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!

Back for good

These are the words I never ever wanted to write again. I have cancer AGAIN.

When I first started this blog last March I wrote something very similar. Back then there was hope. I went on to have so much horrendous treatment. I really thought that I’d killed the cancer. Now it turns out that the cancer will kill me.

This is the third time I’ve been diagnosed with the disease. I have advanced cancer, the kind you can never get rid of. All I can now is try to destroy each tumour every time I get one. I’m not terminally ill but I will die a lot sooner than I ever imagined.

The crazy thing is that I feel so well and yet I might be dead by the summer.

The worst case scenario is that I have six months to live. So little time. I’ve been told that it’s a good idea to ‘get my affairs in order’. That’s such a hateful phrase. I’ve started to write my will and think about my funeral. You may be finding this hard to read, I’m finding it almost impossible to comprehend that this is actually happening. It’s unbelievable. This is the most difficult thing I’ve ever had to deal with.

Can it really be months?? I’m an optimistic person and I just don’t think so. I reckon it’s better to believe that I have ages left to live and be proved wrong, than think I don’t have long and be proved right.

Even so, I have to be realistic. I probably only have a few years left to live. Most likely I can expect five years. Maybe ten or more if I’m very lucky.

As you can imagine I’m utterly devastated. I feel upset, angry, emotional, sad…..it’s just so unfair. I cry so often especially when I break the news to someone. It’s all so traumatic. At times it seems like my head is going to explode as I have so many thoughts swirling around. Right now, the world seems pretty meaningless and irrelevant. Nothing really matters.

It was all so different a few weeks ago. I celebrated my D Day. It was 11 years since the first time I was diagnosed. A big happy cancer-versary to me. To be honest, I didn’t really celebrate too much as the next day I had a check-up with my consultant, The Professor. It was a scheduled appointment, three months after my last one.

“Any symptoms, any pain?” The Professor asked as I sat down in the bare white room.

“Well, some. A little pain near my scars from the operations,” I casually replied not sure whether it was serious enough to mention it.

“Right, you need a scan straight away.” He didn’t need to tell me anything else. The way he looked at me said it all.

And that was it. The moment my life changed forever.

It was at that very second I realised the stupid cancer had returned. I desperately wanted to take my words back. I tried to persuade The Professor that the pain wasn’t really that bad. I’d only had it occasionally at night for a couple of weeks.

“No matter what you say, you need a scan, you won’t convince me otherwise,” the consultant told me firmly.

Of course I had that scan. As I waited for the results, I was overwhelmed by worry. I’ve never been more frightened.

A few days later it was Christmas Eve and I was back at the hospital for the results. The nursing sister brought round a plate of homemade mince pies but it just made the grim atmosphere seem even worse. Only the urgent cases were being seen. Why else have an appointment on this day of the year?

Just as I feared the cancer had come back. Or maybe it never really went away. The tumour is tiny. Just 9mm. It’s so small, I could barely see it when I was shown the scan. Precisely 11 years and 1 day after being told I first had cancer, I have it again in exactly the same spot.

What I felt was likely to have been the tumour growing inside me. With ovarian cancer you normally don’t get any obvious symptoms. That’s why most women die from the disease. It’s incredible that for the third time in a row, my body had told me about a tumour.

This shocking news is still just sinking in. I’ve had a few weeks to start to come to terms with it but it doesn’t seem real. Next Tuesday though the reality will hit me. I start another round of chemotherapy.

My hair will fall out; I’ll get sick and be so incredibly tired. But my time is limited. I can’t afford to put on my life on hold any longer. I want to carry on as normal as much as I can. I’m still going to work, and plan to drink the odd cheeky vodka and flirt with unsuitable men. Maybe not all at the same time!

When I had cancer the first time I came up with my List for Living. It was a five year plan of things I always wanted to do. Thanks to the list I became a BBC foreign correspondent and had the most amazing adventure abroad. Now that the cancer is back for good I’m so glad that I followed my dreams.

I’ve been writing a book about my List for Living. I want to get the book published so doing that will be going on my new list. Every day I have more Ideas about what else I want to do before I die. Some people have asked me if there is anything they can do. Once I’ve come up with my new list, you could always help me with something on that.

I want to have fun and enjoy my last few months/years. Especially as chemo will now be a part of my life forever. It will keep me alive. The aim is to shrink the tumour and all its friends that follow. I will have an evil chemo cocktail every week for 18 weeks in the very same hospital as before.

It’s a case of here we go again. It’s so frustrating after all I’ve been through. With this stage of cancer my treatment options are limited. There are only a few types of drugs that can help me. This is terrible, terrible news but it could be worse. I could be terminally ill.

I know how I’m probably going to die and roughly when it’ll happen. It’s weird having a likely expiration date. I really hope my Best Before is at least 2023. But you know it’s not the years in your life that matter; it’s the life in your years.

Once I have my affairs in order I’m not going to dwell on the dying, I will soon have a new list and a whole lot more living to do.