Gosh it’s been a while. I’d like to say I’ve had a busy week, it hasn’t, but mentally, I’ve been all over the place. That was my best attempt at a pun, sorry, it’s not up to my usual standard. Actually, I’ve been fine. Getting used to this new slower pace of life and waiting for the next thing to happen.
Next stop - Oncology
My surgeon has passed me onto the next in line, and I have an appointment to see my oncologist on Tuesday. He’ll talk me through the plan of action, which is chemotherapy, then radiotherapy. There are a billion different types of cancers, chemotherapies and plans, so as far as I can tell, my role is to turn up and, well, that’s it really. Turn up. I can do that. The clever stuff happens with the mix of the drugs and the delivery of the bad stuff - enough to kill any rogue cancer cells, but not kill me in the process. Oncologists appear to be the potions masters of the cancer wizarding world (you know I like a Potter reference) and being me, I thought it wise to google the lucky fellow who has me as a subject, to check him out.
Yep, he seems legit, definitely a doctor (big plus), with lots of ologies and letters in his LinkedIn profile. He has the equivalent of 5 stars on RateMyOnco.com (OK the site doesn’t really exist, it’s a metaphor) and he does lots of charitable work. There’s a link to his twitter profile and well come on, I'm going to click it, aren’t I? So I click it. Big mistake, HUGE. He is the image of my old headteacher from 2015. He too was a great and brilliant man, don’t get me wrong, but am I really expected to get my tits out in the presence of my old boss? So many levels of wrongness are coming at me I don’t know which to be the most horrified by. I decide to try and pretend I didn’t see it, and hope the photo was just a fluke. But if I turn up on Tuesday and a retired physics teacher is sat there, I’m walking straight out, cancer or no cancer.
Now that I know there is kind of an end in sight, I’ve been daring to think about maybe seeing people again at some point in the future. In one particularly memorable twitter group chat we talked about swimming in the sea and eating chips. Sadly, the reality means I might not get to swim in the sea. Nothing to do with cancer directly, but my current physical form, combined with the weight-gain effects of steroids, sunburn risk of radiotherapy and the baldifying effects of chemo means that for me, the risk of harpooning would just be too great. So I’ll be sat in the shade, covered up, just eating the chips. Which in itself is a goal, so it’s still a win.
As I’m some way adrift from the greek goddess ideal, I’m also pretty chilled about my lumpectomy scar. The dressing is off now so I’m getting used to seeing it - it’s four inches long and lumpy, but I’ll take it. (If anyone even thinks of doing the actress/vicar line here, I’m unfriending you immediately). Many women worry about how their partner will feel about their scars, but I am very, very lucky. I showed my scar to my husband, he looked, he hummed, said it looked like it was healing well. Then he showed me his toenail fungus as a counter offering, I agreed that it too was healing well, and we went about our business.
My Cleopatra Moment
Losing the dressing means I can finally have a bath, so I treated myself to a Lush bath bomb that I’d been saving for this very moment. The golden ball of wonder glistened and sparkled with flecks of golden glitter and the heady aroma of turmeric latte promised a bath nothing short of cleopatric proportions.
The website promised me this
Chocolate, coffee and vanilla swirl in the steam, soothing the mind, and ribbons of gold pirouette through frothy, creamy water, adding an extra touch of decadence. Coconut milk powder calms the skin, while turmeric serves as a clever cleanser with its antibacterial properties.
What I actually got was a bath full of swirly beige water, with clumps of brown-stained white froth on the top which reminded me less of the egyptian idyll, and more of the sewage works at Southend.
But it smelt divine, so I gingerly lowered myself into my sparkling sewage bath and tried not to look down. For a number of reasons, all valid.
I’ve had a lot of wonderful gifts from friends and family, but one of my favourites is my sweary colouring book. It’s got some extremely bad words indeed in it, so it is perfect for me. My daughter and I spent a happy hour colouring in our first attempt and were so delighted with it we framed it and hung it on the landing.
My husband spotted it soon afterwards, was shocked and horrified and briefly turned into his mother. He told us we can’t have that on the wall because, well, what would people think of us? We told him that everyone we know would applaud both our artwork and the sweary sentiment, and anyone else who turned up wandering along our landing uninvited criticising our colouring in skills was probably not someone whose opinions we valued. A week on, the picture’s still hanging on the wall, the gods haven’t stuck us down for sweary colouring, and we’re doing another one tomorrow.
Facing Your Fears
A friend asked me how I was feeling about chemo, the other day. She said I didn’t seem that worried about it, and that struck me. I don’t think I am worried, as such. I’m definitely not looking forward to feeling utterly crap for weeks on end, being sick, exhausted and losing my hair - who would be? But no, I’m not scared.
I’m doing all I can to be as prepared as possible, both practically, by shopping for chemo essentials and also for some not other not-so-essentials (retail therapy is a definite thing, shush) but also mentally, by talking about it, visualising it, and making it less of a scary unknown. By dragging it out from under the bed, and staring it in the eye it becomes a lot less like a huge scary monster and more like a medical treatment with a bunch of nasty side effects. And when you stare harder, beyond the side effects, to the actual thing itself, you see that behind the peripheral collateral damage, there lies a powerful ally. The most powerful ally I have, and the one I hope will kick the living daylights out of cancer on my behalf.
And if that means picking up some battle damage along the way, I’ll take those odds.