Thursday, May 13, 2010


I finished Radiotherapy this week. That is the end of my invasive, regular medical treatment. When I go for hospital appointments in the future I will have to pay for parking like most other people. I no longer have the 'special' cancer patient car pass. That is a good feeling. It has been an odd few days. A fresh wave of grief hit me and I felt pissed off and furious at having cancer. It is so indeterminate and raises so many questions - the most crucial being - has it really gone?

I saw the oncologist today and had a good cry in his office. It was very cathartic - almost a rite of passage. It has been a tough nine months and I feel that I can finally let go a little. I don't need to keep it together - in fact - I needed to let go a lot. It takes huge amounts of emotional and physical energy to go through the shock of diagnosis, surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy. I wanted to keep it together and be positive but in crying today in front of the Onc - I also knew I had to let it go. I had to grieve for the loss of many things - not just the physical. The most important being mental and emotional peace. It is exhausting being consumed with anxiety about your own mortality. Before cancer I would have moments of being conscious of it but they would flit past. With cancer it has consumed me at times to the expense of all else.

Now it's time to move past that. I'm here. As far as the oncologist can tell I'm cured. There is a moderate risk that it could come back but I am certainly not going to live my life with that as my consuming obsession. I am going to put some of that energy into living my life well and with gusto. Life is finite - for everyone - it was crappy to have that suddenly become concrete. Now it's time to get beyond that, to claim back some naivete around it. To have some peace of mind.

Thursday, May 06, 2010


This gorgeous peacock resided outside a converted barn I stayed in recently. He got me thinking about my hair - or lack of it. I used to have quite a healthy head of shoulder length hair and I've had long hair all my life. Chemo claimed it and left me completely bald. It started to clump together after the first session and come out in small handfuls. About 10 days after the first session it was lying on the pillow when I woke up. I decided to take control and enlisted my Mum to give me a crop which I quite liked! Then my husband finished me off with his razor. I stayed bald for 5months and wore a wig. I quite liked the wig to begin with but now I just want my own head of hair back.

It is growing - slowly - and has gone from fluffy to a Mohican type style - tufts down the middle of my head which stick up and then various other sticky out bits over the rest of my head. I'm waiting for the day when I look in the mirror and can go 'yeah today's the day.' Then I'm going to ditch the wig and go free. It is a nondescript colour at present so quite excited to see what I'll end up with. I also lost my eyebrows and eyelashes but eyebrows have come back very 1980s - dark and bushy! Eyelashes are giving it a good shot but rather feathery at present - at least they are coming back. I looked at a photo the other day taken in the middle of chemo it gave me a real shock to see myself so hairless. Of course the hairs on my legs are rampaging! I look forward to feeling like this peacock - out there strutting my feathers!

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Fairy God Mother Wanted

Radiotherapy is wearing me out. I want it to be over NOW. I thought I was doing pretty good with it but now I am so weary I can't remember what it feels like not to be knackered. I have a bright red rash on my chest that barely cools down even with an ice pack on it. I have random, fleeting aches throughout my body which force my imagination into overdrive. Don't think there are any body parts that I haven't self diagnosed with cancer in the past 24hrs. Every twinge is something sinister. I hate this bit of having cancer more than anything else. If I was a squillionaire I would buy every diagnostic bit of machinery on the market and hop into one every time I felt a twinge. Anything for peace of mind. When my body gets weary and my mind follows - that's it - I need one of them to be working well to keep me going. I try and hang onto the thought that very soon I will not be having invasive treatment and each day takes me further away from cancer. It's just a hard slog at the moment. I'd like a fairy godmother with a wand to fix it today.

Friday, April 30, 2010


If you read my post from yesterday you'd know it was a BAD day. I'm happy to say that today is a GREAT day. My favourite saying in the whole world is 'this too shall come to pass,' it never fails to give me hope on a bad day. I had lunch with two wonderful friends yesterday who cheered me up so much. Today there was no queue for the hospital car park and no queue to have my treatment - amazing! A great way to finish the week. I now only have 6 radiotherapy treatments to go - hooray!!!!!!!! AND it is a long weekend.

I also learnt something new that has been bugging me. I don't speak French and had dinner at a great restaurant recently where a tiny, delicious morsel was presented in between courses and the waitress said something that sounded like 'Fe fe be.' Totally baffled I ate it, loved it and wondered what it was. The mystery was solved by a friend who does speak French - it was the 'amuse-bouche' the delicacy to 'amuse the mouth.' I love that!

I took this picture on a recent weekend away - I love the idea of open doors - they hold so much promise.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Changing Breaths & Caffeine

I wasn't going to blog today: I wasn't ever going to blog again. I couldn't see why I would discuss my health in a public space. Then I remembered why writing is both a torment and a pleasure. It may be narcissistic to write openly about yourself or it may be therapeutic or it may be part of a inane need to simply write - about anything: everything, the mundane, the devastating. I recently did a short course on relaxation and the one thing I really took away from it was the power of something called a 'changing breath.' It is when you take 3 deep breaths with the aim of moving from your current emotional state to a new one; it was all about letting go. Writing also fulfils that need for me.

I was feeling pissed off and angry earlier about having cancer: about having to go for yet another bout of treatment, to sit in another waiting room, to have my 'real' life on hold whilst I live this shadow existence but I knew that if I blogged about I could use that as my 'changing breath.' I knew it would make me feel better, lift the darkness and restore me to feeling pretty good again. I could have put all this in my journal so maybe it does come back to narcissism or maybe it is a hope that someone will read it and comment to simply say they 'heard' me.

The thing I know about myself is that I can be restored by a simple gesture, a word, an acknowledgement. When I feel in this mood I rarely pick up the phone and ring anyone close to say what I'm saying here - I will probably recall it and share it at some point but I go into a kind of emotional lock down. Not always but today I have. I shed a healthy amount of tears with my husband earlier as I chopped the fruit salad for breakfast, reached for my peppermint tea (whilst fantasising about coffee) and put a dollop of natural soy yogurt on my fruit. I feel better for the tears. I also know that I am actually just knackered and want a day free of medical intervention. I also know that I appreciate the medical intervention for saving my life. I know a lot about the whole experience of cancer.

What I really want is to stay in my PJs, watch frivolous TV and order pizza for lunch! What I will do is get ready, drive to the hospital, have my treatment. I don't think I'm feeling sorry for myself - just think I'm a bit weary. I think what I will also do is go and buy a great latte en route. The changing breaths I will do after this, the blogging, and the caffeine will all help restore me. I love my life, I love living: it's just really hard work somedays having treatment for cancer. I'm not this conscious about it everyday - if I was I think I'd have gone insane somewhere over the past nine months. Maybe it is because I can see the end of treatment is approaching and maybe I'm scared of that as well. Somewhere inside me a tiny voice tells me that if I'm actively being treated it won't come back.

When I finish here I am going to ring a friend and meet her for lunch afterwards. A few deep breaths, some writing, tears, caffeine and talking to a friend - that'll do the trick.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Cancer...where to begin

Having a cancer diagnosis was a terrifying and immobilising experience for me as I imagine it is for many people. The amount of new information I have had to digest and then reinterpret at a later date once my hysterics had settled, is enough to write a compact medical book. I feel just as entitled as any doctor or nurse to use terms that were alien to me but are now part of my vocabulary.

I don't know where to begin with this 'story' so I'm just going to let it tumble it out naturally in it's own style. I will unpick it in a non-linear, ad-hoc manner in the hope that I can make some sense of it and lay parts of it to rest. Nine months past diagnosis I realise clearly that cancer will always be part of me - not necessarily in a literal physical sense - it has simply become another intrinsic aspect of what makes me who I am.

This week I started radiotherapy. This means that I need to drive to a hospital one hour away 5 days a week for three weeks, lay semi naked on a cold metal bed whilst scary, sci-fi like machines hum and click over me dispensing radiation. I'm so glad my husband and I went to the information evening beforehand and had a tour of the department. It was the first time in my life that I ever paid attention whilst someone talked physics!

It is surreal to sit in a waiting room with strangers, knowing that cancer links us. It doesn't discriminate - the room is filled with a cross section of the population. Some people come alone for treatment, other's bring back-up in the form of a spouse, friend, sibling, adult child. Yesterday I watched a youngish woman tenderly adjust the crumpled clothing of her husband who had just come out of a treatment room. He was frail and her love for him overwhelmed me and reminded me how lucky I am to have had love and care to help me through this. This week my husband came to the hospital with me twice, a friend came once and I went alone twice. Part of my plan to start reclaiming some independence is to do things on my own. This is important to me.

I have spent so many hours/days having hospital treatment in the past nine months that I see this environment as 'normal' - I long for it to feel alien again, because that means I have been cured and released from this protective custody. As a writer I realise that by writing about my experience I am reinventing myself in a story: I am creating my cancer survival narrative.

Survival is one of my new favourite words.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

I'm back and it's Spring!

I was going to title this posting Baby Steps but that is not actually how I'm feeling at all. It's been a long time since I've been here and a lot has happened. Being treated for breast cancer has been exhausting, invasive, relentless...and a great relief that I can be treated - with a prognosis that is hopefully going to see me still blogging in my 90s! So baby steps would suggest that I am feeling tentative and hesitant about being back but I'm feeling feisty, enthusiastic and eager to get going again with writing and living. The past 8 months have been lived in a very protective cocoon and I'm ready to shed a few layers of that protective skin and taste the delights of the wider world again. I have a plan for my writing and I'm going to blog more about that and I also have a plan for my recovery from my BC. The two are entwined! It's good to be back!