Last week felt like a never ending nightmare. As I said previously, I know this process isn’t a game or a competition I voluntarily entered, but I wanted to be good at it. I wanted to do it gracefully, stay on top of the things that mattered, and practice positivity at all times. But when I looked at my bulbous head in the mirror, along with my sunken eyes, pale skin and bruised arms, I automatically threw in the towel. It wasn’t about looking awful, it was the fact that the way I looked didn’t even begin to portray how I felt. The amount of pain I was in was no longer bearable, and I was starting to have scary and uncomfortable thoughts. It felt as though the reality of cancer was only just starting to hit home, and, quite frankly, I didn’t want to be the host of this miserable disease for a second longer. For a few days I was in this constant inner battle between wanting to stay mentally strong, and thinking about ways of how I could excuse myself from life. I’ve always been a worrier, like many people I put pressure on myself because the idea of failure isn’t an option. But this was nothing like I’d experienced before. This wasn’t some deadline I was stressing over, this wasn’t a bad patch in a relationship, this wasn’t a job I didn’t like or a sorry looking bank account – this was my life and it was crumbling around me, and the worst part was that I had no control over it whatsoever.
Come the weekend I’d be consumed by thoughts of hopelessness, and on Friday night I pretty much cried myself to sleep through exhaustion, anger and pain. But I’d been given this time to recuperate, and on Saturday morning a small wave of motivation washed over me, and I managed to conjure up enough strength to get out of the house and enjoy some festive fun. Wickham Community Centre were holding a Christmas Fair for pets, and of course, this was a prime opportunity to include Isla in all of the Christmas festivities – even if she didn’t have the faintest idea what was going on. Usually my handbag is full of crap; old receipts, loose change, sweet wrappers, a pair of glasses just floating around collecting scratches, about three lip balms, two hand sanitisers, four lipsticks (one without a lid) and some tissues that have crawled their way out of their packaging and are now full of crumbs/eyeliner sharpenings (why though?). But on Saturday my bag was more of a first aid kit, ensuring I had everything I could possibly need for any medical emergency. And among these prepared for emergencies was the rather real possibility of shitting myself. Yes, it’s become my number one peeve of chemo, and the notion of pooping my pants in public has become a genuine fear. Cancer, I have found, is the least dignified thing going. You can’t go a week without someone seeing your privates or shoving their hand down your top, or interrupting your sleep to pop a finger up your bum – the whole thing blows, and so does the ridiculous pain that comes with it. Anyway, with Isla and my bum bag in tow, we set off for what would be the best morning in a long while. The fair was just what was needed. There were raffles and tombolas raising money for various animal shelters and charities. There was an agility course that Isla and I had a go at, in which we were pretty diabolical. There was a Santa’s Grotto just for dogs, where Isla and I had our picture taken and she received a bag full of treats as a present. And the place was FULL of dogs and puppies dressed up in festive gear (including Isla, of course). The whole morning was wonderful, and I can’t speak for Isla, but by the amount of tail wagging going on, I think it’s pretty safe to say that she very much enjoyed herself too!
We went on to have lunch at the Roebuck, where I ended up having to disturb four women during their lunch in order to access the disabled loo for an emergency poo run as the table was placed right across the doorway – not helpful and very embarrassing, especially since I don’t look like the sort to need an accessible toilet and therefore felt as though I had to justify my using it. But other than that I was able to enjoy a meal for the first time in two weeks, and I felt so much better having pushed myself to leave the house and focus my attention away from feeling grotty and weak.
By Saturday evening everything was becoming tricky again, and after an excruciating Sunday filled with tears and literal loo trauma, we decided it was time to call in the help of a doctor. On Monday morning I sought out my GP, and thankfully I was prescribed some magical ointment, that, so far, has been a little miracle. I’m still not out of the woods yet, and I do still have slight loo phobia, but instead of ending every WC visit in tears, I’m at least dry-eyed for now. (I am, however, still making very good use of my donut cushion, usually used for new mums with sore bits and bobs!).
Tuesday morning arrived and I was feeling much better, so good in fact that I decided it would be a wonderful idea to go Christmas shopping in town, on my own. Well it certainly made for an interesting time. I managed to fill many a basket despite the constant anxiety surrounding the high probability of me crapping myself, along with worrying about the disorientating Christmas crowds that I’m not very good at dealing with at the best of times. After just an hour of festive purchasing, I called it a day and asked my dad to come and rescue me – but the point to be taken away from Tuesday morning is that I did it. It wasn’t for long and I didn’t particularly enjoy it, but I did it. 10 points to Slytherin. On Tuesday afternoon I was interviewed by a member of the hospital comms team who is doing a piece on my journey so far, which will be published on QA’s social media platforms within the next few weeks. In a weird way it was nice to recite my story from the very beginning. It’s nice to think that someone at the start of their journey may read it and subsequently take comfort in the fact that cancer often sounds scarier than it is, and that you tend to find an inner strength you never knew you had, allowing you to fight it with all of your mite.
On Wednesday morning I felt good. I joined my ladies at the Macmillan crafts morning and they were all so pleased to see me, asking me if I was alright following my unexpected hospital admission last Monday. They’d come up to see me on the ward last Wednesday but I simply couldn’t face visitors, I was in the middle of my ‘I just want to bury my head in the sand and forget about living for a while’ phase. The best thing about my Macmillan ladies is that they get it – they’ve all had cancer, they know how it is, and sometimes the last thing you need is to feel smothered, even if you are being smothered with love. In the afternoon I had an appointment with my incredible consultant, Ann. As always she had all the answers to my questions and a remedy for my pain. It’s so nice to feel so valued and safe. When describing the week I’d had, it was encouraging to hear her say that she understood the depth of pain I must be experiencing as I’d seldom groaned about anything else in the past three months, despite the amount of gruelling procedures and chemo doses I’ve had to endure! For some reason my anxiety was telling me I was wrong to complain about how much I was hurting, but boy am I glad I did. Sometimes you have to ignore your brain and have a good old bloody moan!
Yesterday I came in for round five. I didn’t cry all the way to the hospital this time and I felt a lot more relaxed. It’s been a bit of a storm, this past month, as though I hit a pretty sturdy wall that showed no sign of budging. But I think it’s softening a bit now. I don’t want to do round five, but I need to, and I now know all the things that could go wrong this time, so it’s all about mitigating them as best I can. I woke up this morning and had a shower, put my face on and styled my wig. I had conversations with my tea lady and my cleaning lady. We spoke about Christmas and how I was excited to have a quiet family festive holiday, and how I’d managed to do most of my shopping online in order to save my energy and sanity. I watched the news whilst I tucked into breakfast and I munched on chocolate for a good portion of the morning. A male surgeon came and examined my nether regions and we awkwardly conversed whilst my pants were round my ankles – oh the joys! And then this afternoon I was given a Lumbar Puncture or ‘Spinal Tap’, which involves a large needle and both the extraction of spinal fluid and the insertion of nervous system protecting chemo into the spine. I was one lucky girl today! Chemo will most likely start tomorrow morning now, which means I will probably be looking at next Friday in terms of when I’ll be discharged. I’m hoping for a smoother ride than round four – I could barely sit down or eat for the duration, but I’m doing all I can to avoid a similar situation this time – fingers, toes and eyes crossed!
I think that’s everything. What a lengthy post to bring you all up to speed. It’s my own fault, the fact that I’m lazy coupled with the fact that it pretty much takes me all day to write a blog post goes some way to explain the gaps between my entries!
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