Thursday, 16 August 2012

Waiting To Exhale...

Trying to update your blog after having been away for so long is a bit like bumping into an old school friend and not knowing quite what to say. It's not that I don't have much to tell you. The truth is, I have too much to say. I'm just not sure where to begin. Do I start with the episode at A & E (Accidents and Emergencies for all you non-UK folk who might have dropped in) a few months ago, just before I was due to fly out to Madrid, which ended up with me lying on a hospital bed at 4 in the morning connected to a drip of antibiotics ?  Or perhaps I could wax lyrical about my (joy of joys !) imminent holiday plans and the sartorial problems that face me finding a bikini that accommodates the tell-tale signs of both a mastectomy and a sternectomy ? (I'm sure there's a second career awaiting me somewhere as a swimwear designer...)

Maybe I need to begin with the here and now. Because right here and right now, my dear, dear reader,  I am currently taking a journey back into Cancerland once more. My destination is unknown but I'm hoping that it won't be a one-way ticket just yet. A recent scan showed a new tumour (or as one of my oncs likes to politely and eloquently put it, 'an increased uptake in one of the mammary nodes', so it's no more capecitabine and lapatinib - two low-key drugs that I thought I could be on for a very long time. It's hello radiation radiotherapy for the next two weeks. As I keep telling myself, things could be worse. Oh I know, they could be much worse. But sadly, it doesn't make things any easier. You see, although I've managed to catch every virus and bug that my 2 year old tot cares to carry home from nursery, I was somehow managing to kid myself that what I had was a chronic disease, not a terminal one which would eventually kill me. Call me naive, but I was hoping to be one of the metastatic chicks who proudly post about having been on one faithful treatment for the last ten years. I was hoping that my one-off love affair with NED would be more than a just a fling. I wasn't quite expecting another recurrence (my second in the space of a year) just yet.

But it is as it is. And after shedding a few tears and entering some very dark places over the last week where I contemplated not just my own demise but the effect that me not being around would have on my family, most of all my very young son, I picked myself up, brushed myself off, put the fighting gloves back on, and decided to enrol in... some meditation classes.

Why meditation ?  Well, I've tried everything else - the juices, the turmeric, the acupuncture, the aspirin, the fruit and veg, the chinese mushrooms. I've done my oncology homework and have read up on the treatments on offer. I've tried yoga, pilates and running. I've done the rational and the physical but not the spiritual. And the truth is, I'm stressed. So this week, after wisely booking a week off from work, I try out two classes at the local Buddhist centre. The location is a beautiful old church and once you're inside it feels like you're a million miles away from the busyness of London life. The classes are held by a buddhist couple and we are taught how to listen to our breathing and relax our bodies. It sounds like easy stuff but as everyone who's ever tried it knows, it's damn hard to empty your mind when you're constantly being bombarded with niggling thoughts and worries. I try and it works for a short time, but I find myself thinking of that lovely pair of shoes that I very nearly bought when I should be relaxing my toes and heels. When we're told to focus our minds on our stomachs, I start to think of the ingredients of the stir-fry that I'll be tucking into later that evening. Perhaps I'm just too practical to ever be a master of meditation but what I do discover, on returning home, is the effortlessness that I fall into a deep sleep once I'm in bed and my head hits the pillow. I continue concentrating on the breath and only thinking in the present. And do you know what ?  It actually works. I use the same approach when I'm lying on the radiotherapy bed waiting for the machine to zap me with photons. I'm told not to move and I almost fall asleep. So, even though unlimited amounts of meditation is very unlikely to cure me, I'm hoping that it will make my everyday life a bit easier to cope with. And it's a damn sight cheaper than a pair of Kurt Geiger shoes.