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Farewell 2013

30 Dec

It’s that time of the year when there are lots of shows on TV looking back on the year, and starting to look forward to 2014. So I thought I would do the same – it’s been an eventful year!

Going back exactly 12 months, this time last year I was just home from Australia and preparing for my first MRI on NYE 2012. Even thinking about it now reminds me of how frightening that whole time was. It seems bizarre now to be afraid of scans, but I suppose they held my fate at the time. Nowadays I enjoy a good MRI! I can even provide tripadvisor style reviews of the facilities in various hospitals.

Reviews

January was the month of appointments and IVF. And probably most importantly I was referred to Dr Shepherd

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Ahem.. I mean, Prof Shepherd. 😉

I think it was when I had my first appointment with Prof Shepherd, and got the all clear back on the MRI and CAT scans that things felt different. It was from then that I felt optimistic that it was going to be all right, that the cancer was small and early and I was in good hands. Maybe the 9 embryos helped, but my normal optimism came back sometime in January, after really struggling in December. I actually had a bit of a breakdown at work in January and went to see a counsellor. She told me to stop doing anything I ‘should’ and only what I had to. That was a great relief, as I think I needed someone to say to me – stop trying to keep everything normal. This isn’t a normal situation, so stop trying to make it seem normal! It was great advice.

January to June:

Well, that’s all covered in the rest of this blog really. Operations, and another one , lots of daytime TV (including a wedding!), some travel, fundraising for Macmillan and Cancer Research UK (thanks!) and then back to work.

After June:

The last post I had was in June, and a lot has happened since then. My MRI in June came back clear, but I was really knocked sideways when my friends didn’t.  It just feels so incredibly unfair for me to be fine, and for her to have to continue down the next steps. It reminds me both how lucky I am, and how random and heartless cancer is. But that is not my story to tell.

Then things got a bit quiet as I returned to reality. Getting back to work was ok. As always I rushed it a bit, thinking I would be able to hit the ground running, but it did take about 3 months (my manager may say more!) to get back into the rhythm of things. My boss said he struggled to manage me to start with as my attitude has changed – which I would have to agree with. I enjoy my work, but I’ve definitely got less desire to constantly be pushing ahead. Things that would annoy (such as missing out on an important project or meeting) just don’t bother me much anymore. I think I appreciate more now that I have a nice job, lovely people, not too many hours and well paid. Why was I ever pushing for more!!?

October:

As the year progressed a minor problem/side effect from the operation has become more and more of an issue. I understand now that treatment for cancer means the cancer goes away, but your body will be changed by it forever.

(Warning – Womens parts discussion approaching!) 

Basically there is now scar tissue causing a partial blockage where my cervix used to be. That has resulted in blood being trapped inside me, random bleeding/hemorrhaging (oh what fun that day at work was) and generally the need to have another operation to try to fix it.  I’ve now had two quite minor operations to try to fix it with limited success. But I’m optimistic the doctors will find a way! The procedures themselves are not too bad, and easy to recover from, it’s just frustrating that I am not allowed to move forward until it is finally resolved.

We did in fact look at attempting IVF, but after much excitement it all came to a grinding halt due to this blood blockage  issue. We will hopefully get to try it in 2014, but I think we have learned not to try to plan too much, as plans fail and it’s just depressing. Hope can be very cruel!

But – despite such negativity – I know things will improve – so BRING ON 2014!

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2103 has been a tough year overall for my family. Without going into details, Cancer wasn’t the worst thing we had to deal with! Generally everything that could go wrong did go wrong. On the flip side, I was also successfully treated, my sister found her dream job, and while there are still problems lets hope 2014 brings better luck!

But – back to the point of this post – basically Happy New Year!!

I will celebrate the New Year tomorrow with a hope for a better 2014, and a celebration that 2013 is finally over, thinking particularly of all the ladies who have contacted me through this blog, who are at various stages of their treatment and recovery.

So, to everyone who passes by this blog – here’s to a healthy and happy 2014!

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I’m fine… really… I am!

21 Apr

Firstly, a little retrospective on being ‘fine’.

Obviously I’ve been asked a lot recently how I am, and I think I always answer ‘I’m fine’. That’s not just me being polite, I do really think at the time that I am fine. People close to me know I am a terrible terrible liar, and so trust me, I do (and did) believe it every time.

But, I have learned over time that I am often wrong on how I feel, strangely enough. I’m not trying to be a martyr, or selfless. It’s more that I really do think I’m fine at each stage, but it’s amazing how every time I look back I think ‘wow, I’m so much better now, I really wasn’t fine then… but I’m fine now!’. And then a few weeks/months later I think… I really wasn’t in as good shape as I thought. It seems that as well as being a terrible liar, I am excellent at kidding myself.

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This image is a bit dramatic, but in many ways it was me hiding things from myself. Insane I realise.

Some key moments I look back at when I was ‘fine’, include the mistake of going back to work at a time when I was dealing with leaving family, accepting I have cancer, doing IVF and somehow thinking I could manage a smooth handover. I thought I was fine… but clearly I wasn’t, and I’m not sure what planet I was on thinking work was a good idea – either for me or my uncomfortable workmates. It took a minor breakdown in the bathrooms, and a visit to a counselor to snap me out of it and realize I had to stop going to work. Lets be honest, I wasn’t actually doing any effective work anyway.

Another good moment was the excellent decision to walk to the GP the day after I was out of hospital, because I was ‘fine’. And numerous others… not quite as individually silly, but things that look totally different looking back at them, and I find that quite interesting.

I’m sure psychologists have theories about why we kid ourselves that things are fine when they aren’t, but I do think it’s a useful part of recovery.Perhaps I am naturally optimistic and I think once the treatment started I never really believed it would go badly (except at 3am when my brain wouldn’t shut up – but no one is asking then!). This document captures it a little.

BUT – ignoring all that, I thought I’d let you all know that I’m fine! For sure this time! 

I reserve the right to look back and change my mind if necessary, but at the moment I feel stronger than I have in a long time. I’ve learned that getting better is a long road, as much mental as physical, and I shouldn’t be surprised to look back and see things differently in time.

And even looking back a few weeks to the afternoon tea, I’m better now than I was then. I think the holiday was great as it got me out of the house. I feel physically stronger, and mentally more resilient too. We did a lot of long walking touristy days, that were soooo tiring to start with, but by the end I felt so much more confident in myself and in my body. It’s easy to be ‘fine’ at home with everything familiar around you, but now I also feel like I can confidently face the world.

Tomorrow is the next big step – going back to work. I’m a little nervous, but I’m sure all will be back to normal soon enough, the only change will be that Health and Safety will make sure I have a fancy new chair and and as much desktop egonomics as they can find! It is an insurance company after all, they know a risk when they see it.

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Next appointment with the doc is actually only a week away, so I will do a quick update after that, but I’m assuming everything will be ok as it’s a standard checkup. I will also find out when the next set of scans are planned, which will be another good milestone.

End of tonight’s rambling. 🙂