the shore, either at Petticowick or outside the Harbour. Petticowick was a slog; a steep, grassy slope down with the gear and, of course, back up at the end of the dive.
My first dive in Britain was at Petticowick, after learning to dive during a gap year in Jamaica. I vividly remember my introduction to the cold, greenish murk of a November kelp forest, shivering in a too big borrowed wetsuit with a piece of orange canvas that purported to be a life jacket around my neck. “Wasn’t that wonderful!” proclaimed my buddy, Tim, later of Eden Project fame, as we staggered out of the water. “Drifting down through the kelp, in that beautiful clear water!” He clearly hadn’t been on the same dive as me. Still, I perservered and learned to like, if not love, kelp forests. The following year Julia and Chas arrived in Durham and joined me in the diving club while I switched subjects and joined them in Zoology lectures. We became firm friends within a wider group Continue reading →
I’ve only ever watched snippets of Big Brother, and those more or less by accident. But I had heard of Jade Goody – who hadn’t! – although I hadn’t heard about her cancer until last week. The first I knew of it was the photo of her bald head on the front page of all the papers, as the news broke that her cervical cancer is terminal. “How brave!” was my instant reaction because I would have found that so difficult to do when I lost my hair. I didn’t wear my wig all the time but I wore a hat and I never got used to seeing myself without hair. There was no way I was showing off my bald head in public. The photo alone is a huge statement – “I’ve got cancer and I’m not afraid to tell you all”.
There seems to have been a huge amount of sniping at her in the media about profiteering from her cancer. This is so unjust: how on earth can anyone profiteer from terminal cancer? Continue reading →
It is almost a year since a friend of mine, a fellow member of the local triathlon club, died from a brain tumour which she had battled for several years with remarkable good spirit. I found I couldn’t write about this at the time as it was not long since I had started chemotherapy myself and the emotions were very raw. I have been reminded of Trish constantly in the last couple of weeks since the news emerged of Seve Ballasteros’ illness. I have now just heard that another friend and colleague, someone I have known for many years – in fact she was once a girlfriend of my husband – is in the final stages of breast cancer. This news, although it was expected, has filled me with a huge sadness. Mixed with the sadness is a large element of guilt, which I know I shouldn’t feel but I do. It has made talking to Dale about cancer very hard over the past year, since she has been growing iller as I have improved. It is guilt that I seem to be alright, I seem to have got away with it while these friends have not. It is guilt that it has been hard to talk to her at a time when she has probably needed it most. Why me? Or why them? There is nothing fair or just about the way cancer strikes a family.
Of course, it will be several years before I know for sure that my cancer is not coming back but at the moment all the indications are good. I have been trying to write a post for sometime, for my own benefit, to encompass my experiences of the past year, but it has been proving difficult. Today, though, I’m remembering Trish and thinking of Dale, sending as many positive thoughts in her direction as I can muster. And I shall try not to feel guilty but to feel hopeful and grateful that it seems as though I am going to be a cancer survivor.
I’ve decided to raise funds for the Maggie’s Centres, which provide support for anyone affected by cancer. Two reasons for this. First, they do a fantastic job. Second, if I’ve got sponsors I will definitely do the run. Even if I walk it. No backing down. Lynne, I’ll see you at the start line!
If anyone from Ross High happens to be reading this, GP2 is doing the Junior Race on the Saturday so I’m sure you will feel duty bound to sponsor us. No pressure, but he’s in your class Mr Meldrum. And for everyone else reading – it’s all in a good cause, so go on. You know you can. Just click on that badge on the right.
The fund raising page may be the last rip in my veneer of anonymity but never mind. Most people probably know who I am by now anyway and the sky hasn’t fallen in. In fact, now I think about it, I might just put the blog link on the JustGiving site. Oh why not live dangerously?