Today has been emotional. Totes emosh, indeed.
Chemo Round 13 of 13 is...DONE. It's a huge deal that hasn't fully sunk in yet. 6 months of chemo in all. 26 weeks. 13 individual visits to the Judy Beard Day Unit at The Conquest Hospital in Hastings (plus another 13 visits a couple of days beforehand to have blood extracted). That particular element of my journey is, at least for now, OVER.
I have noticed that the press are boringly predictable in their use of language associated with cancer - one doesn’t “have” cancer but instead one inevitably “battles” it. And chemo is rarely simply hard or tough...it is usually “gruelling”. And while their descriptions may be boringly predictable, I have come to learn that actually, they are accurate. Cancer is a battle. Chemo is gruelling.
And I know I’ve said it before but, were it not for our amazing NHS nurses and doctors, it would be so, so much harder. The staff in “my” chemo unit are utterly fabulous. It is difficult to describe. Day in, day out they are surrounded by those suffering from cancer. Seriously ill people, many of whom may never get better. Yet they somehow manage to maintain a totally natural, unforced air of happiness and jollity balanced with the very highest levels of care in its most pure form - they sing; they dance (no, really); they sit with and talk gently to those that need it; they comfort; they explain; they laugh; they hold your hand both physically and metaphorically; they take the mickey out of those that need that too; they sing a bit more; and by golly they work hard.
And over the course of 13 sessions, you get to know them. You know what they’re up to, those that have been on holiday, those that have been trying to sell their car, those whose own mother is suffering her own cruel battle with cancer. You learn about their lives, their families, their pets, their hobbies. You form a bond and it is genuinely lovely. And they get to know you too - I quickly became known as Bingers so every time I walked into the unit, a cry of “Bingers!” would go up which was so lovely. You feel part of a team, you feel listened to and cared for and it is simply amazing. In a bizarre way, I will miss it. But for now, it is over. No further chemo in the diary. The battle is by no means won but this is a significant step in the right direction.
And another significant step will take place on 7th August when I am booked in to have my stoma reversed. HALLE-FLIPPING-LUYAH! The stoma is the only remaining physical evidence (aside from an array of most excellent scars) of the goings-on of the past 15 months and to get rid of it will be a relief. While the stoma and I get along most of the time, we have never entirely seen eye-to-eye. I have said it before but there’s no denying that it is a rigmarole - especially when, for example, you awake in the dead of night to find the whole thing peeling off your stomach and you spend half an hour cursing and swearing at it in the bathroom trying to clean up and attach a new one. At 4am. Or when you finish photographing someone’s garden on a hot day (for work) and the sweat causes the bag to come asunder leaving poo-ey stains on your shirt and trousers so you have to ask your client if you can use their bathroom to clean up and then go home to shower and change in possibly not the best possible frame of mind. Sorry. That’s all probably too much info, but you get my drift. It is a constant worry, a pain in the neck and the sooner it is gone from my and Bekky’s lives, the better.
So 7th Aug is in the diary and will involve yet another stay at The London Clinic. However by comparison to the Total Mesorectal Excision I underwent in November, and the Liver Resection in April, this should be a relative piece of cake. The op is no more than a few hours, the stay in hospital no more than two or three nights and then it’s home to retrain my poop shoot so it behaves like most other human beings’. That, I am told, is going to be the tricky bit given it’s been Hors Service for the past 8 months (to the day) so if you and I are lucky enough to meet up in the next few weeks, forgive me won’t you?
Once again, too much information but this is bowel cancer we’re talking about here so what did you expect?!
Despite all this good news, we are not yet out of the woods. Various things to bear in mind: the nodule in the lung is probably still there and will probably need to be removed (Hello again, Hospital). And perhaps most importantly, it is perfectly possible that the cancer will return in my bowel, or my liver or more or less anywhere really and we will be back to square one. We met my oncologist last week who said, and I quote, “If you get through the next two years without anything cropping up, you will be lucky”. Statistically it is the next two years when I am most at risk. Get through those and chances improve.
How does one process that? Well, for a start you face the facts and accept them and hope that you are indeed lucky. And you also look at the fact that you could be hit by the proverbial bus next week so while my odds are a bit shorter than most, my imminent demise is, I like to think, unlikely. But we’ll have to wait and see.
So there we are. Consider yourselves updated. More news to follow as and when.
Big love all round. And thank you for reading.