B's Last Blog
B has been a fabulous blogger for Breast Cancer Campaign and we would just like to thank her for sharing her stories and allowing us an insight into her daily life and treatment over the past year. We wish B and her loved ones all the very best for the festive season, 2013 and beyond!
Read B's final blog as she discusses chemo, chips and champagne...
I had my final dose of Herceptin last week (more of that later… oh dear) and this Wednesday I had a sort of 'signing off for now' type appointment at the breast clinic. They don’t want to see me for three months. So it seems like the right time to stop writing this.
I shall miss it because it's definitely been very useful to write it all down, especially through the grottier times.
Sometimes I’ve wondered what on earth I was going to say when I sat down at the computer, but once I’d started tapping the keys there was suddenly LOTS and I couldn’t stop (you’ve probably noticed!)
I’ve written quite a lot about the chemo ward mainly because I’ve spent ages in there. After my 12 weeks of three weekly chemotherapy, I then had the joy of going back to have three weekly doses of Herceptin.
If I hadn’t had the chemo beforehand, this might have felt like a real drag as it went on for almost a year, but it was soooo much easier and quicker than the hours of chemo drugs, and had virtually no side effects so I always felt just very, very lucky and grateful to be at the Herceptin only stage.
At my last session I‘d planned to take in something chocolaty and a homemade picture to say 'thank you'.
I sat there throughout the session whilst I was hooked up, still uncertain how good an idea the picture bit of this plan was. Would they think it was a bit… weird?
Several nurses smiled as they passed me and exclaimed cheerily that this was my last dose. The very friendly woman hooking me up asked how I felt about coming to the end and we chatted a bit .
I read for a while whist the bag of Herceptin emptied into my arm then for the last time, the beeping sounded to signal that I‘d finished and the canula was removed. I gathered my bags up and went to the reception desk by the door.
“Don't need to make another appointment this time", I said rather lamely. Then in a totally gauche and awkward rather 14 year old sort of way, I dumped the chocs and a card on the desk, scrambled to get the picture out of the ungainly shopping bag I’d been carrying it in and then gave it to the poor receptionist, while I was mumbling some jumbled nonsense about everyone being so very kind etc.
I cast around the room to catch the eye of any of the nurses I’d got onto first name terms with, but everyone was busily attending to people. So I just hoisted my bags on to my shoulder and said a muttered general goodbye, and hurried out the door shuddering with social ineptitude.
As I legged it away down the corridor lined with severe staff photos (as discussed in a previous blog ) I knew I’d bungled that .
I should have very briefly gone round to each kind nurse and said goodbye to thank them properly, but I knew that though it meant a lot to me, to them I am just one of very many and they’re all tired and busy. Who knows what they’ll do with the blooming picture… !
So, no fanfare of trumpets, just a sort of fizzling out and a walk home in the rain.
However this weekend, Ed and I are away visiting lovely friends, H and D, in their new house. D is similarly through with his treatment for bowel cancer. Way back in the dark months of chemo, we’d promised each other we’d get together at the end of it all and CELEBRATE!
So that’s what we’re doing, leaving Joe on his own for one night to burn the house down, and heading south to drink champagne, eat fish and chips, and think WEYHEY! Cant wait.
There we go then, rather an odd year over with and one of the oddest things is that it’s not all been bad. Bits of it, like the period of recuperation after the mastectomy last September, were actually VERY nice. The weather was lovely, sunshine poured into my bedroom at home and I was able to sit propped up in bed against lots of pillows relaxing like Lady Muck, reading books and being visited by friends who brought flowers and home cooked food, and were endlessly thoughtful.
I had permission to step out of lifes rut-like slogginess and wallow for a bit .
Quite unlike any other period of my life “The Cancer Year” is going to serve as a long term punctuation. Just like when you have children, and there’s a 'Before Children' and 'After Children', there is also now 'Before Cancer' and 'After Cancer'.
Now that I’m safely months on from it, I can admit that I hated the chemotherapy bit. Who doesn’t hate feeling sick and ill? But, and it's a big BUT, it really wasn't as scary as I feared!
In fact, it wasn’t scary at all in the end; just tedious and rather unpleasant.
We all react differently, and of course we’re all on different drugs, but I know for me it was a very low key few month , exacerbated by it being winter months, I was in the thick of it this time last year. So life was very interior and dark, and I felt tired and queasy for most of it.
The thing that made it bearable though was how kind everyone was and that is definitely the upside to it being cancer. So much more easily understood and universally recognised as 'Serious Stuff' by everyone than other less widely publicised, but equally horrible conditions. This means that sympathy is mostly boundless and no one takes it lightly, which definitely helps. The chemo ward staff were upbeat and cheerful, my friends were kind and supportive, and my family were there for me so I was bloody lucky.
The surgery and radiotherapy were, for me anyway, all very copable with and merely gave me an opportunity to take life at a different pace, and actually that’s not a bad thing.
An awful lot of life just passes in a sort of blur of repetitive domestic or work stuff that we tick of the list *bish -bash-bosh* in order to get to the 'good bits', the 'down time' and doing the stuff we want to do.
My life anyway seems to be a constant scramble to fit everything in - to be a good mother, work colleague, partner, friend and (ha!) 'domestic goddess', and so on... so just for a while to have permission to stop is brilliant .
And cancer gave me that chance.
So summing it up, there’s been good and bad:
There are some of the BAD THINGS...
- Feeling scared when I got the news
- Endless hospital appointments
- Lots of tedious waiting (magazines or no)
- The sickness that chemo brings
- Smelling of chemicals
- Food tasting absolutely foul (which means certain foods that I once loved are now spoilt forever more by association… *snivel*)
- Hair thinning
- Feeling suddenly older
- Loss of libido
- Feeling rather crap about my body
- Joint ache, which is a side effect of my Letrizole
- Feeling mortal
- Discovering how bad some people are at dealing with illness
BUT... finding out that most of them are great and so here are SOME OF THE GOOD THINGS…
- The kindness of my friends - I already knew this, but was touched anew by the different ways in which people did what they could to help. For some, it was practical things like cooking meals. Others, it was checking in by phone, text or in person and being there to listen, or offer advice
- Love of my family
- Realisation of what’s actually important to me
- Making several new very dear friends who are in some way connected to cancer
- Appreciation of the many good things about our poor battered NHS
- Stepping out of 'normal life' for a while
- Complimentary massages
- Not working for a few months
- Having time to read lots
- Getting a chance to produce artwork to no brief other than my own
- Writing this blog
I think if you tot that lot up it turns out that there are just slightly more bad things than good, so on the whole rather predictably, I think I’d rather not have had breast cancer actually, thank you.
But to be honest, so far (fingers crossed and all that) it's been a fascinating experience and I expect I’m the richer for it.
I feel very positive about the future with only the occasional lurching fear about, “What if it comes back?” Don’t think that’s avoidable really.
I’ve had every sort of treatment they could think of, I know I’m eating all the right things and getting as much exercise as I can fit in, so other than that it's just hope for the best and try not to think about it.
Thank you for 'listening' and good luck to everyone out there going through it.
Right… off to pack my over night bag for a night away with lovely food, fizz and fab friends.