Thursday, 17 November 2011
The Good News About Bad News...
Even before my adventures into Cancerland, I've been a fan of hospital dramas. Perhaps this has more to do with the fact that my parents always wanted me to be a doctor (which has nothing to do with whether I was good or not at science, my parents just happen to be classic immigrants for whom the following chosen careers, doctor and lawyer, are the parental equivalent to winning the lottery). While watching Holby, or Casualty or Grey's Anatomy, I've often wondered whether it's better to hear the good or bad news first (that's assuming that there is always a silver lining after hearing the delivery of some terrible, life-threatening diagnosis).
And so it was that yesterday found me tense and sometimes on the verge of tears as I patiently waited in the chemo lounge for my doctor to arrive. I made a point just as I had done the day before when I was receiving my scan, of looking intently at the familiar faces of the nurses to see if they knew something that I didn't. I noted how the dietician, a girl that I'd never met before, came to ask me how my appetite was - a question that I don't think I've heard since I finished having chemo back in April. I immediately repeated this observation back to my partner who looked at me as if he thought that perhaps the cannula in which the herceptin was being adminstered had perhaps found a fast track vein to my brain, resulting in my current state of paranoia and delusion.
When my doctor turned up, it took a great deal of willpower and self-discipline to not immediately jump on her, wrestle her to the ground and demand that she tell me the good news first. You see, in the hospital dramas, they often don't have time to ask for the good, all the poor patient often hears is the bad and before you know it, they've been carted off to a remote part of the set, never to be seen again. So I waited and breathed deeply and tried to meditate on the questions that I wanted to ask her before or after she delivered what I began to convince myself was surely the reason for her changing my appointment so quickly and rushing from one practice to another to tell me this. Something that perhaps I now wish she had kept to herself for perhaps just one more day, or week or even month.
Because you see, by the time I got ushered into her office and sat down and tried to demand that she tell me the good news first, I found that I couldn't actually speak. Nope, not one clever word would make its way from my brain to my lips. I could only nod as she cut to the chase to tell me that the cancer had indeed returned. Six months after finishing chemo. Five months after my extensive sternectomy operation. This time in my spine. Naturally after this, I began to understand why no-one in the movies asks for the good news, because maybe, let's face it dear reader, perhaps often there is none.
But, despite the absolute devastation of this diagnosis, my onc thinks that things could indeed be worse. She's still optimistic, she still has hope. There are still many treatments, two of which I'll start soon and they'll include an oral chemotherapy tablet, another tablet whose name escapes me, and cyberknife radiotherapy - which is radiotherapy that is concentrated to one specific area only. The Good News (actually there really is in this case), is that it is only in one spot, which is a good thing. It really is. But the bad news is, I'm getting absolutely tired of these little, yes little, stubborn motherf***kers which are stopping me from getting on with my life. And to be too tired to battle on any longer is not such a good thing when you have cancer.
I'm so over chemo, and yes I know that it's the second syllable of the title of this blog but do you know what ? I was absolutely in the process of almost changing this title, since I really and sincerely began to believe that I had said sayonara to the damn toxic drugs for a very long time, if not forever. But, there's more good news, I won't lose my hair this time so no new searches on the net for afro wigs just yet, but this does puts paid to a few plans of getting back to normality, getting my stamina back again and re-presenting myself to the world once more. Ironically, you are (apart from my partner and family members of course) one of the first to know. Because now, you see, I'm wondering how much to tell other people, and how much mileage I have left as a cancer patient before folk get bored of hearing about my drugs and side-effects and decide to leg it out of my life forever. So today, while I take a bit of time to process things, I have decided that the trip that is booked for next week, to a photo-festival in Tuscany, Italy, will still go ahead. Because I refuse to make my life all about my cancer. I will still take all the drugs and the juices and the turmeric powder mixed with olive oil and the vitamin D supplements and the acupuncture and the green tea. I will do all those things because I have a child who is not yet two years old who really, really needs me. So it's definitely not over yet. In fact, I'm already thinking, that despite the tiredness, despite the bad news, the fight to reclaim my body back has only just begun.