It's been a while. Six weeks to be precise.
Not blogging (if that's the right way to describe it?) wasn't a conscious decision. I started writing on a number of occasions over the last few weeks but it never came to anything. Didn't seem interesting enough to bother other people with. I now realise that is probably more to do with what's going on in my head than the subject matter. because that's how I feel about everything at the moment. Nothing is interesting or engaging. Everything is flat and dull and unimportant. Except of course, I know that it's none of those things really. It's me.
I'm just suffering from the fallout and side effects from 10 months of draconian, life changing cures for a disease which could've killed me. Would probably have killed me sooner or later, if I hadn't found it when I did (thank heavens for my bonkers penchant for 100 mile walks!).
The last blog entry (again I'm unsure if this is the correct expression?) was written in the middle of radiotherapy. By that stage I was getting used to daily visits to either Hammersmith or Charing Cross hospitals. It's amazing how quickly us humans can normalise even the most arduous, uncomfortable and bizarre ordeals. Exposure to gamma rays five days a week for six weeks (and I might add, not a super power in sight!) definitely qualifies on all three of those scores.
On day three of the thirty radiotherapy sessions I was to undergo, I woke up with a fat hand. The Lymphoedema had started.
(Please read 'Keeping Abreast of it' blog number 7 (Lymphoemaniac) for an explanation of the chronic condition of Lymphoedema.)
My left hand, arm, side and boob began to swell and didn't go down (not complaining about the swollen bosom - ironically it's now bigger than the right one, despite having had a proportionally largish lump (the cancer) removed). My hand, arm and side are sometimes horribly uncomfortable but most of the time it's just annoying. And upsetting. But although it's fatter, my left hand does now look 20 years younger than my right hand, which is nice(ish) (always a silver lining, however thin it may be)
It quickly became clear that continuing to work (as a part time receptionist at the British Olympic Association) was going to be virtually impossible. Firstly, the radiotherapy department seemed incapable (for some reason or another) of giving me morning appointments (I'm supposed to be at work from 12:30 - 17:30 Monday to Friday). And secondly I discovered quite spectacularly (and very embarrassingly) that I was a lot more stressed out, emotionally exhausted and 'fragile' than I'd realised...
I basically ended up having a proper, teen-style tantrum.
It had been building since 6th January when the radiotherapy course had started. In the run up to the treatment, I'd been led to believe that they'd be able to fit my daily gamma ray blast around work. I suspect, under normal circumstances, that wouldn't have been a problem. But Charing Cross radiotherapy department is having a major overhaul and they had a machine down. A lot of us were being farmed out, for a fair number of sessions, to Hammersmith hospital. On the third occasion I'd had to point out that I worked in the afternoon and therefore couldn't attend the mainly afternoon appointments they'd booked me in for, I'd dissolved into tears while trying to explain. The fourth time, I totally lost it.
The radiotherapist had handed me the Outlook diary print out for the following week's appointments and all but one of them were slap bang in the middle of the afternoon. I ran out of words as I tried to explain (for the umpteenth time) that I worked in the afternoon and so therefore couldn't attend four of the five appointments AND go into work. The words ran out as the tears welled up, choking me. I then launched into a throttled, half shouted, half whispered, "That's it. I'm not doing this anymore. I've had enough. I don't want anymore radiotherapy." And with that I turned on my heel and, sobbing loudly (with snot) I ran from the department.
Through the waiting room.
Past everyone waiting (mainly) patiently for their turn on the gamma ray machines...
I got to the railings outside Charing Cross radiotherapy department and stopped short. Just glad to be out in the fresh air I think. I slumped down onto the top step and, the flood gates now open, burst into proper, old fashioned, shuddering sobs.
Moments later a bewildered radiographer caught up with me and gently coaxed me back inside...
I have rarely felt so embarrassed and ashamed of myself (and I've done some breathtakingly embarrassing things in my time!). Still, it gave those waiting a focus and distracted them for a while so... (There's that wafer thin silver lining again!)
Needless to say, when I'd calmed down, I realised quite how much all the months of treatment, it's side effects and the mental stress had affected me. That's when they suggested (very tactfully) that I should use the doctors note written for me the previous week after the first (and now minor) tearful incident. That's how I ended up signed off work. And I'm still trying to get back up to my full, part time hours.
Since then lots has happened and yet not much has changed. Yet...
In the last 6 weeks I have: finished radiotherapy, walked 50 miles in 16 hours & 29 minutes. I was whisked away to Rome for three days. I started taking Tamoxifen. And I did my third (and probably final) standup spot at the Bearcat Comedy Club at our local in Hanwell.
Oh, and all my hair's started growing back!
For details regarding this and more, watch this space (I reckon that sounds like the right sort of expression to describe a blog)
And meanwhile here's a great article about the strangeness of finishing treatment...