Thursday, 18 October 2012

The C-Factor...

After my last post I kind of promised myself that the next time I dropped by, I would write an entry that didn't contain the word [hushed whisper] 'cancer'. I guess it might seem strange that I would choose to do this given my current diagnosis, but in the real world it's not like I spend my days waxing lyrical about cannulas and chemo. In fact, to see me going about my day-to-day life - which involves rushing from home-to-work-to-playgroup-to-john lewis (there's nowhere like John Lewis for a bit of toddler retail therapy), you'd never think that I'm juggling all this with treatment for a life-threatening disease. At work, the only time I ever mention the word is when we're running a feature about someone else who has it; and then you can't shut me up. Call me arrogant, but I figure that since the last two years have seen me pore over the internet for hopeful news about metastatic breast cancer (which has also enabled me to pick up snippets of news about other types of cancer) when it comes to the C-word, I'm fast turning into an amateur pro. Such is my knowledge of the disease that if they ever invent a cancer trivia version of 'Who Wants To Be A Millionaire', like the protagonist in Slum Dog Millionaire, I'll be that person in the hot seat, feverishly using up my 'dial-a-friend' options to sneakily call my oncologist. 

But if I'm not talking about cancer I hear your subconscious mentally pondering, what's the point of my posting to this blog ?  Well, don't forget that I only started this blog because I couldn't find a decent wig and thought that by spreading the word that there was a shortage of realistic afro wigs in London, some kind soul might take pity on me and donate one. But since then, I've moved on. Firstly (and I never thought I'd reach the day when I would ever say this) I'm not that bothered about finding a wig any longer, not because I don't miss my 'I'll curl-any-which-way-I-feel-like curls, but I guess after a year and a half of having a closely cropped barely there hairstyle, I realise that I actually prefer it. It fits perfectly with my new post-baby life; the one where I never have more than five minutes to myself on a daily basis. It also looks like I chose it rather than 'it' chose me, which was obviously not the case. In a nutshell, it's low maintenance even when I'm close to having a high maintenance moment (usually induced by work, toddler, cancer treatment or a combination of all three) and judging by the comments I've received from friends, colleagues and even complete strangers - it suits me. So while for the second time I'm uttering something that I never ever thought I'd say - thank you chemo chemicals, for giving me a hairstyle that works without me having to 'work it'. If I hadn't had to sample your deadly cocktail of toxicity, I never would have had the courage to shave my head. I also would never have realised how cheap it is to get my head shaved - £7 at my local barber's !!! So for that, and for that only - I salute you. But this is where the accolade ends. Let's not forget what havoc you wreaked on my nails, skin and tastebuds. Because I certainly never will. 

But before I go, not wanting to disappoint the cancer crowd out there, here's a quick catch-up of my bout with the big C. At this moment in time, after three weeks of radiotherapy (and a lovely break in Mallorca), I've just started my three monthly injections of zoladex; a hormone treatment that acts by shutting down my ovaries with the hope of starving the cancer cells of oestrogen. In a month's time I'll add the oral tablet letrozole which does a similar thing, but in a different way (told you I was only an amateur pro, if you need a more detailed description, I'll give you the number of my onc). Psychologically speaking, I feel ok. Apart from a bit of a meltdown which involved a slightly aggressive cross-examination of a young doctor I spoke to at my last appointment (I've not quite managed to get over the fact that a more belt-and-braces approach to my cancer the first time around, might well have avoided my current incurable diagnosis), I'm actually doing alright. Since there are only so many hours in the day, the meditation classes have unfortunately been put on hold. But if there's one lesson that I've taken from my brief flirtation with mindfulness it's this; every night before I enter that impenetrable world of slumber, I think of all the beautiful moments that I've experienced that day. It could be a brief spell of sunshine, a funny or interesting conversation, a lovely walk through an area that I rarely visit, or a delicious meal that I've had the pleasure of eating. It's called gratitude - feeling grateful for the little things that happen instead of worrying about the big things that might. Easier said than done I admit, and for an old cynic like me, it often involves me ignoring the more rational part of my mind. But so far I'm pleasantly surprised to say, I fall asleep much easier than I used to. So far it seems to be working. 

Wednesday, 3 October 2012

Toxic Shock Syndrome...

As usual I'm slacking. I'm writing this while trying extremely hard not to look at the calendar on my laptop which might reveal just how many months it has been since I last visited this blog. Excuses ?  I have many. Three weeks of radiotherapy before a super swift jaunt to not just one, but two European countries to recover, I think might explain the reason why I've been so incommunicado throughout most of September.

Because you see, throughout most of August when most of you were enjoying the warm rays of summer sun, I have woken up at the crack of dawn, hauled my heavy, sleep saturated body into the shower and left the house at the speed of a doormouse. I have travelled to Harley Street, where I have got myself half-undressed, lain on an uncomfortable steel-framed bed and allowed radiation rays, better known as photons, to course their way through my body. I have then hauled myself up, still bleary-eyed to work, to sit in front of a computer all day and drink cappuccino. And to top it all, as much as I try to view radiation, you know that radioactive matter that people run away from during an atomic explosion or fall-out (see Japanese Tsunami in Wikipedia for more info) as curative, I am a child of the seventies. Radiation to me translates to CND (Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament for all you 20-somethings who missed this fine period of political history), it translates to Greenham Common women; long, flaxen-haired white women being forcibly carried out of fields by the Police, and lots and lots of t-shirts with that peace symbol. It never did, and certainly doesn't now, ever make me think of radiation as a 'treatment' as the doctors call it. But at the same time, I guess I should be grateful that there is still something to offer me.

But let's not get maudlin. After three swift ones (weeks I mean, not units of alcohol), I decided to treat myself and partner and toddler A to a trip to Mallorca, that most beautiful island in the Mediterranean. I had imagined myself for weeks sat in the sunshine with only a cocktail to distract me, watching the sun sparkle on the crystalline waters of the Mediterranean sea... I even brought along that book. Yes, that one. All fifty shades of it, as a way of raising two (or three depending on your sexual preferences) fingers to cancer as if to say, 'yes I still have a sex life you bastard, even if I'm a boob and sternum lighter as a result of your 'dropping in' on me'. Instead what I got was a trip with a toddler who suddenly learned how to throw the most hummungus of tantrums. Not just the odd cry and sniffle that I saw in his more well-behaved German counterparts. No, these ones demanded that we be in a public place, somewhere like a quiet, crowded restaurant was ideal. And they usually came around the time of  'la hora de comer' - or in plain english; lunchtime. Not the most relaxing way to enjoy your holiday but you know what they say, 'patience is a virtue'. And once you've spent the last two years on and off chemo, waiting desperately for the time when you won't have to take a medicine shelf full of drugs again, being able to wait patiently for your toddler to finish his excrutiatingly embarassing toddler tantrum so that you can carry on sipping red wine and eating olives on the terrace, suddenly begins to feel very tolerable indeed...