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!


I’m very happy to say that my cancer is having an identity crisis. It might sound strange but when you have this stupid disease you see it as more than just a collection of killer cells. It has its own unique character. You personify it.

When I was diagnosed last March, I thought of my tumour as a party crasher. After all it had turned up uninvited. He (and it always is a he, although I’m not sure why) was dirty, dishevelled and no friend of mine.

I worked hard to get rid of this party crasher who was still there the next day. I imagined him as someone festering on the sofa, feet up and swigging on the dregs of the night before. He wore flip flops but the soles of his feet are filthy. He only went after months of treatment.

Then, on Christmas Eve, I found out that he’d come back and he was much more menacing. There’s no chance of showing it the door for good.

This is a kamikaze disease. When you think about it, cancer makes no sense. By killing me, it will also destroying itself. So, I imagined my tumour to be a suicide bomber. Wearing a khaki coloured vest stuffed with explosives, he also carried a hand grenade for good measure.

When I thought about my cancer this time, he was primed and ready with his deadly cargo, getting bolder by the day. I saw it as something very dangerous. Yet the only weapon left was chemotherapy.

This was never going to get rid of the cancer. The best case scenario would have been to wipe out the tumour completely or shrink it. The worst case scenario would have been for the cancer to not respond to the drugs at all.

Now it’s over and I’ve had tests to establish how the treatment has worked. Disappointingly, it hasn’t gone quite as well as I’d hoped. The tumour is still there, it’s not gone away. However there is some good news. It hasn’t got any bigger and it has changed. For the moment it’s stable.

It means that my cancer has a new identity. The bomber has become a boxer. Not a very successful one at that. My boxer, with his red satin shorts and a sweat on, has been floored by the toxic drugs. He’s on the mat and the referee is counting out loud.

My boxer may be down but he’s not out. He will get up and fight again. Each time he does I’ll be ready. I have top consultants in my corner. They have some new treatment for me to try – something that really packs a punch.

But until the boxer wakes up I’m on my chemo holiday.


For the first time in months I woke up without a nose bleed. It’s a sign that my chemo-cation is coming to an end.

It hasn’t been a typical holiday although I’ve mostly just done a whole load of nothing. As I recover from my anti-cancer treatment, the hardest thing to deal with is the tiredness.

It’s been a few weeks since I finished my chemo, since then I’ve mostly slept or sat in a comfy chair but my favourite place to be is outside lying on the grass with the sun on my face. A soft fabric hat protects my thinning hair (more of that later.) Sasha the dog likes to sit next to me. I ask her why when I’ll stop being ridiculously exhausted. She has no answer.

Some of the side effects are easing. So, my moon-face seems to be deflating. But others are actually getting worse. My feet are so swollen that wearing shoes is painful. My toe nails and one finger nail appear like they’ve been dipped in acid.

My eyebrows and eyelashes are growing back but the hair on my head is falling out. And I mean seriously coming out. Towards the end of the chemo cocktail sessions my hair had started to grow. Now that it’s falling out in handfuls it seems so cruel. It’s difficult to stop myself constantly checking but each time I’m rewarded with a load of my hair between my fingers. I reckon that I’m going to need my wigs for longer than I thought.

Compared to what I went through during my treatment, both the hair loss and tiredness seem much harsher. It’s meant that my chemo holiday has been tough however there was one amazing afternoon when I got away from it all.

A couple of weeks ago I went to a Buckingham Palace garden party. As you do! Along with several thousand smartly dressed people, I had afternoon tea with the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh.

My fug of fatigue was gone, it felt as if I’d woken up and for a few hours I was back to my old self. I think it was down to being part of something so special.

During my chemo-cation I also had a trip to Accident and Emergency. Not quite so pleasant. Last Wednesday I caught an infection and my temperature started to rise. As this happened before I knew not wait too long before going to hospital. When we arrived my temperature was bad but not critical. We sat and waited to be seen by a doctor.

Over the next hour I felt increasingly ill. During that time we were joined on the hard metal seats by five other patients. Separately they hobbled in and bizarrely everyone seemed to have twisted an ankle.

My temperature wandered into the danger zone. I was eventually given a bed in the emergency ward. By that point my blood pressure had dropped and my heart rate was worrying.

After some treatment and a night at the hospital, my immune system was back in charge. After the battering that it has taken recently, I was so pleased that it was able to fight back. It was only when I’d properly woken up that I realised I was staying in yet another room without a view.

I was able to leave hospital the next day but the infection took its toll and made me even more shattered. Ugggh.

Finally, life is now returning to normal and I worked at the weekend. At the end of my shift I felt like I’d done a massive work-out at the gym. I had no energy left. Not just my legs, but also my arms really ached. This was a different kind of tiredness. It comes from deciding that the chemo holiday can’t go on forever and pushing myself to do more.

Considering my diagnosis – this is a luxury. I’ll never beat the cancer but I can enjoy the time when I feel good and I’m not having treatment. I’m more than happy to have this sort of exhaustion as it shows that after 17 sessions of toxic chemicals I’m slowly starting to feel better.