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!