Merry Christmas from the chemo ward! I’m not sure why but the coffee cups now come with a seasonal greeting.

The weird thing is that it could well be Christmas for all I know. When you’re going through intensive treatment which lasts for such a long stretch, time seems to be elastic. Months melt into each other. You lose track of the seasons. Each week is pretty much the same and mostly spent inside.

The first ever time that I had chemo more than 11 years ago I found this so hard. I really missed the elements in a way I never could have imagined. I longed to feel the rain on my face, to get cold waiting for a bus.

It wasn’t until then that I understood how much the weather helps you to feel alive. It doesn’t matter if it’s good or bad. In fact I think that bad is better.

That’s why one of the things on my original List for Living was to experience extreme weather. And I certainly did that. When I was based abroad as a foreign correspondent I lived through some of the coldest temperatures on record. There was plenty of snow, ice and all sorts of wonderful wintery weather. Perhaps that explains how come I’m not quite so worried about being disconnected from the weather during this lot of treatment.

Even so, I do what I can to be out in the elements. Before chemo#15 I had lunch outside with my friend Anna. I wanted to absorb as much of the sunshine as I could before an afternoon in the not-so-great indoors.

Once on the ward, watching the sunlight bounce off the bricks, was as good as it got. This kind of view only adds to the feeling of your life being put on pause. But last week I found out that I’d actually managed to turn back time.

To make sure that the toxic drugs aren’t doing too much harm to your body you have various tests. One horrible side effect is that it can seriously damage your bones. A while ago I had a scan to check their density. I’ve now discovered that amazingly I have the bones of a 20 year old!

At hospital there was some more good news. I was told that I won’t have the week of chemo which I missed tagged onto the end of my treatment. It means that I’ll finish in just over a week as planned. It’s like getting a week back which is brilliant. I’m so incredibly overwhelmingly tired of it all.

I’m relieved that my third series of anti-cancer treatment will be over soon. I always seem to have chemo at the same time of year. With bank holidays and the start of spring I know that once again, it will be over soon.

There’s another sign that it won’t be long ’til the end of chemo – Sasha the dog has had her winter coat trimmed. She is all ready for lots of sunny days outdoors where once again she’ll be helping me to recover from the past few months.

12 thoughts on “Chemo#15

  1. Can think of no better companion than a friend like Sasha with her new hairdo to help you recover – she looks so eager. Wonderful news about your bones. Something positive to think about. My Race for Life pack arrived on Saturday morning. Thats me and 15 other girls ready for 2nd June in Belfast. I really would not have had the inspiration to go ahead with it had it not been for you Helen. When I say ready thats a slight exaggeration!!! Went speed walking this morning and if I was to be scanned now I might find I have the bones of a 90 year old. I can hardly move. Wishing you a speedy week ahead for your last Chemo cocktail and the road to recovery.

  2. I totally get the thing of wanting to be outdoors when you can’t. I hope you have lots of fun times with your gorgeous (and neatly trimmed) dog. I have a slightly different issue with the outdoors these days as my skin is highly sensitive since having Total Body Irradiation, so I can’t do much sun without SPF30 and hats and long sleeves… Booo! :(

    I was only thinking of you the other day, so it’s great that you’ve blogged again as I was wondering how you’re doing. I’ve ticked off one item on my List for Living… which I’ll write about soon. I was also thinking about your list item of wanting to volunteer and I want to propose something to you. Drop me a line at and I’ll tell you my idea and see if it appeals. :)

  3. I’ve been looking out for you Helen – glad you’re managing to experience the sun, in whatever shape, or form. Just spent the evening with a fellow composer – talking about the last time we saw each other in Oslo in -10 (January); so your observations about weather, o so apt…… being a composer I really sense the seasons, feelings, sensations…. I spent an hour & a half today with no. 2 son, playing tennis, feeling lucky to be alive. It was a blissful and hot day. I’ve been stuck in hospitals at various points, wondering how it’s going to turn out. Live is so transient; we are so very lucky if we have time enough to get bored! Truly, we are given so many chances to make the best of the ticking clock… I wish you well – looking out for your next blog!

  4. Helen – As usual, you’ve hit a personal note, and I thank you (yet again) for identifying my problem – another “AHA!” moment, if you will. Due to my cancer treatment side effects, I feel like a shut-in. Getting out and walking in the elements – despite the pain – is my goal, and I mean to achieve it! Another great post!

  5. we’ve been having lots of sunshine in the N.W. so sending you some.

  6. Helen – How is your book coming along? We all know it will be a bestseller.

  7. I used to ask for the chemo chairs by the window and in the sun so that I could get the sun’s warmth. One of the first things I did when I finished chemo was go to the shore ( New Jersey) walk on the sand and put my toes in the water. It was cold but the sun was shining.

    I hope the sun shines on you and Sasha.

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