It’s a strange feeling, being on the other side of treatment. Looking back on it, the whole period since December last year seems like a distant dream, whereas when we were going through it, it felt like we had stumbled into someone else’s nightmare. The funny thing is that I wasn’t even expecting my consultant to have the results of the PET scan when we turned up for our scheduled appointment. I had the scan on the Wednesday and was told it would take a week for the results to come through, so my sights were set pretty low, this being the NHS and everything. I was completely unprepared for the excited party atmosphere that prevailed in the office when I asked, very tentatively, if they were back yet. Funnily enough, neither Stephen or I mentioned them on the way to the hospital – he didn’t want to bring it to my attention, and I had almost discounted them; as you will know from previous blogs I am very ambivalent about these things. The scan is only as good as the day it is taken, and things can change very rapidly. So, we had lots of hugs with both my lovely consultant and the stem cell co-ordinator, and it wasn’t until we got to the car that it hit me. As did the tears of course. Somehow it suddenly did matter very much that the computer said ‘yes’. I didn’t expect to feel such relief and happiness and I didn’t quite know what to do with myself. There are still a lot of things to take into account though – I’m not off the hook yet. Despite arguing my case I think I will have to have the flu jab, as will Stephen and Matthew (my youngest son); they may well avoid having the flu themselves but they could be carriers and I could catch it that way. I know there are side effects and I also know that the vaccine is only effective for a particular strain each year, but the reality is that if I catch any kind of flu I could be very ill indeed – so I might have to give in.
My blood results were splendid, but I still can’t go on a plane or mix with people en masse for many months to come as my immune system is very immature. To be honest, the amount of sneezes and coughs I’ve been hearing just in Sainsburys is enough to put me off. I usually wear a scarf as an accessory, and it comes in really useful when somebody is busy spreading their germs around; without wishing to put you off your food, every time somebody coughs or sneezes a great spray of bugs gets released which, if it happens to be close by, you are quite likely to walk through and inhale. Enter the scarf. I am able to hold it across my face and skulk through the potentially toxic cloud and hopefully exit the other side without having breathed anything in. Virgo moon people can be pretty fussy without any help like this. You can imagine mine is having a field day. The other obvious things are supermarket trolley handles and escalator rails. Isn’t this jolly? I bet you won’t want to leave the house until the flu season is over :-)
This also means we have had to cancel our Christmas party, which grieves me greatly. We have made the odd sortie to restaurants but I haven’t managed to get together with a bunch of people for ages. Clearly it isn’t going to happen for some while yet, either; we usually have about 40 to 50 people at our party, and the chance of someone bringing more than a bottle is extremely high at this time of the year. Oh well. Ho hum, as opposed to Ho!Ho!Ho! There will be other opportunities. To be honest, I am quite used to being a recluse now, although I am sure Stephen is champing at the bit. Now that my appetite is back with a vengeance we will be able to have people over in small disease-free groups and resuscitate our social skills that way. Sounds so inviting, doesn’t it?
My appetite really is back, and I am so pleased and relieved. I am definitely not a ‘foodie’ but it is nice to enjoy my meals and there was a period when everything smelt and tasted horrible. Well, most of this year, to be truthful. After many months of pushing teeny portions around my plate I am delighted to report that my taste buds are fully active and are capable even of appreciating Chardonnay again. That is a massive relief as the beautiful pink wineglass given to me by Cathy really does have to be filled with wine to get the full effect. I do still have reminders of those dark days though. About once a week I suddenly become – as in feel and smell – really toxic and full of chemo. It seems to happen around the weekend, and I am trying to understand the pattern. I feel as though my pores are exuding chemo and I know it smells on my breath, which also affects my taste, although not as badly as when I was actually going through it. I have Liquid Zeolite drops, which are good for releasing toxins, and I take an Epsom salts bath (along with a few drops of essential oil) and that seems to help. I am curious to know what this is though and why it happens. I questioned my consultant about it and he said it isn’t toxicity. He said that all the toxins were out of my system 24 hours after the last chemo dose – they wouldn’t be putting brand new stem cells into a toxic environment as that would be plain silly and very counter-productive. And clearly, according to the scan, the transplant has done its job. What he said is that as the organs replace themselves they are in effect casting off old cells, which I guess happens all the time with everybody, but in my case those cells have the remains of the chemicals in them. I don’t know. The rest of the time I don’t feel toxic, and my strength is coming back in leaps and bounds. Any enlightened souls out there, please – enlighten me.
I am really looking forward to getting properly fit again. I can’t go to steam rooms or swimming pools until after the flu season, which is something else I hadn’t thought about, so I need to just appreciate the things I can do. One of which is running, although I would hardly class myself as a proper runner, my get-out being that I am built for speed rather than distance. The furthest I ever managed was 5 miles (after a lot of practice) and I really thought I was going to die. Which is actually brilliant, because, in line with my cardinal personality, it means I don’t have to spend a long time doing it to feel the benefit. I know people who don’t even warm up until after 5k, so they then have to run an awful lot further than that to get any benefit. So I’m quite pleased actually. I can get out in the fresh air, have a nice little run of, say half an hour absolute max, preferably less, do a bit of stretching, then I’m ready to move on to something else, job done.
And that something else, if I’m not working, is enjoying writing. I am now starting to pull the blogs together to form the basis of a book, as suggested by several readers, and I am stunned by the sheer amount of words I have already written. The blog has been an absolute life saver, make no mistake, as have been your comments. It has enabled me to vent and pour forth the multitude of conflicting emotions I have been feeling. And still do feel. Maybe blogging should be listed as a therapy :-) The problem is that I want to include all the blogs as they are complete in themselves and tell the story quite well when read in order. But just the blogs alone amount to the size of a doorstop when converted to book size, so I have a bit of a job ahead of me as I also want to include a lot of other bits that didn’t get a mention. As I read through them again I am astounded by the whole experience; just like a journal they recount exactly what I was going through, and it seems I have blanked a lot of it out – it makes surprising reading for me as I revisit my journey. As an end note to the whole process I find that I did have some conflicting feelings after the meeting with my consultant last week. We were all happily hugging and cheerfully bouncing round the room, but I had such a conflict in my heart. I remember vividly the period when I was considering chucking in the chemo to go to India for an Ayurvedic detox. My consultant (and other people) talked me out of it, saying that the cancer was so aggressive that I could not risk a single cell being left behind – which Ayurveda couldn’t guarantee, but which modern medicine could – although the trade-off could be huge in terms of damaged organs and a possible relapse. Now, as I am through the other side of it, I am obviously delighted that we got the best possible result, but I feel strange having been helped, nay, saved, by something I hated so much, and against which I spoke so vociferously. I don’t have an answer to this – it is another wonderful occasion where because this is a blog I can just say what I am thinking and be confused about my feelings and it is all perfectly acceptable. I am not deluded enough to think this is necessarily it – all over bar the shouting. I have read a lot of stuff which suggests that the very act of having chemo locks you into the Big Pharma system; once you have had chemo the likelihood that you will need it again is very high, so they have a guaranteed customer base to milk. That makes me very cross, but at this point I am also strangely grateful because at least for this moment I am free of cancer. I suppose what it takes me back to is that we can’t know the future. Could we possibly be back at mindfulness? I suspect as much :-)
Thank you so much for sharing my latest musings
Wishing you all good health