Not long after I hopped on board the Cancer Express, an old school friend, Chris, sent me several really useful emails about her own experience with cancer: she had ovarian cancer a few years ago and so understands about the physical side-effects of some of the treatments and of course the emotional impact that a cancer diagnosis and subsequent treatment have, even if you are normally a pretty well-balanced person (moot point in my case!). One thing she wrote really stuck in my mind - she said that one day she just felt so overwhelmed and hopeless about it all (I am paraphrasing, so forgive me, Chris) that she remembers just standing in the shower, howling with rage, fear, frustration, sorrow - a gamut of emotions. That resonated with my yesterday, when I spent the whole day hugging the toilet bowl, retching and bringing up every last morsel of food I have eaten over the past two days - which isn't a lot, in any case! Poor Neil came out of his shower yesterday, to find me slumped next to the loo in our little en-suite, sobbing and saying I just couldn't take it any more. I just couldn't see how I could get through another week and a half of treatment, feeling so awful and knowing that further radiotherapy is likely to make me feel worse.
Of course, opting out of the treatment just isn't an option. I know I have to carry on with it, but oh, it's so hard, feeling nauseated most of the time, dreading cleaning my teeth because I know it will make me sick, unable to eat anything except a few mouthfuls of food which will come back up. It destroys what little appetite I do have, knowing that my food won't be there for long - and those who know me are well aware that normally my appetite is pretty good! I love my food, I love the flavour and texture of different foods and it's a strange experience for me not to have any appetite. My food tastes a bit metallic now too, due to the radiotherapy. At hospital today, I was reading the latest edition of the Royal Marsden newsletter and it had a long article about radiotherapy, in which it stated that very few patients get sick as a result of the treatment - I guess I must just be one of those very few! Mind you, as I said to Neil coming back from hospital today, given how the odds have gone against me so far in all this, from diagnosis onwards, I shouldn't really be surprised that I fall into this category!
It was strange going to the hospital on Bank Holiday Monday - no cars in the car park and an air of quiet, almost sleepiness, about the place. Had my scan and got zapped and then we went out to the car park, with a brief stop for me to vomit into the flower bed. I don't normally feel sick immediately after the treatment - normally I manage to hold on till I get home, but not today - so, to those of you who are taking me to and from hospital for the rest of this week - apologies in advance!
I meant to mention in yesterday's blog that I got a letter from Queen Victoria Hospital offering me an outpatients' appointment with the consultant plastic surgeon, to start the process for dealing with my facial palsy - nothing will happen till 2012 and even then it will be in stages - probably a brow lift first, then we'll look at what we can do about my cheek and lack of animation. Yes, dear readers, in two years' time I could look 10 years younger - and all on the NHS!! It's good to think that something is going to happen beyond the oncology, although I don't kid myself that the aesthetic process will be straightforward and pain-free: it will be surgery, which has its own risks and side-effects. I also don't kid myself that once I finish radiotherapy, that's it for the oncology side - it will be ongoing for a long time, with further check-ups, scans etc. It's just the way it is.
I started today's blog with a mention of an old school friend - and during this past week, my friend Fiona reminded me that it was 41 years since she and I started at our school and met each other. Our little "Gang of Four" from school (Morag, Lindsey, Fiona and me) were a tight little group and even now, all these years later and with many miles between us, when we get together the years just roll away and we are those giggling schoolgirls again. We don't get the chance to meet up very often, due to living in different places and all having busy lives, but the fact that we are still in touch and care for each other is testament to the importance of friendship and shared memories. Chris and I were good friends in early years at GHSG but had lost touch and it's been great being back in touch and her immense generosity in sharing her experiences with me and helping me has been truly humbling. Without friends, we would be very much the poorer.
So, Day 24 - 6 sessions to go. It's Bank Holiday Monday, our daughter is at Notting Hill Carnival (having unfortunately had her phone stolen yesterday while at a festival in Clapham), our son is sorting out stuff for starting university and my husband is pottering in the garden. It's good to feel that we can do "normal" things, even if we are living with something unexpected and difficult.