Spoiler alert: this blog does not contain good cheer. I’m still humming and hawing about whether to publish it but I promised myself that the blog would be honest, so here goes.
Last Tuesday, a mere handful of days away from my second “cancerversary”, Chris and I were informed compassionately but professionally that Regorafenib isn’t working and that there is now no perceived benefit to continuing with treatment. This was the last drug available to me and was at the epicentre of the hope we had left. Since last summer, we have been all too aware that the outlook was not rosy and we have always anticipated that 2016 was not going to be an easy year, but I’d hoped we would continue as we had been for a while longer.
Everybody is familiar with the metaphors of cancer, the vocabulary of warfare: battles! struggles! fight! survivors! It’s easy, right? Makes sense and we can all get behind the most worthy warrior, lend our support to the deserving victor. I never really embraced that war terminology, although I am always grateful for the support of the many people that would gladly form an army for me. However, way back in the mists of time (2014), when I was recuperating from surgery, my mum’s minister visited me at home and we had a long discussion about what I was experiencing. It’s fair to say that I struggle greatly with the notion of God (although, hypocritically, I will gladly accept all prayers If you are a prayer and feel inclined, feel free to pop me in there!) but the minister is a gentle and wise man, whom I like very much and whose ability to talk about spiritual matters without ever actually mentioning the “G” word, I admire immensely. Anyway, I remember him saying that battle analogies can be tremendously unhelpful, as the energy required to “fight” could be better directed elsewhere. And every fight ultimately has a loser. So I have seen my treatment more as a kind of cat and mouse game where cancer and I coexist but I am supposed to be the Roadrunner outwitting Wile E Coyote (neither cats nor mice actually, but you know what I mean), Jerry cheerfully outsmarting Tom. Somewhere along the way the roles got mixed up. This displeases me.
However, I am not a victim, I am not a warrior, I am not a hero, I am not a failure. I am an ordinary, young(ish!) woman with flaws and merits, who got a disease, too resilient and probably diagnosed too late for me ever to really have stood a chance of eliminating it forever. I am not the loser in a battle that I didn’t fight hard enough. The last two years has seen me under the knife for major open-surgery, complete 18 cycles of intravenous chemotherapy and all the accompanying side-effects that I frequently thought I could endure no further, followed by 4 cycles of a highly toxic oral treatment that could have caused complete liver-failure, taking me right up to the 27th January 2016, when I discovered the disease is still progressing. Through it all, I did my best to live life to the fullest (whilst drinking tea and scheduling in plenty of naps. I’ve never had a better excuse for my congenital spectacular laziness). I’m not Boudicca, I’m not Joan of Arc, I’m a mum (how the hell am I going to tell my beautiful children? Seriously. How?), a wife, a daughter, a sister, a friend who wants to stay alive. And that’s what I have tried to do and what I will continue to do. At the moment, I am more or less in hibernation, improbably shocked and trying to keep a grasp on hope (trials? alternative mumbo-jumbo? Feckin’ kale?) but I intend to be back out in the world very soon. I do hope you’ll join me for some fun when I do. I think I can still do fun!
(At my insistence, I was given a rough prognosis of my life-expectancy. It’s not good, but one of the splendid bits of being such a lazy-bones is that I am utterly shit with deadlines. This combined with a strong dislike of anybody telling me what to do and a wee streak of relentless optimism gives me hope that I’m going to smash it!)
Thanks for reading. Go and do something that makes you happy now! And that’s an order.