I'm big on anniversaries, which is why I like the "On This Day" app. It’s so easy to forget things we have done and people we have seen, mainly due to busy and frenetic lives. Today marks an anniversary I would rather forget. A year ago today I found lumps in my neck - which ultimately turned out to be cancer.
It marked the start of a tough 12 months for me and my closest. I underwent three months of chemo and a month of radiotherapy. I lost one my oldest friends to cancer in November, lost my beloved stepdad Roland to cancer only 6 weeks ago and received the news last week that I have relapsed and my cancer is back, less than two months after receiving the all clear.
This time round, they are getting the big guns out. Intensive chemotherapy for the next three months here in Brighton, followed by a four to five week stay in The Royal Marsden in Sutton. Here I will be put in an isolation room, my stem cells will be harvested, cleaned and frozen, they will administer chemotherapy so strong that it strips me of every last bit of bone marrow in body - together with my hair, eyelashes, eyebrows and body hair - if I still have any left after the initial bout of chemo! The room I am in will have filtered air and I will have limited contact with the outside World, as the smallest germ will have the potential of killing me as I wont be able to fight infection. I will have side affects – some they will tell me about, some they wont. They will give me drugs to counter the side affects and then more drugs to counter the side affects of the drugs that they give me for my side affects.
The next 10 – 12 months are going to push me physically and mentally, with another year after that recovering from the trauma my body has been through. One thing any cancer sufferer will tell you is that you live your life on a knife edge, feeling like your neck is on the block, waiting for the guillotine to drop. Granted – I didn’t expect it to drop again quite as quickly as this.
Only a handful of people knew what I was going through last year, and I took such a lot of strength and positivity from their support. This time round, its out in the open and I have already been overwhelmed by the messages of encouragement I have received. But more than that, it’s the support and love that has been shown to my family, who will be on the front line – as they were last time.
Last year I had every intention to blog regularly, for my own sanity. The reality was that very early on in to my treatment I lost my motivation and my ability to string a sentence together, thanks to the dreaded chemo. Since January, which is when my last blog post was it has been sheer fatigue - well that and as it has now transpired cancer. This time health permitting I will persevere, because its a great outlet.
Oh and one more thing. I am so sick of “that word” – I’ve re-named it Norman!
So that’s me, laying it bear. Warts and all! But for now, I'm feeling upbeat, the summers here, I’m off on holiday next week with two of my favourite people and the Prosecco is flowing!
Wednesday, June 1, 2016
Monday, January 11, 2016
Everyone has their battles. In 2015, cancer was mine. So what can I tell you about my experience?
Firstly, the disease is a small part of the overall picture. Cancer is a thief of the highest order. It robs you of your soul, your humility, your independence, your happiness, your sanity, your faith, your feeling of immortality. It also robs your nearest and dearest and for me that was the hardest bit to deal with – knowing how sad my illness, made the people I love. Also, as a woman, one of the most horrible aspects, is it robs your looks and confidence. Looking through pictures from the last 12 months, I have gone through a metamorphosis and feel unrecognizable to the person I was.
Nothing prepares you for the physical side affects from the many different medicines you take. Three months of intensive chemotherapy was grueling. Steroids and four difference poisons intravenously pumped in to my body fortnightly (including one that has big writing on a sticker “LETHAL IF SWALLOWED”. Sickness, hair loss, collapsed veins, personality and mood changes, weight gain from steroids, tiredness. Also knowing that if you come in contact with anyone who has even the smallest infection, it may end up killing you.
In comparison, the three and a half weeks daily radiotherapy would be a stroll in the park I was told. Not so. Clamped to a table in a draconian style mask, a mouth and throat so ulcerated and painful I could barely talk, let alone eat and drink for over a month – despite the gallons of liquid morphine I consumed daily. Third degree burns on my neck. Tiredness that is so debilitating that walking from the bed to the sofa felt like running a marathon.
The mental side affects are also pretty horrific. That feeling of complete loneliness and solitude. the feeling of dread, depression - shock that your own body has turned against you and is trying to kill you, anxiety and panic attacks.
These are the Negatives. But lets look at the positives – of which there are many! :)
Used correctly cancer is like having a crystal ball. Giving you insight in to the present and the future that would not have been possible before. Giving you a strength that you would never have know about before. Giving you positivity that is fresher than you have ever known. Giving you a love and respect for the most important things in your life and an overwhelming gratitude for every day that comes along.
You discover who your real friends are. The people who love and care enough about you to be in your life, for better or for worse. There are people that drop you at the first opportunity. There are friends whose silence is deafening, but that works just fine for me. Because the pockets of love and support I have received, from the most unlikely or unknown sources has been overwhelming. Thank you so much – all of you! (you know who you are).
And then there is my family. I don’t underestimate how tough it has been on them. Especially my mum. She has been unwavering in her support. Daily skyping, weekly visits, words of support and encouragement. In fact, its her stoical “no nonsense” attitude, that I have adopted in life and that I truly believe got me through this. Love you beyond any words for that mum.
Finally the biggest thanks of all goes to a person who – not for the first time, has been there to pick up the pieces of my life. Chris Hampshire has not only been the best friend that anyone could ask for – he is not only my boss in a job I love and feel privileged to have. He most importantly has been my rock for the last 8 months and I would not have got through this without him. His kindness is unrivalled. His empathy is overwhelming and I will be eternally grateful to have such a wonderful human being in my life.
2015 was tough. The toughest infact. But 2016 is going to be different. It already feels different, with so many wonderful and positive things going on around me. I’m taking a couple of weeks out and returning to my spiritual home Mexico, to heal and to mark the end of a horrific chapter in my life. And when I return, I know I am gonna be mentally (if not physically) stronger than I have ever been before.
I cant wait for what lies ahead! And if you are still reading this – “A VERY HAPPY IF NOT BELATED NEW YEAR TO YOU”!
Much love. HLG x