A perfect ten

Dolphins. How I dread those hospital dolphins.

They swim along the corridor on the way to the chemotherapy unit. Even the ceiling has been painted to make it seem as if you’re under the sea. It may look tranquil but just seeing the dolphins made me feel completely drained.

There might as well be a neon sign that says CANCER? COME THIS WAY….

As if that wasn’t bad enough, towards the end of the corridor it starts to slope upwards. It takes every last bit of your energy to walk the last part of it. Mum had come with me. My arm was through hers as we slowly made our way up the corridor.

It’s been a month since my chemo ended. I was there for a final check-up to find out for sure that the toxic treatment had been successful.

This is where I was told I had cancer. More than six months later I was back in the same room and in the same chair. Mum was next to me, also in the same seat as before. I felt so sick that I thought I might have to run out of the room.

However I was so focused on what we were about to be told that I felt compelled to stay. As far as big moments go, this was pretty massive.

If I got the all clear, then I’d be done with the disease, the doctors and the dolphins.

But if I didn’t, then it would mean that those evil chemo cocktails hadn’t worked. We’d have to try again. Jump through more hoops. Worse still, it could suggest that the cancer was terminal and that putting any amount of poison into my veins wouldn’t kill it.

At the hospital there’s a team of people involved in my care. For this appointment I was seeing a consultant who I’ve known for years, ever since the first cancer. She’s never had to break any bad news to me. She is the Good Doctor. Surely this must be a positive sign?

I know that the treatment has already gone really well. All the tumours have been removed and my blood test results are back to normal. But you don’t know what could happen next.

The blood test is known as a CA 125. Basically I needed to get a low number. Anything higher than thirty could mean the cancer had come back.

After chatting for a few minutes it was down to business. My consultant looked at my notes, at my records on the computer screen and then back at me as she said the magic number.

I’d scored a ten. A perfect ten.

The Good Doctor quickly revealed that there was also nothing nasty on my scan. It was a stunning set of results. She brought up a different screen on the computer.

“See, your organs look lovely, don’t they?” I had to take her word for it. All I could make out was a moving black and white image of my insides.

She pointed out various bits and pieces. It was a cross section of a healthy body. My healthy body.

“Hooray! It’s all gone!” The Good Doctor threw her arms in the air. We all grinned and punched the air. My sickness went; it was replaced with pure relief.

That’s it. Finally it’s all over.

The treatment has officially been successful. I won’t have another check-up for months.

After lunch in the hospital canteen, oh yes my celebrations are not always Kylie and cocktails, we got a lift home from the flower girl.

It ended where it all began, outside my house with my friend, Chantal in her big flower van. This is how I started out on my cancer journey when she took me to hospital for what turned out to be a life saving operation.

Back then I had no idea just how hard it would all be or whether I’d even be able to defeat the disease. That’s why I originally called this blog – beating cancer, again, hopefully.

I never realised quite how important the blog would become to me. I’ve been blown away by the love and support that I’ve received. I’ve appreciated every comment even though I may not have been able to reply to all of them.

So, thank you.

I’m now cancer free and there will be no more horrendous treatment but I’m still going to continue with this blog.

I’ve been given another second chance at life. Or maybe that makes it a third chance? Whatever it is, I hope that you’ll be joining me as I blog about life after cancer.

A letter to my cancer

Dear Cancer,

It was six months ago that we were reintroduced. I’d already got rid of you once and I can’t believe that you came back for more. This time I only had a fifty fifty chance of surviving. Like the flip of a coin. Well, heads I won.

After half a year of hell you are now just dust and dead cells.

You started out as ovarian cancer, if that wasn’t bad enough you took the liberty of spreading around my abdomen. It took a team of surgeons the length of an average day at the office to remove all visible traces of you. I imagine that the tumours have long since been incinerated. All that’s left is an awesome battle scar.

The next step was to kill off any lingering reminders of you. I had chemotherapy to destroy the teeny tiny cells that couldn’t be seen. On Wednesday I’m having the last of my six sessions

Like a coward you left me before the chemo had even finished. Repeated blood tests show that you are no more.

I’ve not just beaten you; I’ve proved just how much I want to live. My body hurt so badly when I woke up from the operation that I thought I was dying. I wasn’t.

But the drugs to deal with the pain almost killed me. They lulled me into a deep sleep. I quickly slipped into a happy bubble of unconsciousness and stopped breathing. I was only a few minutes away from my own death. But I fought back.

I wish I’d never met you. Okay maybe that’s only partly true. In many ways you’ve changed my life for the better. During the cancer treatment ten years ago I came up with a big list of things I wanted to do. Afterwards I went out and chased my dreams. The reality was even better than I dared to hope for.

So why did you come back? I thought we were done. I really didn’t need another reminder that life is precious.

When I was in the process of being diagnosed the second time round someone who should have known better suggested the cancer could be terminal. It wasn’t. She told me this devastating news over the phone. I was sitting on my bed on top of my pink stripy duvet at the time. As I cried my life didn’t flash in front of my eyes. Instead I saw images of my future, of what I was still to achieve.

I’m so angry that I’ve had to put almost everything on hold. Hey cancer – in a few hours I get my life back.

Over the past few months I’ve done everything I can to annihilate you. I’ve been having the maximum strength chemo cocktail. It’s been a marathon of pain, sickness and complete exhaustion but I haven’t considered asking for a lower dose.

Chemo has so many petulant demands. It wakes me up in the middle of the night. The poisonous chemicals make me run to the bathroom to throw up. I have no eyebrows now and only six eyelashes. I’ve watched my lovely hair fall out, there’s just a thin covering left to go. Then there have been the bugs, bacteria and infections. I never expected to have an emergency stay in hospital.

And yet, you haven’t managed to break my spirit. I’ve even been able to do some things which I thought were virtually impossible. Just days after my last chemo I managed to get to the Olympic Games. When the cancer treatment is over, I won’t collapse in a heap at the end. I’ll be flicking the V sign at you as I cross the finishing line.

Don’t worry, I won’t forget about you. How could I? There will be tests and scans every few months. When I go to hospital for the results I won’t be able to think about anything else. You’ll be constantly me on my mind.

However I refuse to be scared of what hasn’t happened. Because of you, I appreciate every moment. Well almost every moment. And so because of you I live.

I’ve now beaten you twice. TWICE. I want you to know that if you come back, I will beat you again.

Goodbye stupid cancer.

Helen