How is it August though?
I returned from Wales on a day that it actually rained, properly, for the first time in a long time. I can confirm that it rained all across the southern half of Britain that day. 6 long hours of rain blindness on the M4. I think I’m still recovering. I had a truly wonderful respite from the heatwave on the coast. My sea breeze facing bedroom window offered a welcome break from the sweaty and unpleasant nights of my top floor South West facing flat. Although, I must say, the Welsh owls are terribly noisy this year. Have I mentioned how much fun radiotherapy roasting and hot flushes are in a heatwave?
Whilst I was in Wales I had an insight in to what it’s like being on the “other side”, being the “carer” rather than the “cared for”, the “concerned” instead of the “concerned about”. I found out first hand what it’s like to have a loved one going through treatment. I took my Dad to The Singleton hospital in Swansea for his simulation session prior to commencing his radiotherapy in around a months time. I was impressed with the cancer unit, the staff were really lovely, even after the 4th failed cannulation attempt. There’s no denying it’s grim though is there? Just insufferably bloody awful.
Back in Hertfordshire, I returned to Elstree Cancer Centre for the first time in 3 weeks. This is, by far, the longest time I have not been poked, prodded, needled, scanned, jabbed, monitored, blah blah blah since February. Delightful. Although I should add, for all my complaining, it’s reassuring to have lots of medical attention and actually quite scary when I have to self-manage all the symptoms and look out for anything going wrong. The appointment this week went well, the shite blood cells remain shite, but are holding their own at a level that allows the treatment to continue. So this week I started the 5th cycle of implant, injection, hormonal treatment and targeted therapy all on the same day. Finally.
The great thing about this is that at least I know it’s doing what is it meant to. The side effects are multiple and unpleasant, but as I have my 5th hot flush of the night I can reassure myself that it’s worth it.
Since the letter from the Prof declared the treatment was working I have had lots of messages from lovely people as pleased as I am with the news. I want to be clear though, because I fear I may have confused people, that this does not mean I am cured. I am very aware that a lot of people haven’t had much experience of cancer and that terminology can be confusing. Equally, one person’s story is very different from the next, so there’s a lot to understand. Until I didn’t have a choice, my knowledge was embarrassingly limited. I know that people are desperate for a positive outcome for me, which I really appreciate. It may be the hopefulness that lets people hear what they want to, because, and believe me I know this: the alternative is not a happy place to be. I have always been a realist, and that is not changing now. I am not shying away from the fact that this cancer is terminal.
For a minute I am going back to basics, if it’s not helpful to you, or you know this already, please skip to the next paragraph. I was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2017. It was considered at the time to be non-aggressive, had not spread through the lymph nodes. The tumour was hormone positive, HER2 (protein) negative. Treatment was straightforward: surgery to remove the tumour and lymph nodes followed by radiotherapy and hormone therapy. That should be the end of the story and for many women, thankfully, it is. At the primary stage, my cancer should have been completely curable. Instead, my cancer behaved “strangely” and whilst it hadn’t got through the lymphatic system (which is common) it had spread through my blood. The breast cancer spread to bone and liver. The most common place that breast cancer spreads to is bone, lung, liver and brain. There are less common other sites too. Breast cancer in the bones is generally considered manageable but organs are much more of a concern for the oncologists. What this means is I have advanced breast cancer, also known as secondary breast cancer, metastatic breast cancer, Stage 4 cancer. It is manageable, but it is not curable. Everything we are doing now is to control the spread, reduce the tumours where possible – but they won’t go away. There is more information here: https://www.breastcancercare.org.uk/information-support/secondary-metastatic-breast-cancer
As always, aside from the treatment I have done plenty of lovely things. Wales involved more swimming in the sea, sitting in a river, drinking prosecco in the garden, BBQs and just spending time with my Ma and Pa. Since returning I have mostly been avoiding the heat – I had more acupuncture and as a treatment day reward I went to watch the second Mamma Mia. I laughed and I cried and it was fabulous. If you don’t love Abba, you are no friend of mine and you might not get today’s title… 😉
Hoping your summer includes a cool breeze.
Big Love, AG xx