Six months on

As milestones go, this is a pretty big one. It’s now six months since I found out that I had cancer again. Only this time I was told that the disease was advanced and would kill me. I asked how long I had left and the doctors said I could expect to die within six months to five years.

And yet, here I am. Still very much alive!

Back in December the news was bleak. It was explained to me that nothing would get rid of the stupid cancer. Not only was it incurable but I was warned that the tumour could grow rapidly like wildfire. At that hospital appointment I was advised it would be a good idea to get my affairs in order.

It was a couple of weeks before I started chemo. Even in that short time, blood tests showed that it had got bigger.

This was the third and final time that I would be diagnosed with cancer. I thought about all the things I wouldn’t get to see or do. I feared that I might not make it to the summer, half a year away.

I looked through my diary. It was pretty blank but something stood out. I had a dentist appointment soon after the six month cancer-versary. It was upsetting to see something from my future life that might not happen. I’m not that keen on going to the dentist but this mundane event represented normality. Of being alive.

Dealing with this kind of diagnosis has been hard on so many levels. With shock and disbelief, you grieve for the life you hoped that you’d lead. Your brain finds it difficult to process the facts. It constantly searches for a solution when there is none. You end up exhausted.

While it has been horrendous, it hasn’t been quite as bad as you’d think. I mentioned this to one of my medical team and she said that many people don’t realise how resilient they are until they experience such an extreme situations like this. I wish I’d never had to find out.

I’ll never be happy with this cruel twist of fate but half a year on from the diagnosis something has changed, something that I couldn’t have imagined happening. I now feel like I have acceptance of the situation. You can’t be constantly angry or upset. It takes up too much energy and doesn’t get you anywhere. Most of time I find that accepting the inevitable gives me a kind of peace.

Thankfully the evil chemo cocktails have managed to stabilised my tumour. They have put out the fire. No-one knows how long this will last for but at least my cancer has responded to treatment. I continue to be incredibly tired but despite this I feel well.

Not for the first time it seems like I’ve been given a second chance. I’m now coming to terms with still being alive when I wasn’t sure that I would be. It feels like I can stop holding my breath.

It looks almost certain that I will get to sit in the dentist’s chair. I will enjoy every painful moment.

Here’s to the next six months and beyond!

28 thoughts on “Six months on

  1. Helen I saw you out of the corner of my eye at NBH the other day, rushed on to a meeting then came back and you were gone. I wish I had stopped to talk straight away. I’m following your story with such admiration for your resilience – three cheers for six months and MANY more beyond !

    P x

  2. I can never look at my dreaded dentist appointments in the same way! However long we live, I hope we all get to live.

  3. Cause for celebration. I admire your spirit as always. It’s that spirit which will allow you to make the best of your time. Many people waste theirs. Big hug.

  4. Thank you for sharing that and SO well done on your positive attitude. As someone who worries about trivialities you really inspire me to be positive and not to worry about insignificances. Thank you and keep up the fight! Sending tons of support! X

  5. Really identify with so much you have written. Acceptance whilst still living like crazy really does work as a formula! All i can say is when we need it we find srrength and you have it in bucket loads. Have a fabulous summer with as many mundance as well as life changing events you want to pack in. X

  6. Go girl! All best wishes that after recurring cancer with secondaries, you will be like me and still surviving 22 years down the line!

  7. You are an inspiration! Not one person on this planet knows how long he/she will live. At times I wish the medical community would NOT give out a stage and a possible timeline of our demise. Too many of us have survived far beyond what was expected; some gave up on living each day to its fullest; and others have made each moment the beautiful gift it is. I commend your spirit and attitude…keep it up.

  8. Thank you Helen for your latest update. I am so pleased that you are for now at least having a break from this ugly desease, keeping positive all through my ordeal was for me a great help.. I will pray for you again and send some positive thoughts and I will imagine the cancer being killed off like soldiers in battle during war.. Love and prayers Helen. from Denise..

  9. I read your inspiring post while pondering that I really must make a dentist appointment, something I dread. Your words have really shamed me because you are the epitome of one brave lady. I hope you enjoy this summer and many more to come

    Hazel

  10. Helen I am in a similar situation to yourself except I have not been given a date or how long they expect me to live yet. I have followed your blog and can only admire you and your courage. I keep being told how brave I am or how well I look considering how ill I am but it still doesn’t seem brave or real or the fact that I could die at some stage. I will deal with death when it happen and not let it stop me doing things until I absolutely have to. We are lucky in some ways at least we know that death is somewhere on the horizon. Some people have sudden deaths and have no time to make sure they do the things which are most important to them.

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  12. So glad to hear that everything is going well for you Helen! Brilliant news and I am sure that with your positivity you will be another example to doctors of someone who well and truly defies the odds! Great news. x

  13. BTW..if you fancy coming and playing netball with us in HIgh Wycombe some time you’d be really welcome (indoors too so no getting cold and wet!) – another tick on your list then..

  14. We are all aware of what is really important in life, but everyday events somehow disguise our true priority list and make it so easy to start worrying about most trivial things. Thank you for being such an inspiration and reminding us all what really matters and kicking our feeling-sorry-for-our-selves buts by having enormous strength of positive thinking. I know you will continue to be our inspiration for a long, long time. Hugs and kisses!

  15. hi ,

    I follow your blogs as i to have been diagnosesed with ovarian cancer , primary peritioneal to be precise , stage 3 . I have had the surgery , and 6 months carbo/taxol and am in first remission , having been toled it will return and the likely prognosis is ???? 5 yrs max .

    i want to say that i really get a lot from reading them and that you put into words how many of us feel A massive thankyou . . Take care and be strong – well done . love dyana XXXX

  16. Great to read as all ways and so positive given the diagnosis I hope your energy levels pick up so they can match your zest for life . Love your spin on the dentists appointment, I will now look forward to mine with renewed enthusiasm

  17. Thanks for your ongoing story and well done you. I was just thinking, seeing as how you are looking forward to the dentist, would you like to go to the dentist for me. I think there is a good chance I need a filling :-(

  18. Hang in there Helen. You are creating a really powerful legacy!
    I’m not too bad with fillings, but having my teeth scaled/cleaned feels really painful!

  19. I love the way you visualise the disease and distance yourself from it. All the studies prove that people who do this have a much better chance of positive progress, you are an inspiration to us all.

  20. Dear Helen, I am sitting here with a fractured femur .. I was operated last month, am feeling sorry for myself, not being able to move around as I would like, etc. I was listening to The Food Programme and hence my coming to your website. None of us know when the end will come, but I do believe that in writing and sharing your experiences, you will be helping many others come to terms with their situation. All best wishes to you, Karen

  21. Helen, even though we’ve never met, our paths and journeys are so very similar. Cancer and lupus are from certain angles soul sisters…
    Be nice to meet up sometime if you feel like a coffee and pastry somewhere?
    All love,
    Your fellow poet warrior Shaista xxx

  22. Hang in there and get well soon, Helen! Prayers and thoughts are with you always. Know what is like going through the dreaded disease, so chin up and win the fight! I know you can!

  23. Hi Helen, Just read about your list for life on the bbc website – very inspiring. Do you know about parkrun? It might help you achieve your 5k run and your voluntary work, and if not, it’s fun anyway. Good luck with everything you do.

  24. Hi Helen, I work in the pharma world and being very honest, it’s easy to forget why I do what I do. Your story certainly brings it all into focus, gives it a meaning and extra determination that one day a cure will be found for at least some types, if not all these cancers. Stay strong and stay happy. I look forward to your living list over the next few years!

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