Soldiering on

I thought I had it all sorted.

I have the chemo; James Bond kills the remaining cancer cells. I’m slowly poisoned as I imagine my own personal army of special agents blasting away at the enemy inside me. I try to carry on as much as normal while I visualise the 007s carrying out this covert operation for me.

But it turns out that I’m at war too.

Following my scary setback last week I had to see The Professor. Despite being totally exhausted, it wasn’t quite as awful as I felt during my emergency stay in hospital. With the infection launching a full on assault, my immune system dropped so low it was almost non-existent. Even he had to admit that it was impressively bad.

As I chatted to my consultant in a small clinical looking room I could hardly think straight. I was so shattered. It was such an effort just to sit on the plastic chair. Really I wanted to have a nice lie down on the medical couch that I could see behind a flimsy curtain. It was so inviting.

I had the appointment with The Professor at my usual hospital yesterday as I’m due to have chemo today. I had to convince him that I was ready to take the battering that you get from the drip of dangerous drugs.

Luckily the blood tests confimed that I was well enough. I’m so glad that it’ll continue as planned even though I still feel shockingly ill.

This will be my fifth session of chemo. After today, I’ll have just one more to go before it’s all over. The Professor reassured me that what I’m going is awful but nothing out of the ordinary. I’m not sure why but having someone else acknowledge just how horrendous things are somehow makes you feel a bit better. It was a welcome boost.

It’s not that I’ve been feeling down. It’s just that I have little energy to do much more than focus on finishing my cancer treatment.

It’s incredibly traumatic, it’s as if I’m in a warzone, my consultant explained to me. For six months now I’ve been under attack both physically and mentally. There’s the pain, the fatigue and the fear. You’re not sure if you’ll make it out alive. The last time I was anywhere near a warzone as a BBC foreign correspondent it was pretty stressful and I was only there for a week or so.

It makes sense – this is a fight for my very survival. While I think of myself as battling this killer disease, I’ve never seen myself as an actual soldier on the frontline. I’ve left that part to my gun-toting troop of James Bonds.

To be honest the fog of tiredness has meant I’ve considered myself to be more like a zombie but I must change that.

It’s much more positive to imagine myself as a solider and a successful one at that. The Professor took great delight in telling me that according to the very latest test results I’m still clear of cancer. So I’m already winning the war!

7 thoughts on “Soldiering on

  1. You have the most brilliant strength of character. Wading through that wave of exhaustion is so tough. See you soon? I sent you a suggestion on Facebook. Let me know if it works for you..or when. Would love to bring cake when you feel up for it!

  2. Good-good-good, clear tests results are so very good. I’m sorry to hear you’re absolutely wiped, but five outta six nearly done and you’re going to make it. Chemo is so darn-tootin devastating at times, but simultaneously, it is obliterating the cancer. You’re almost there – just keep pushing forward!


  3. Helen…… Number 5 – thankfully 4 done, but I cannot imagine just how awful each and every chemo is. SO although you appear to be nearly there, it is still very tough (as last week demonstrated).

    Great news that you are well enough to have another bout of chemo – remember those very grim dark early days….. you have already come so far. Want to wish you a BIG hug to get you thru’ each day.

    Keep as positive as possible – The Professor has given you a big boost saying that the cancer has been removed. This chemo is designed to seek and destroy any rogue cells in your body. Ah Mr Bond we were expecting you…… I did think of you when 007 was escorting the Queen to the Olympic stadium last week. Thinking of you

  4. Helen, you are doing so well and the end is nearly in sight now. I can’t imagine how you feel but I do know that the chemo gets more and more gruelling and I’ve seen it bring a big, fit burly farmer to his knees, so I know that after this you can face anything. We’re all thinking of you, sending positive thoughts and willing this to be over soon for you. Lots of love Jx

  5. Oh, you’re a soldier all right Helen, I recognise the characteristics from the only soldier I knew well, my dad. The main thing is the positivity. Not a great joker, my old man. But the sheer morale of the man… As far as he was concerned, bad stuff happens, you can’t do anything about it, you can’t avoid it. Not sure I agreed with him there, but that’s the fatalism of the soldier caught in a world upheaval, I suppose. But once something bad had happened, in his own words, he was ‘buggered’ if he was going to let it get him down. He’d never have used the word, but he was utterly immune to defeatism. “What’s the ruddy point of moaning about it?” he’d say, when we wailed at some misfortune, real or imagined. He knew his strengths, and they lay in physical endurance, dry humour, comradeship and a strong sense of justice. You know yours. He was from a different generation; ours is not so accepting, so passive, perhaps. We want to make choices, we don’t just accept what’s thrown at us. And for that, we need information, the best we can get. Like your blog. We’re not fatalists, but there are still plenty of positivists about. I think I’m looking at one. Oh, did I mention? He survived cancer in his early 60s and lived to be 86. He might have struggled to understand women in the army. But then, he had no idea how good the uniform would have looked on you.

  6. keep on going girl with your James Bond cells and your determination we are sure you WILL WIN this battle. lots of love
    Sue and Richard

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