Bee's Journey - (the last leg)
We take it for granted that to make a journey is to travel from A to B, but it's not always as simple as that. There are often so many stops and starts along the way, hazards and jams; diversions off the beaten, and back on track, with the odd sight-seeing stop, coffee breaks, etc. and overnight stays along the way. But perhaps our real journey starts at A and ends at Zee - that's life.
If a journey starts at A, which would be our birth, and ends at Z - death, then no one would be capable of writing an autobiography from start to finish because none of us really knows when we'll draw that last breath. Guess we could get pretty close, but maybe not to the end.
I was kindly given space here to share a journey, one, in many ways, like any other, filled with pits and hazards, hopes and uncertainty. But if my real voyage / story started at A, with my birth, and will end at Z, then this is only a section, say from K to M, though with the uncertainty factor, those last stops could have run through to Z at the rate of sand through fingers without my say so - still could. Nothing is certain. For any of us.
Now, having negotiated the pitfalls and faced the hazards, I'm almost at M, and Z is not quite in sight. It's been a hell of a ride, but I didn't travel alone, I had company and when I broke down along the way, the camaraderie kept pushing me on. I was jump started on laughter, towed through tears, carried on wings of prayers, and if I tripped, my hand was grabbed and held till I was hauled back on my feet. I have felt truly blessed with friends along the way, and sad, because one of my best, died en route. Of cancer.
So what of the rest of the ride? Who knows? This section is almost concluded, but the journey continues. Meanwhile, great news - the tumour was cut out of my life, and the lymph nodes - 20 in all, 9 of which still contained active cancer, were removed. Radiotherapy, it was hoped, would have blasted the rest where they couldn't take more tissue from the chest wall, and that should have been it. Success? Limited, maybe. The last letter I received from my oncologist told me not to consider the matter over after the radiotherapy - finishing with the ominous words, 'just so Deborah is aware of this.' Was I aware? Well, yes, and no, but reading those words disappointed me a tad. Before my op, it was all - so great, you're nearly there - yaay!!! They didn't say where, but left the impression that treatment would be over. Then after the op it's like, yeah, well the chemo hasn't worked as much as they'd thought, with 10% effectiveness. John said, Wow, 10%, that's good???' And I'm like, ok, but if I just took an exam and got that as a result, no one is going to congratulate me with, 'Wow, you got 10%, that's so great!' So at that point, I'm thinking, let's hope the radiotherapy is all it's zapped up to be. It ain't over till the fat lady sings, n She ain't even opened my gob...
At my post op appointment, I asked my breast care nurse, Ann-Marie, about further checks - scans, etc. and she said she was glad I asked that because with having had both breasts removed, there's nothing to check. I just have to watch carefully, and report back promptly if I notice changes such as a lump on the chest wall, or in the armpit, or because my cancer is inflammatory, for any signs of inflammation. Regarding body scans, they don't like to do those at this stage, unless there are symptoms because, she said, if say, they found a small tumour on your liver, it might not cause symptoms for another nine months, and all scanning would do for you, the patient, would be to let them know they had cancer for an extra nine months before they needed to worry. She said the other thing to look out for was pain in a bone, that wouldn't go away - leg, rib... then they would do a bone scan, or loss of balance, a brain scan - but not routinely.
It's a terrible shock when you find out you, or a loved one has cancer, but it's not the end of the story. People survive, and amazingly, many just live with it for years. And that's it - while we are here, we're still living. Ann-Marie said that although it's vital to notice signs as they occur, it's also important not to get obsessed with worry and to enjoy each day we are free of this clever and insidious disease - for as long as we can. When I said to her that for my type of cancer, the prognosis isn't great - I've been told it usually comes back in around one to two years, and she said, honestly, 'Yes, yours is a tricky one, but don't forget, for some, it doesn't come back, and they could have years ahead of them. There's no reason to believe at this stage, that you're not one of them.' I always hoped I would be because I really didn't want to do chemo again.
I was almost into the last leg of this particular trek - radiotherapy, all that's left to worry about, they told me, was to get over the side effects, which would be soreness and swelling (and not to get lymphedema) along with fatigue. I could get over that, just like I got over the surgery. I thought I could probably just keep using it as an excuse to stop in bed a bit longer. John said he was hoping that once I was radioactive, he could use me to save on electricity bills. He thought I might even be able to light the house, and possibly power the TV. I gave it it a go for the few days I was on it, but I'm afraid he was disappointed in the end, bless him.
My gratitude to everyone who has followed me, and stuck with it, reading the highs and lows, and for putting up with my whinging. You couldn't possibly know what your company has meant to me. It's a journey that even though I didn't realize it at the start, wouldn't have an immediate end. Even the cancer thing - looked like I may have had to pick up that route from time to time as I made my way from M to Z, but last week I had a brain scan. Not such good news, I'm afraid, but this has been my Journey. Thank you so much for reading.
For notes -
With special thanks to Claudine (insertponsyfrenchnamehere) for all her support, fantastic photos, and for posting all my stories and poems on Facebook. x