On repeat

My life seems to be stuck on repeat.

Get cancer, have treatment, recover. Get cancer again, have treatment, start to recover. Get cancer again, have treatment, start to recover. Get cancer again, have treatment, start to recover. Get cancer again…

Yes, it’s back. The disease is active once more.

The wonderful drugs I started taking last October as part of a clinical trial, had managed to keep it under control. They shrunk the tumours. These clumps of evil cells are still dormant.

But cancer is clever. It morphs and mutates. It learns how to beat whatever gets thrown at it. So I now have new spots of the cancer near to the shrunken, old tumours. Tiny bits of worrying shadows have shown up on my scans.

My consultant described them as flecks. I think of them as like gold flecks in a beautiful Turkish carpet. When you roll out the carpet, they are so small that you hardly see them but they are there and they change everything.

I’ve stopped taking the no-longer-so-wonder-drugs. Looking on the positive side I am now allowed to eat Seville oranges and grapefruit which had been banned. But, thats it.

I feel weary and frustrated that my body is such a successful cancer making machine. It means yet more toxic treatment. Once again I’m back at hospital and ready for danger. My identity wristband is red in case of an emergency. It should alert medical staff not to give me a drug that almost killed me in the past.

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Today, Wednesday 2nd July, I am having chemo cocktail no 36. Just writing that makes me cry.

You may try to imagine how I’m dealing with all this but don’t. Unless you’ve had far too many cycles of chemo it’s impossible to comprehend what I’m feeling. Mostly I’m fine.  I’ve pretty much come to terms with this. I can cope with writing this blog but as for talking about it, I’d rather not. I mean, what is there left to say? It’s awful.

You might be wondering what you can do or to say to me, or to someone in a similar situation. Here’s a link to a brilliant article you should read.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/women/womens-life/10832932/What-to-say-to-a-35-year-old-mother-dying-of-cancer.html

The new tumours are very small. They are not causing me pain. This latest development is a cruel blow – another treatment has stopped working however I still have options. I know that my amazing doctors will never give up on me.

My advanced cancer has advanced again but this is not game over. Not by a long way. I am certainly not dying. I am not terminally ill. Worrying about the future is a waste of my precious energy. I just want to enjoy now.

Lets get this new treatment started.

No 13 on the List for Living!

13) See the Northern Lights

It wasn’t the best of starts. I was on my own in the Arctic Circle. It was cloudy and raining. There was zero chance of seeing the northern lights and and I was stuck on a fishing boat with a bunch of strangers.

The plan had been to meet my friend, Vicky in Oslo. We were supposed to travel to Tromso together. But to be in with a chance of experiencing the aurora borealis we needed to get out of the urban area. To somewhere that the sky is properly dark at night so we’d arranged to go out on the boat. But Vicky had a few plane problems and she was stuck in Oslo. It was a disappointing first night all round.

This is something I’d wanted to do for years. But it was arranged last minute. A few months ago.  We did this trip back in the winter but since then I’ve been too tired to finish writing this.

Anyway back to the story. As we’d left it so late it was a nightmare finding a hotel. We ended up booking an austere place near the airport. It reminded me of a Soviet hotel. This was very fitting. Vicky and I became friends when we both worked in Moscow more than a decade ago.

The next morning, me and the hotel’s stuffed polar bear waited for Vicky to arrive. I sat in the unnaturally dark cafe and checked the weather forecast. To see the northern lights you need clear skies. Yet while we were in Norway all we had to look forward to was snow and more rain. It felt so frustrating. After more delays Vicky finally arrived. Now our quest could properly begin.

Tromso is the most northerly city in Norway. It’s location makes it one of the best places in Europe to see the aurora. That night we had decided to turn to an expert for help. The Aurora Chaser, Kjetil Skogli. He takes you out for the evening in his big car and drives you to the place with the best chance of seeing it.

As we left it was snowing heavily. After an hour or so Kjetil stopped the car. We sat in darkness and starred at the sky. It seemed a bit like ghost hunting, trying to make out shapes in the gloomy light. Your eyes played tricks as you peered into the night.

Eventually there was something…a break in the clouds. It was like someone had slashed the sky and aurora was oouzing out. It was very subtle. Hardly visible to the naked eye. But my camera could see it. Did this count? Could we say we’d seen them? Technically yes. But we didn’t really think so.

The chase continued late into the night. We’d been told to bring our passports and we ended up near the Finnish border. The sky was so dark that the stars were magnificent. Thousands of them. So bright, they didn’t just twinkle, they seem to fizz against the inky backdrop. We’d stopped as there was a very faint smear of northern lights on the horizon. Just above a line of trees. On the other side of us was a mountain range. As we watched and took pictures, our guide laid on a midnight feast of hot tea and biscuits in the dark.

Suddenly a wide beam of white light appeared overhead. It was like a rainbow only without any colour. It was amost as if it was coming from a gigantic torch. It rose from behind the mountains and arched through the sky disappearing behind the trees. It was good but to be honest seeing a sky full of stars was much more impressive. It made you appreciate just how incredible the universe is.

The cameras were picking up amazing sights that the human eye couldn’t really see. It was a brilliant night but we wondered, was this it?

When we were planning this trip to Norway we didn’t want it to just be about the northern lights in case they didn’t appear. The next day we set off into the middle of snowy nowhere for a reindeer sleigh ride. I felt very ill but determined not to miss out. After a few hours sleep on the journey wrapped in my duvet-like coat I’d recovered.

When I woke up we were out in the wilderness. By the time we met our reindeers it was late afternoon and already dark. The snow that covered the countryside seemed to glow as our animals ambled across fields and valleys. It was such a tranqil experience.

And then there it was. Right above our heads was the aurora borealis!!

It was like a thick line of sand in the sky. It was quite straight, bright white, almost iridescent. We had to lie on our backs on the sleighs. The reindeers didn’t take much notice and just plodded on. We stared above us as the line of light changed. Slowly shifting, it formed a V shape. A kind of squiggle and then went into the pattern of waves across the dark sky. It lasted for maybe 30 seconds.

It felt very special to witness this. I was so happy that we’d seen the northern lights especially on a night when we weren’t even looking for them.

That night we slept out in a communal wood cabin, only heated with a log burner. It was quite basic with no electricity or indoor toilet. Outside it sounded like there was a pack of wolves. But they were just huskies. The following day they were going to be part of our next adventure – dog sledding.

I was worried that I wasn’t fit enough to drive the sled so Vicky stood on the back while I sat back on the contraption. It was properly cold but we had special thermal suits, blue overalls made us look like plumbers! Even more snow had fallen overnight so there were untouched deep drifts. The huskies couldn’t wait to start. They sounded as excited as I felt.

Racing through the snow, up and down hills, we whizzed through Christmassy scenes of snow covered fir trees. I didn’t care about being out of shape I really wanted a go at driving. Halfway through we had the chance to swap. Most of the time our huskies easily whisked us though the snowy course but I did have to do some pushing when we got stuck in the deep snow. When we got up speed it felt exhilarating and slightly scary. I loved it.

It was quite physically demanding but worth the effort and the aching afterwards. It made me remember than this is the real me. That I will, hopefully, be able to do more active things in the future. I felt truly felt alive. Life isn’t about a diagnosis, it’s about the right now.

Happy, we headed back to Tromso. For our last night in Norway we’d a booked a good hotel. But we were only there for an hour or so before we were back on the road, chasing the northern lights one last time. More boiler suits, high vis waistcoats and a load of strangers all united by the hope of seeing something. This time we were on the Marianne’s Heaven on Earth Aurora Chaser Tour. We set out at 5pm. Already dark, it was freezing and only going to get colder .

I know I wasn’t the only one who felt like we must be slightly crazy to go to such lengths. As we drove the snow fall was so heavy that it pelted the windscreen. I wondered why we were bothering.

Our first stop was in a lay-by. We’d driven so far that we’d left the snowstorm behind. Our sights were set on a mountain which overlooked a traditional wooden cottage. It had smoke twirling out the chimney with a slight aurora plume behind it.

Yay it was the northern lights! It was great but not too impressive. I wanted more than just smudges which seemed like a hint of something and nothing. As the evening turned into night, we pulled off the main road next to a fjord. Mountains surrounded the water. But I didn’t notice the sound of the waves all I heard was one of guides shouting at us.

“Quick, get out! They’re here, they’re right above our heads.”

And sure enough, there they were! On the last night of our trip we’d got to see the full glory of the northern lights.

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It was spectacular to watch the aurora dance for us. The glowing lights weaved and morphed, you could see shapes and delicate patterns. The white light, with hints of pink and green became stripes in the sky. The lines turned and twisted. Sometimes melting into waves.

At one point I was transfixed by what seemed like a jagged cloud of aurora dripping light, almost like a shower of stars, then it seemed like someone had turned a light on behind me. This was another northern lights show starting and it was so bright it lit up much of the sky.

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This is what I imagined when I was writing my List for Living.

It was just glorious and went on for about an hour, Vicky and I had time to pose for photos, laughing at our safety first outfits.

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I took many pictures but I didn’t just snap away. Some of the time I stood and smiled at the show.

What we experienced was more than just ticking something off a bucket list. It was about appreciating the incredible beauty of nature. While I may never beat the cancer it made me feel so alive and filled with joy.

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Now that all would have been a fantastic and we would have gone home delighted. However the people leading the group were very passionate. They were convinced there was much more to see.

Before heading any further though we had a midnight BBQ near to a forest. Yep, we sat around a campfire in the snow. The northern lights streaked above us in ghostly white shapes. Swirling in the freezing air as we huddled near to the flames.

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And so our travels continued and we were rewarded with such wonderful scenes. We saw the aurora again and again. Every time we stopped there was a different dance. At one point majestic jets of lights formed white rainbows from one mountain peak.

Then there was the most impressive sight of all. By this point it was the early hours of the morning and the temperature had dropped to -15c. Vicky and practically everyone else were too cold to leave the minibus but I made Vicky get out for this one.

It was almost like there was a volcanic eruption of light. What looked like bright clouds rushed down the edge of steep, snowy slopes across a lake from us. When they reached the ground the northern light sprang back up into the air. Creating mesmerising circular shapes in the sky. This was one of the most amazing moments of my life.

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It was around 4am when we got back to our hotel. Exhausted but so exhilarated that I could hardly sleep. The northern lights seemed to be imprinted on my eyes. Even when I closed them I could still see the glow of the aurora dancing away.

Spoonfulness

Wow it’s been a while. So hello again!

I haven’t been writing for the past few weeks or so as I’ve just been incredibly tired. I’m still short of magnesium. Stupid, stupid magnesium. Ever since January when chemo ended I’ve been having a weekly IV drip of the stuff. Hours of being hooked up to a machine on the chemo ward. There’s been no escaping that place!

I’ve gone from having almost non-existent levels of magnesium to having half what is considered normal. Thats where it’s stopped. For ages my levels have refused to budge. Here’s the irony….having chemo depleted my stores of magnesium so I need more but because of the chemo my kidneys can’t retain it.

It’s so very frustrating. Plus on top of the exhaustion, it also causes muscle weakness and cramps.

With limited energy I have to be quite selective about what I do and how I spend my spoons. I’ve mentioned the spoons before. When you have such fatigue it helps to think of what energy you do have as something tangible like spoons. You only get so many spoons a day. Sometimes none at all. There has been a severe spoon shortage just lately and so I’ve been using them sparingly.

I have used some spoons on exciting things. Hopefully soon I will blog about what done from my List for Living but have been too tired to write about!

No 21 on the List for Living

21) Hold an exhibition of my cow photographs

For as long as I can remember I’ve loved taking photographs of cattle. Growing up on a farm in Gloucestershire meant they were always in the fields around us. With a gentle and curious nature, I think they are wonderful animals.

I’d always fancied having an exhibition of my pictures but never thought much more about it until I came up with my List for Living. My friend Gill, who runs the Garden Tea Rooms in Worcestershire offered to display my work. Over coffee, cake and chemo, we planned the exhibition – ‘Have I got MOOs for you’.

Many of the images that I selected were taken while I was going through cancer treatment. There are not only cows in my collection but also plenty of steers. In other words both girls and boys.

Taking pictures of these big, beautiful beasts has helped to get my through the difficult times. Over the past couple of years my parents have looked after me as I recovered from major surgery and relentless chemo. Being in the countryside was a tonic in itself, plus taking photos of the cattle over the garden fence took my mind off things.

Now once again I’m trying to recuperate from chemo. I’m still ridiculously exhausted but putting this together has given me something lovely to focus on while not moving far from the sofa.

The exhibition opened this weekend. It was good to feel nervous about something which didn’t involve blood tests or scans. We arrived early in the morning to get it ready. There were 15 pictures to put on display. This is my favourite, it features a pair of cheeky brothers.

I should say that it was my friend Rache who worked out how to put up the hooks on the walls. That nervous excitement meant I wasn’t much use. She also took these photographs of my photographs. Really all I did was stand back and decide where to put them!

It was a great feeling, such a sense of satisfaction, to finally see my pictures on the walls in their own exhibition. With the cattle grazing around us, there was only one thing left to do and that was to celebrate with a cream tea.

‘Have I got MOOS for you’ runs until the end of the month at the Garden Tea Rooms which is next to Witley Court in Great Witley, Worcestershire.

http://www.witleytearooms.co.uk

Special thanks to Gill Edmonds – Making People Happy With Cake!

Happy Mothering Sunday

Mothering Sunday, two years ago, it felt like I was barely alive. I was stuck in hospital. But it was thanks to my mum that I wasn’t dead. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to express just how grateful I am to her.

I hadn’t long been out of intensive care. I was rushed there the day after my massive cancer-removing, life-saving operation. While I was recovering from the surgery, I slept pretty much all the time, but suddenly without warning I quietly stopped breathing. It was my mum, who’d been sitting beside my bed, realised that something was badly wrong and raised the alarm. She saved my life. For the second time.

The first time was much less dramatic. A month or so previously I’d had some worrying symptoms. The severe pain had been dismissed by a couple of medical professionals. They’d said it was probably nothing to worry about. My mum wasn’t convinced and made sure that I went for some proper tests. She was right to make me see my consultants. She ensured that I survived.

 

Then…

That Mothering Sunday in hospital in 2012 I felt so incredibly ill. I’d lost a huge amount of weight and could hardly walk. I didn’t realise how frail I was at the time. Mum and dad visited that afternoon. It wasn’t your usual Mothering Sunday. We chatted in the ward’s television room. I got there with the help of a walking frame. For the past couple of weeks I hadn’t been able to sit in a chair without collapsing so for me these were big achievements. We celebrated that I’d made it through the worse.

I’ve been thinking about this recently as I accidentally came across some photos a few days ago from that Mothering Sunday. To be honest I can’t really remember them being taken. My cancer treatment over the past two years seems so much of a blur. Perhaps it’s easier to forget many things. Last Mothering Sunday I was bang in the middle of more chemo.

But this year is so different.

The chemo cocktails are finished. Hopefully it’ll be a long while before I need any more. I don’t feel ill, I feel brilliant. I’m still very tired but I just have to pace myself.

 

…now

I haven’t been able to do too much lately other than concentrate on recovering and getting my normal life back. Plus I’ve been planning a few more things from my List for Living. I’m now settled in my own home in the countryside. I’m very much enjoying number 1 and 2 on my bucket list!

Compared to the past couple of years, I feel so much better. But there is something else that makes this Mothering Sunday so special. While you read this I could well be baking or boiling or maybe burning. This year, for the first time since getting cancer, I’m cooking a family lunch for Mothering Sunday. It’s a very small way of saying thank you. However lunch turns out, this will be a very happy Mothering Sunday.

Result

I’m back. Finally, for the first time in months I feel much more like me.

The trouble with chemo is that it takes such a long time to recover from. It doesn’t help that by the time I finished, my magnesium levels were almost non-existent. Slowly I’m getting better. I wish that just having the toxic drugs automatically annihilated tumours but it’s not that easy. You could go through all this and it still have no effect.

One of the hardest parts of having cancer is waiting for important test results. It’s like having a really evil lottery ticket. You get automatic entry into the draw. With the right set of numbers, your life could be transformed. You get to have more years on the clock, a renewed sense of hope for the future and a holiday from the chemo.

Before you find out the result it seems that anything is possible. You run though all the lovely things that the good news would bring. It seems so real. Despite the odds, which for this advanced stage of ovarian cancer are bleak, you always dream of winning the jackpot.

What makes this cancer lottery such a nasty game is that being given the wrong set of numbers can only mean more pain, suffering and worse. When it’s bad news, it feels like you were almost within touching distance of something great and it’s been snatched away. When the reality is that you weren’t even close.

So several weeks after finishing chemo I was back at the hospital to find out my magic numbers. It’s at times like this that you’ll find me next to the fish tank. Sitting in a high backed chair with hard wooden arms. The chair is a nasty shade of pink. It’s a colour that is probably supposed to be welcoming to cancery people. When to me all it says is bulk buy and wipe clean.

I am solid block of nerves. Not the excited, adrenalin infused buzz that I get when I’m about to do something scary or go live on TV. But there is a crushing lump of anxiety which fills my body. It makes my breathing short and my brain run slowly.

You wait and wonder about the numbers.

My coat is off and laying across my lap and my bag is by my side. I am more than ready to spring out of my seat when my name is called. The fish tank seat is nearest to the consultants’ rooms.

No news is good news. For those few moments or even hours you are not being told something horrible, which is why I don’t mind the waiting part.

It’s the wondering that I find stressful. It’s as if every cell in my body is on standby. Ready for flight or fight but all you can do is sit. I’m almost frozen with fear. I don’t really want to talk, I can’t eat or drink, I can’t move. The tips of my fingers tingle with nervous energy. Or maybe it’s the chemicals.

You try to think positive but after getting so much bad news you know that hope alone won’t change a thing. You prepare for the worst. My brain is jittery.

Yes or no? Good or bad? Life or death? My consultants don’t mess around. We’ve been through this so many times before. They know that I want the cold, hard facts straight away. It only takes a second to find out. The combination of chemo and clinical trial drugs are working. It’s the right result.

Yes. Good. Life.

All I feel is relief. Not happiness or joy. This pure relief is similar to the sensation you get from quickly drinking a glass of something strong and full of ice, it seems to flood through my body. I relax.

The enormity of the news is only now starting to sink in as I start to feel more like myself. It means I get to live longer. Hopefully years longer. This is amazing!

My cancer is not cured but the disease is dormant once again. No one knows how long it will stay this way. Right now I’m just trying to focus on being the current holder of a winning ticket.

Chemo no 6

It’s all over now. My last chemo, thankfully, was a couple of weeks ago. It’s probably not the final one ever but it’s the last one for a while. Maybe for months. Hopefully for years. I’m so happy to be at the end of this current course of treatment. I’ve now had 35 chemo cocktails in total, I think, most of them over the last two years. To not have to face the prospect of that evil stuff, like that above, dripping into my veins is wonderful.

I hope the break is long enough to get some hair. It’s still a shock to see my bald head. I really miss not being able to tie it back. Yes I could do that with some of my wigs but it’s not the same. Anyway I’m not really into wigs at the moment. Wearing a wig takes up precious energy. Instead most days I wear a soft hat. It’s much more comfortable and doesn’t seem out of place at this time of year.

But to celebrate chemo no 6 I wore my favourite wig to hospital. It’s the one you see me wear when I’m occasionally on television. I now have an impressive collection of them however my work wig is the one that I love wearing the most. Despite this it still has no name!

I always like to try and look smart when I go for treatment or consultations. It gives me back a tiny portion of control, knowing that I’m not too ill to wear make-up and a dress. If I look well, I feel better. I feel worse when I don’t make an effort. Cancer forces you to give up so much of your identity that you have to cling onto what you can.

Chemo 6 was totally unremarkable. I saw my consultant, The Professor. It was the best kind of appointment as there were no test results to be told about. We ran through all the side effects of the past few weeks but there was nothing alarmingly awful. Just standard awful.

For this treatment, mum and my aunt Rose came along. To keep them entertained I sent them out on missions. First to the pharmacy, now thats always it’s an adventure which tends to take ages – finding the place and then waiting in the inevitably long queue. After picking up my prescription I asked them to go in search of a jacket potato with melted cheese. They were successful on both counts.

I then slept for a few hours. Probably the most interesting thing was eating a baked potato in bed in the afternoon. It was the first time I’d had eaten something hot while having chemo. The day really was that dull.

The nurses stayed late to ensure that my treatment got finished. I ended up being the last patient to leave the ward. Parts of it were already in darkness and the cleaner had started his evenings work. As I walked out my spirits lifted. I had a dizzy, drunk, fuzzy feeling. The potent cocktail of super strength drugs and steroids was acting like the rocket fuel, giving me the boost I needed to get home.

I felt so wired and that we started our journey by bus. It took us through streets that have become so familiar to me. Past the school where I used to play netball matches for the BBC team and then along a road to the sports centre where we used to train. The outdoor court we used was next to a row of football pitches. It had a concrete canopy as it was just below a busy fly-over. With such a stark, urban setting, it always felt like the set for a trainer advert.

The bus stopped near the training ground and a sporty looking woman got on. She was dressed in the kind of kit that I used to wear for netball. As we travelled further away from the hospital I smiled to myself. I realised that this was a tantalising glimpse of what my life after chemo could be like.

Happier New Year

This may seem a bit late but pretty much most of Christmas and the New Year has passed me by. There were some lovely moments however far too much of the last few weeks have been a blur of illness, aches and a throat full of the most painful mouth ulcers.

When it gets this bad you have to pause your life. Most of the stuff you want to do just doesn’t happen. You have a constant exhaustion. Meanwhile it seems like everything around you just carries on as normal. Recently there have been some wonderful comments on my blog. Thank you. I’m sorry that I don’t have the energy to reply right now but they’re all read and apperciated.

The three weeks recovery time after chemo no 5 are always the worst because it’s the penultimate load of drugs. The build up of toxic chemicals is horrific. There is no real chance to recover before the final session. Somehow chemo no 6 doesn’t seem quite so awful as you know that the treatment is over. At least for the time being.

So it was on Christmas Eve that I had chemo no 5. This was exactly a year after being told that the disease I’d thought I’d fought off was advanced and would kill me someday soon. What is it about my cancer that ensures I spend Christmas Eve at hospital??

This year there were no mince pies as we waited. It didn’t matter as I’m not allowed to eat on the morning of my chemo anyway. But there was some Christmas cheer on the ward. Especially as my friend Chantal brought along some festive flowers.

I saw the same lovely consultant as the year before. I’ve been her patient for so long. We have shared some Incredible highs….she gave me the all clear from my ever first lot of cancer. And more recently, some terrible lows…on Christmas Eve 2012 she explained that I may only have months to live.

But Christmas Eve 2013 seemed so much more positive. The latest test results were encouraging and showed that the chemo was giving my latest tumour a good kicking. Most importantly I was still alive! Still able to sit in that small, bright room and talk about my future. On the way out I gave my consultant a hug. I thanked her for helping to prolong my life. There’s not many people you can say that to!

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It wasn’t great being in hospital at that time of year. But at least we were all able to leave at the end of the day. There was a unique feeling that we had something special waiting for us when the treatment finished. Normally all you have to look forward to is projectile vomiting and a chemo hangover.

Even my bag of drugs had a Christmassy look. As they slipped into my veins I had a dreamless doze under a thin, blue blanket. When I woke up it was time for Christmas.

That night, when we got back, I slept in my own home. I’ve now properly moved to the countryside. Thats no 1 and 2 that I’ve been able to tick off my List for Living! It means I’ve stayed alive long enough to do the most important on my list. As I fell asleep I was happy that this Christmas Eve was much better than the last one.

No 50 on the List for Living


50) Drink champagne in one of the best bars in the world just before Christmas to celebrate still being alive.

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It’s exactly a year since I was told I may only have six months to live!! And here I am, very much alive.

I marked the special day with a festive chemo cocktail at hospital. But I’ve also had some proper celebrations. If you keep beating the odds what else can you do but drink a glass or two of champagne.

Happy Christmas! x

Chemo no 4

If you’ve never experienced chemotherapy then you should consider yourself incredibly lucky. It is really, truly, one of the worst things I’ve ever had to go through.

I’m now just over half way through my current course of treatment. What makes it so bad is that it builds up in your system. This cumulative effect makes each evil chemo cocktail more horrific than the last one. This stage is also tough because I’m still a while off from finishing.

It seems like ages ago that I had chemo no 4. It’s taken me more than a week to start to feel sort of normal.

My normal is very different these days. It means I feel okay. I’m not stuck in bed. I’m not throwing up. I’m not feeling too emotional. I can walk without too much pain. That’s my new normal.

Despite this I still quite enjoy the actual chemo day itself. As usual I had lovely friends there to help distract me. They came armed with some very thoughtful presents. So Chemo no 4 went quickly.

But within hours, I could feel that the poison was working. This doesn’t usually happen so fast. Over the next few days it got worse. It seemed like I was tumbling into a deep pit of misery. My body and my head hurt so badly. There was intense tiredness and nausea and all sorts of other horribleness. It took four days to hit rock bottom. It was a very dark, bleak place and it took far too long to leave.

Now, I’m out and suddenly it’s almost Christmas. When you go through cancer treatment you kinda dip in and out of life. You lose track of time.

Luckily I have something to remind me about 25th December. My next session of chemo is on Christmas Eve. It’s not the most festive of things to do. But I’m still here. And this time last year I wasn’t sure that I would be.