A Year in the Life of Cancer
Today marked the one year anniversary of the day the late Dr. Rademaker turned to us and said, with ashen face, two words one doesn’t usually choose to hear. “It’s serious”. And how right he was.
It was the day of the initial colonoscopy that revealed a tumour in my bowel. Since then, the earth has rotated 365 times. 365 days of cancer have passed. A whole year.
But don’t go thinking that this is a celebration. Cancer deserves no celebration. It is more a respectful marking of one hell of a year.
In fact, to describe it as one hell of a year is a gargantuan understatement. Without wishing to put too fine a point on it, it has been cruel, unrelenting, tortuous, complicated, frightening, painful, and upsetting, and not just for me, but also for my wife, for my family and for my friends – the onlookers, the concerned, you lot, without whose support it would have been utterly insufferable.
Cancer puts everything on hold while simultaneously putting everything into a new perspective. You are catapulted from a life of unremarkable, blissful normality into a life in limbo – trying to make long term plans, or even plans beyond the next few days is impossible. Life becomes dictated by a seemingly infinite number of hospital appointments, beyond which there is no point in trying to look because the sands are forever shifting. It is depressing and frustrating in equal measure.
The inability to make plans extends to Bekky’s life as well – understandably she wants to come with me to most appointments, certainly the more revelatory ones, which means committing to projects, opportunities or anything long term as far as her own work is concerned has been nigh on impossible too – there are too many uncertainties, too many appointments that crop up out of nowhere. We are both existing in a continual state of semi-suspended animation. And frankly, it’s rubbish.
My career has been on hold for an entire year as well. I’ve been in to the office as often as I have been able, but I doubt I have been in on more than about 20 days in all over the year, and on those days only for a few hours at a time. I am unendingly grateful for the fact that, despite this, Batcheller Monkhouse have continued to look after me and a return to my place of work awaits me, whenever that may be – this has been a colossal comfort throughout this past year and, though I doubted I would ever utter such words, I can’t wait to get back to it.
But hold on. There is, of course, a positive side to the past year as well. Progress has been made. Huge progress in fact. This time a year ago I had two sizeable tumours about me, one in my bowel and one in my liver. Both have been successfully removed and I now have just one small “nodule” on the lung, about which the doctors do not currently appear to be overly concerned. Doubtless it will need dealing with at some point, but not right now. It’s likely there are also some cancerous cells still floating around my being, but more chemotherapy is looming on the horizon, once I have fully recovered from the liver surgery, which will hopefully put paid to them.
We don’t yet know how many more cycles of chemo I will have, but we should find out later this week – it’ll restart in the next week or two. After that, the stoma will need to be reversed which involves yet another operation, albeit a comparatively minor one. And then I presume attention will turn to the lung nodule. In the meantime, however, I do at least feel that I may nearly be in a position to start making one or two tiny plans, such as an informal but more regular return to work when I feel up to it between cycles of chemo. That’s the plan, anyway.
The other day, both Bekky and I agreed that we had briefly, momentarily spotted a tiny pin prick of light at the end of this very long tunnel. It quickly disappeared, of course, but we’re both sure we saw it. It was great. We are acutely aware that, even once the chemo is done, the stoma reversed, the nodule eradicated, there will be more hospitals, more appointments, more doctors and probably more chemo. I may never be fully in the clear. But at least the current chapter will be done and we can, even if only for a while, return to trying to lead “normal” lives again. And we can’t wait.
I leave you with some statistics for the past year:
Chemotherapy – 7 two week cycles (to date)
Radiotherapy – 25 sessions
PET scans – 1
CT scans – 7
MRI Scans – 8
Days involving a visit to hospital – at least 80
Nights spent in hospital – 30
Hours on the operating table – 11.5
Number of pills taken/intravenous flushes given/nurses names learnt…impossible to even guess.
Thank you as ever for your ongoing support, and for the monumental levels of love that you have shown us both over the last year. We sincerely hope that soon we may not need it any more, wonderful though it is right now.
As ever, however, the inky darkness of cancer decrees that we will have to wait and see.