The darkest hour
What a week!
Last Wednesday (26th December) I made my standup comedy debut at The Cavendish Arms in Stockwell. A five minute set of funny stuff I've noticed about cancer and the road to recovery...
On Thursday (27th), Macmillan won the Brand of the Year award at the annual Marketing Society awards ceremony in London, for the "No one should face cancer alone" campaign. The ad I'm in is a major part of that campaign and the post on the Marketing Weekly website had the photo of Vikki (the real life Macmillan nurse) and me taken from that ad.
I remain very proud of the work we all put in on that one minute of finished film. And there is nothing about my own performance I would change in light of what's happened. Nothing.
On Friday (28th), I had chemo round five - the second dose of Taxotere (Doxataxyl). Down to earth with a horrible bump and still descending.
Before now, I could never understand those who chose not be fixed at any price.
Now I do. I am now in the chemical depths of this penultimate chemo round and those of you who've stuck with me through all of this (thank you, by the way) will know that I've largely managed to deal with the aftermath of and treatment for, breast cancer with a positive frame of mind and a sense of humour (albeit a bit on the dark side). But right now I am in a dark place. With a severe sense of humour failure.
One of the many side-effects of the Doxataxyl (Taxotere - the T of the FEC-T regime) chemo drug appears to change my perception of the world, both physically (my eyesight is definitely different - altered somehow - not my eyes but the connection between them and my brain I think) and metaphysically. This change in point of view has shifted my personality. For the time being, I am no longer the person I know.
It probably sounds a bit bonkers and I know this is just a temporary shift (well, I hope it is) but I have now asked myself the question, "If I'm not myself, if I can no longer exist in this life as the person I know, do I want to carry on living as someone else?"
I've never thought of myself as having a particularly strong personal identity before. I always thought that I was a bit of a chameleon, drifting from situation to situation; person to person, merely adapting myself as closely as I could to the circumstances and individuals I encountered along the way. But, it turns out, that's one of the character traits I hold most precious. That and compassion, humour and a sunny, positive (sometimes annoyingly so, even for me), optimistic outlook. Would I want to continue to exist if those things were removed from my make up?
It turns out (surprisingly for me) that I do not want to survive at all costs. If that cost is an alteration in my personality so fundamental to who I am, that I was no longer myself, then I would rather cease to exist than become a stranger to myself, my family and friends.
It's a bit of a knotty one though...
Because if I was no longer the person I am (I'm still here in the background and can feel the shift back to old me starting to occur as the chemical effects of chemo number five very slowly begin to wear off), then how would I recognise that I'd ever been anything else? And who's to say the new Annabel wouldn't be immediately adamant about staying? And remaining as long as possible, thank you very much? Hard as nails, grumpy and next to no sense of humour. Great.
Enough of this introspective nonsense (that's her!).
The title of this week's blog is from the saying "the darkest hour's before the dawn" and that's where I am now with the chemotherapy. It's just over two weeks until the final dose and I can almost see the first light of daybreak in the sky... Almost.