Chemo holiday holiday!

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Hello again. I know it’s been a while. I’ve been on holiday. Yes, an actual, proper holiday during my chemo holiday! If you’re not seriously ill then you’ll probably find it hard to appreciate just what a huge deal this is.

For a start planning ahead is hard. I never know how I’m going to how I’m going to feel tomorrow let alone in a few weeks. You have to be relatively well to get on a plane. Your immune system needs to be strong enough to deal with a cabin full of other people’s germs. Then you worry that when you get there you might get ill.

Dreaming of a holiday got me through the last lot of chemo and the worst of the recovery period. I didn’t mind where I went I just wanted somewhere warm with good hospitals.

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And it was great. I went to Muscat and Dubai with Chantal, my friend the flower girl. All the photos of our lovely holiday were taken by her.

I was able to forget about all the cancer nonsense. It was hot, relaxing and I didn’t get ill at all. While I was away I was able to tick a few more things of my List for Living! More of that in a later post.

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Apart from the holiday I haven’t done too much else. I’ve just been concentrating on recovering.

If you imagine that each course of chemo is like running a marathon. You focus on finishing. It takes all your strength just to get round the course. You want that medal around your neck and a nice hot bath. But each time you cross the finishing line it seems that you barely enough time to catch your breath before you have to run another one. There’s no choice, you have to run to stay alive. Each marathon is harder than the last. That’s why the recover has seemed tougher than ever.

Some of the side effects, like the sickness and the nausea, faded quite quickly. But the fatigue has been worse than ever. The problem is that the chemo made me so ill that I lost what little fitness I had. Anything that doesn’t involve lying down is such an effort.

A few days ago I was talking my coat off. As I took my arm out of the coat sleeve, my arm accidentally slipped out of my cardigan. For a few seconds I felt like I didn’t have enough energy to put my arm into the cardigan sleeve. I did manage it of course. But it’s tiny things which make you realise how far you still have to go.

It’s relentless. You think that you’re making progress and then the next day you’re needing a sleep in the middle of the afternoon. It’s so very frustrating. But finally I am getting better. I’m beginning to feel like myself again and that feels good. 

When you have cancer and body goes through such ongoing trauma you need to be mentally strong. To get round the chemo marathons and to keep going during the recovery. Such a big part of coping with this disease is dealing with the difficult thoughts that come with it.

Every few weeks I see a cancer counsellor. It’s an opportunity to talk frankly. The best part is that I can get upset but he doesn’t. It’s kind of like chemo for the nasty thoughts caused by the disease. They are blasted away. Only with this talking treatment I always walk out feeling much better. The counsellor often gives me a new perspective on my problems.

The hardest thing to come to terms with is that my life will be cut short. We were chatting about this during my last session and my counsellor told me that he thinks of me like a butterfly. They might not be alive for long but flutter about and seem to have a great time.

One of my favourite places to sit and rest is in my garden. I watch the birds and occasionally the neighbours cats but I’d never seen a butterfly there before. Since seeing my counsellor I’ve noticed lots of them. It makes me so happy when I see these bright, beautiful creatures. Now they seem to be everywhere.

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20 thoughts on “Chemo holiday holiday!

  1. Beautifully written as always. Can’t wait to read more about what you’ve ticked off….I hope today is a good day. Xx

  2. Hi Helen, Am so, so glad you’ve managed a lovely holiday. It lifted my spirits to read your news – I think of you often and wonder how you are doing. I also loved the butterfly analogy – I might just have to steal that concept to help put things into perspective!

    Could I ask a question relating to your trip? Who did you use for travel insurance? My hubby and I were planning a trip to Australia later this year, when everything seemed stable but I’ve fallen in to the trap of planning too far ahead as the treatment we hoped/expected to keep me stable for years has not worked and I’m now of Kadcyla, funded by the Cancer Drugs Fund (I have secondary breast cancer with mets on spine and lung).

    Depending on how things go I will hopefully be allowed to travel but wondered who you used for cover?

    Completely understand if you don’t have the time, energy or inclination to reply but am so just so glad to hear you’re still ticking things off that list! Look forward to hearing more in a future post.

    With love and best wishes and heaps of positive thoughts, Fiona

    http://fidancingintherain.wordpress.com

    Sent from my iPad

    >

    • Hi Fiona, thanks so much for the kind comments. Travel insurance is such a nightmare! This time I found that oktotravel.co.uk and goodtogoinsurance.com were the best. They both had lovely advisors and their customer service was excellent. I do hope you get to go. I was told that Australia is one of the international destinations that’s easier to get cover for so fingers crossed!
      Helen

  3. Beautiful and succinct as ever – and I love the photo by the pool! The lack of energy is so draining – who’d have thought that fatigue could be so exhausting? I try to manage mine using your ‘spoonfulness’ technique, it has been so useful and taught me to prioritise my limited resources. Another side effect I have had has been basal cell carcinoma on my face, most likely to be caused by my damaged immune system, it’s led to scary and disfiguring surgery and as it has a 50% recurrence rate I’ve shunned all sunlight and didn’t step into my garden last year – your post has inspired me to change that. I’ve always loved my garden and the wildlife it attracted and have missed its tranquility. Another reason I’ve not used it is probably down to lack of energy to cope with it and it now looks unloved and unkempt (a bit like me really!) so next weeks project is to get a garndener in to tackle the worst, order some new furniture and a good parasol and regain a bit more life! Cheers

  4. Yeahhhhh, your blog’s are back…you always make me smile. I’m 10 years in remission now but reading your blog makes me realise how strong I was (had a 3 week old baby too) but you HAVE to carry on and show IT who is boss. Keep smiling beautiful lady and blog again soon. Xx

  5. Helen, what a gorgeous post. and what a gorgeous photo of you. I am looking out for butterflies too, now. Or flutterbys, as my son used to call them when he was little. Tom

  6. So good to hear from you again Helen and what a wonderful trip, will look forward to more photos. Keep up the good work and hope to see the garden later this year. Jeannie Marshall

  7. Helen – I don’t know you but love your blog, your writing and your chutzpah! I had been worrying for you recently because you hadn’t blogged, so was thrilled to see that you were holidaying! So many of us out there dealing with the hand we have been dealt and getting on with it. You sound such a lovely person, I think about you often…
    http://wendoxford.wordpress.com

  8. Here I am banging my head on the key board to finish my university assignment, trying to find the will to finish it. My god, your posts, as usual give me perspective. Helen, fighting and finding the will to live, me, just one measly assignment. You go butterfly.

  9. Oh Helen, what a lovely analogy. I will henceforth think of you as a beautiful butterfly.

    I enjoy reading your blog posts so much: you are so positive and constructive, and an inspiration to me. Keep them coming, so I can keep on reading! xx

  10. Like many others, I was concerned not to have heard from you recently. Not personally, of course! So delighted to read of your holidays. I think my “anxiety butterflies” have just been blown away by yours. Thank you.

  11. Love to read your posts. You write with such honestly. Also lovely getting to know you again . Stay strong beautiful butterfly x

  12. Another brilliantly written and thought provoking blog, Helen. Like everyone else on here, I am delighted you managed to get away for a holiday and it sounds as though you had a great time. Stay strong….

  13. Thank you for the richness that your writing helps me appreciate in life, Helen. May those brilliant wings of yours be bathed in warmth and sunshine.

  14. Helen we are all so proud of you and your courage to keep so positive. You are such an inspiration xx

  15. Great news that you managed to have a holiday and enjoyed it. Looking forward to hearing more about what you got up to when you have the strength.

  16. I thought of you this evening, Helen.

    We don’t know each other but I have followed your blog. Your list for living inspired me to create one, which included further inspiration from you, no. 7 to be precise, going to Paris for lunch.

    Like you, I achieved that, as a celebration of my first anniversary of my stem cell transplant, two years ago now. We also went to a Belle Époque restaurant for lunch, but not the same place as you. I wrote about it in my blog at the time and I linked to your blog, so you may recall it.

    I’ve recently passed my third anniversary and am fortunately still in remission but still aware that I could relapse at any point, so I create and take up opportunities for living whenever and wherever I can.

    So here I am in Paris again, meeting up with a stranger/friend whom I ‘met’ via the Internet. It’s been lovely, by the way. This evening we had a drink and a wander around Le Marais area, when lo and behold, there I am in Rue de la Bastille with restaurant Bofinger staring at me.

    Of course I went inside to see the beautiful glass dome. And of course it reminded me of you, so I just had to let you know, it’s still there. And, because I stopped following any blogs due to a lack of ability to concentrate for reading (and sadly, even writing my own) that my steroid treatment has induced, having checked in to your blog now, I’m so glad to know that you are still here too.

    It’s strange in the cancer universe, even if we don’t meet a fellow blogger, or someone on a forum or FB group, how we can feel a connection with someone going through something similar.

    So, may I wish you many more chances to relax and take holidays from Cancerville. And a garden full of butterflies! x

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