September 8, 2017
“I’ve just slammed my hand in the door – but that’s nothing to what you’re going through.” “My back aches so much, but it’s nothing compared to what you’re facing.” “I just can’t imagine what you must be going through.”
Many friends have said this kind of thing to me, and I understand it’s sympathy. I play it down – we all stub our toes or cut our fingers occasionally. We all get ill from time to time. So what exactly am I going through?
I had a scan two weeks ago following my summer break from chemo, and we are back in the consulting room at Mount Vernon to see the oncologist. The grey chairs, the pale green bed, the odd screws sticking out of the wall where old shelves or equipment were once fixed. He comes bustling in with a nervous junior medic in tow. He says hello, how are you, you’re looking well, then he gets down to it. The tumours in my liver have continued to reduce and they are no longer a major concern. Still a concern, just not a major one. But three new ‘somethings’ have appeared in my liver. He doesn’t know what they are – they are too small to identify from the scan. They may be fatty deposits, or they may be new tumours. He can’t tell. He says he’ll keep me off the chemo for another two months, then I’m to come back for another scan. He says he can’t cure me, but aims to give me the best possible quality of life. He asks me how far I’m cycling, and nods when I say usually over 30 miles. He says to let him know if anything changes, and bustles out.
Manda is frantically writing notes. We try and process this mixed message. It is amazing how we can both receive the same words and yet hear totally different things. It seems like good news – I’m still recovering, doing spectacularly well to be honest. But there is a but. These new boys in town may be fatty slobs, or they may be poisonous thugs. I remind myself that things could be a lot worse – so that must make it good news. I’ll hold on to that.
So what am I going through? Cancer is a wily and pernicious beast. To put it bluntly I’m faced with the prospect of dying before I’m ready. I’d happily slam my own hand in a door if it meant I could be rid of The Fear. Everyone is going to pop their clogs at some point in the future – my point in the future is just a bit more in focus. I want to live my life, as most people do, without knowing when or how I’ll go. It’s likely that my killer already lurks inside me, and the bastard will strike when I’m weak. It is constantly on my mind. My battle plan is to continue to keep myself as fit and strong as possible, eat as well as I can afford, and be as active as I can in the weeks, months or years I have left.
I live in a kind of managed despair. Today I feel very mortal, a little scared and uncertain. My days are a pendulum of hope and hopelessness. I don’t mean to wallow – I know there are many desperate and displaced people in the world and it’s hard to imagine what they’re going through. I’m sure I’ll buck up tomorrow. I’ll go out on the bike, that usually does the trick. I did 53 miles the other day, that put a smile on my face. 🙂
The occasional week away always helps keep the spirits up. Here are some moody shots (to match the moody post above!) taken on the beautiful and rugged Scilly Isles. The first image is of Shipman Head on Bryher, obviously we had to go there. There are five inhabited islands, (we stayed on St Mary’s), and over 100 small ones. There are small boat trips to all the major islands. Every view out to sea includes rocky protrusions of all shapes and sizes. The food, friendliness and scenery were all outstanding.
Do click on the images to make them bigger.