Last blog, I spoke of the anxiety I still feel in the week or ten days before my three-monthly oncology check-up at the Marsden. It's the scary thought that, if something has gone wrong in the first week after my check-up, it's had thirteen weeks to get worse, rather than the four weeks when I was on a monthly check-up cycle. I have to remind myself that the doctors, the oncologist, the experts, who make the treatment of this illness their life's focus, do know best and that they wouldn't put me on a three-month cycle if they weren't sure it was the right thing to do. Despite reminding myself of this fact and that I am not a doctor (although, perhaps understandably, I feel a bit of an expert on my condition compared to pretty much everyone I know!), the nerves kick in and I find myself bracing myself for how I will deal with bad news. I hope that, eventually and hopefully soon, I will start to feel less anxious.
And so to the morning of the check-up. Car on auto-pilot, I drove to the hospital, parked up and went in, prepared for my usual nervous wait. Somewhat to my surprise, I was called through early, weighed, and no sooner had I sat down in the consulting room and started reading my book than the consultant came in. Yes, dear reader, I was seen early! It was the top consultant as well, which always makes me feel a bit more reassured - not that I doubt the competence and knowledge of the less senior specialists, but I do seem to derive an extra layer of comfort from the opinion of the woman at the top. She did a thorough physical examination, asked me lots of questions for the multi-paged questionnaire she has to fill in to compile various stats and talked about how I am generally. She seems very pleased with my oncology progress - still in remission, so that makes it 8 months since the PET CT scan and a year since they initially said they were confident I was in remission, although I couldn't quite believe it until the PET scan showed no sign of anything untoward. Funny how I needed the mechanics and scientific objectivity of a piece of machinery before I could quite accept it, isn't it?
After making an appointment for three months' time, I popped my parking ticket into the machine, purse at the ready to feed its hungry metal mouth, only to find that I had been seen so quickly that I was still within the thirty minutes parking grace period! First time I think that has ever happened.
On my way back to Oxted, I called in on some very old friends (as in, I have known them for a long time, not that they are great in years) for tea and a chat (and a chocolate croissant, as it turns out). Their daughter has ME - and I know that one regular reader of this blog, Geves, has a daughter of a similar age who also has this (literally) crippling and debilitating illness - and she, her mum and I spent some time talking about the impact of illness and how to deal with it physically and psychologically. For someone with ME, I think the difficulties are compounded because there is such mixed perceptions of ME. It's clearly a genuine, and often extremely serious, illness but some people still don't believe it really exists, which means firstly that the ill person almost has to defend their tiredness, their nausea, their lack of interest and concentration and secondly that there is less inclination to fund research and give it the attention it deserves. No one queries the existence of cancer, so I didn't have to devote any energy or time to considering whether anyone thought my illness was real or just some psychosomatic, almost "trendy", affectation. How awful to be ill, to be unaware of whether you will get better and to feel that people don't really believe you. I know it's genuine, real and hard to deal with, for the patient and the family.
What else has happened? Well, I have returned to the world of work - I have a 30 day project at a prestigious London Borough, working two or three days a week. This suits me perfectly - I can carry on with my volunteering at Orpheus and still have a day a week at home to keep up with domestic stuff, paperwork, charity stuff for Facial Palsy UK and - dare I say it? - just take it easy. Interestingly, I 'm finding that I have no problem concentrating at work all day and am loving the decision-making, the challenges of work, the social side of the office and using my brain again but find the commuting absolutely exhausting - yet I have a really easy commute! I travel by train to London and then walk for about 15 minutes, so no need to travel on the tube. Yet I find myself drained by the journey - not helped by the fact that, at this time of year, people are beginning the first of their winter colds, so there is lots of coughing and sneezing going on. I also get more than just mildly irritated by the incessant ringing of mobile phones, usually with *zany* ringtones and the incredibly pedestrian nature of their conversations. "I'm on the train" - really? "What are we having for dinner?" -what, you need to know this now? Why can't you just wait till you're home and have a surprise?? Does anyone else find themselves simmering with anger at the constant noise, all exacerbated by the increasingly lengthy announcements by the train guard as we enter and leave every station - or station stop, I should say. "Please take all your belongings with you", "Please mind the gap between the train and the platform", "Please remember to breathe".....aaarrrgggh!! I really should go on that Grumpy Old Women show!
On October 14th, it was our local 10k trail race and I managed to plod around in a reasonably respectable time, splashing through the muddy puddles and having a great time. It's a lovely race, totally off-road and it was a glorious autumn morning, sunny and bright. Best thing - cakes afterwards :-). I have my favourite race in just over a fortnight - the Sodbury Slog. It's always held on Rememberance Sunday and is a fantastic mix of poignant and respectful observation of the two minute silence and a complete and utter mudfest, followed by lunch with fellow mad mudlovers. I missed it last year, obviously, so am very much looking forward to splashing through ditches, hauling myself out of muddy water with the aid of a rope and generally trying not to lose my shoes in the gloopy, sticky mud. Do I hear you mutter that I must be mad? Yep, you're probably right!
I'm going to end this blog entry here, as otherwise I will just continue to ramble. I really need to discipline myself to update this more regularly. Be afraid.....be very afraid....