Monday, 16 May 2011

Q is for Quality of Life...

It's official. I will be going to Madrid after all. I now have my operation dates; this week for the liver RFA and then the chest surgery will take place about three weeks after. The chest op will come later because after lots of to-ing and fro-ing and boring my poor surgeon's secretary with what-ifs, and should-is, I have decided to postpone the sternum-ectomy until I get back from Madrid. I have thought long and hard about this, really I have. Both my oncologist and surgeon think that it will make no difference if I have the surgery a week after the liver op or three weeks later. I'm still on herceptin, a drug which, according to my oncologist, is just as strong and effective as any hardcore chemo. My response to the chemotherapy has been very good, which means that if it is still circulating throughout my body (which apparently it does for about 4 - 6 weeks afterwards), then it's hopefully still kicking the cancer's butt as I write. And more importantly, I feel much better. I'm eating more, going for walks every day and starting to feel more human again. 

I've also taken the plunge and decided to turn my silver grey hairs into a vivid shade of blonde. Now that my hair's a bit longer, I figured that if I went for the peroxide, it would look intentional and not as if I'd just taken a giant leap into middle age. As it happened, the result was not so blonde as a shade of rusty orange. Luckily for me, with my hair being so short, I could shave it off and start again. Against my dark skin, I'm told that my silver/golden spikes look trendy. But apart from not having to worry about what a Spanish heatwave might do to my wig, my hairstyle is not my main concern right now.

Feeling good about delaying my operation is.

All in all I thought about what I needed right now. I came to the conclusion that a week away from Cancerland (even if it sadly won't be a one-way ticket just yet) was what both my mind and body could do with. As is often the case, the much-looked-forward-to trip could be a disaster. I could end up over-worked, over-stressed and over-tired. I might end up hating the hotel, the people and most significantly, myself for making such an indulgent decision when I should be focussing solely on my health. But, as my sister says when I tell her of my dilemma, 'go and enjoy yourself - your life can't be all about the cancer. you've got to have quality of life.'

Quality of life; that misnomer of a term;. Why do we expect the two words to go together ? I first heard this term uttered in cancer's presence when I was having surgery for my mastectomy, all those years ago. I shared a ward with a chain-smoking girl who had verbal diarrhoea. She told me, in between rushing out to get her next nicotine hit, that after her first mastectomy, her family rallied around, she ate well and she had a boyfriend. When she was diagnosed the second time around, she told no-one. Only her sister came to visit her in hospital and she spent her days smoking like a chimney. Now all she cared about, she told me, was quality of life. I remember thinking how defeatist she sounded. As if she'd already given up. For this reason, every time I hear the term, it has a negative effect on me.  

But now I'm considering it again. I think about what my quality of life has been like since I've been diagnosed. I've been a sick patient, a tired mum, an irritable partner and a frustrated daughter. I've felt the loneliness of motherhood and cancer, all in the same year. Somewhere along the line I can't really remember who I was anymore. I have a lot of fun with baby A but it's a different kind of fun to the hedonistic freedom that you experience with your friends. And with so much maternity and sick leave already taken, my career seems like a lifetime away. So I'm going to Madrid because I want to, because I can and because my gut instinct tells me that it's the right thing to do.  It's the one choice that the cancer can't dictate and while I'll be careful about how many sangrias I sup on, I'm going to damn make sure that I party hard with the Madrilenos (well for at least one night anyway...)

Just before I make my decision to go, I get cold feet and call my surgeon's secretary again. His response is all I need. He tells me that if he thought for just one second that delaying matters would jeopardise my health, he wouldn't let me go. Now we all know that doctors are not gods, but sometimes just one comment like this, can make us feel safer, more secure and protected. Suddenly I feel like the heroine in a Mills and Boon novel. Not that I'm an avid reader of these early examples of chick lit, but my mum is and she tells me that the heros are always dashing, influential and masterful. Having only met my surgeon twice, I'm not sure whether he fits the first or third description. But my daydreams are interrupted by the sound of a key in a lock followed by the urgent cries of baby A. And I'm suddenly brought back to reality.

1 comment:

  1. Go, have a fabulous time, soak in everything about Spain--the colors, tastes, smells, the people. My oncologist says "everything in moderation, including moderation."