This is the second in a series of journal entries from contributing editor Adrienne Lawler, chronicling her breast cancer diagnosis and chemo treatment. The following is the first in the ongoing series.
Good news (all things considered) it is NOT terminal! Deeply unpleasant, but not terminal. We think/hope/believe. Delete as appropriate to your mood which could mean it changes on an almost hourly basis.
I had a meeting with the Oncologist yesterday (with my two children/adults in tow) and asked outright if this bugger was going to kill me. Her response was unequivocal; NO! Or at the very least, the A Team will be working on every aspect of my treatment to make sure it doesn’t. She went on to admit that it was all going to be deeply unpleasant (total hair loss, depression, diarrhea, etc.) but the uber strong cocktail of chemo will be keeping me alive and making me well, so everything else is just a minor complaint. I agree. Well, I do now anyway but on seeing the current cancer adverts on TV, I am sure there will be moments when vomiting in the sink does not feel like such a ‘saving.’
Once again, I have been overwhelmed by the strength and depth of support I’m getting from friends and family all around the world, from offers to be my treatment buddy as I sit through the full days of chemo pumping horrendous cocktails through my body, to the huge relief of being offered enormous funds to carry me through the next few months. I am touched and emotional about them all and forever grateful.
And then there are the others. The friend of 20 years who explained he couldn’t come to see me because he’s sailing/walking/dining with friends for the next 2 weeks and hasn’t called or texted me since. The man I have coffee with most mornings who is as decent and nice as the day is long, but about as insensitive as a marauding elephant who spots a cream cake 50 yards away. His helpful advice was that I should draw up a bucket list! If it wasn’t funny it would be tragic.
12th June 2017
Hells bells but it’s all kicked off at a rate of knots that would unnerve my absent sailing friend (see above). Because I asked to move to a nearer, less traffic-congested hospital, my treatment plan has been moved forward. To tomorrow! Gulp! Well, the prep work starts tomorrow at the Horton, but secondary scans are still happening at the Churchill on Thursday and then the chemical cocktail starts making its way into my body to kill the tumour on Friday. Well, it starts on Friday but the tumour is such a difficult bugger that this will be going on for months. And months. Hey ho.
The big challenge for me is whether to shave all my hair off now before I end up losing it on the pillow, or to try the cold cap therapy which has worked brilliantly for a 70-year-old friend of mine facing the same prognosis. The down side is that it can be horribly uncomfortable to do and just has a 50/50 success rate, which makes me seriously wonder if it’s worth it.
Expect to hear a lot about my children who have been absolutely magnificent. They are the ones I feel able to really cry in front of and be honest about just how scared I am. Scared that this will really, really hurt. That even after having half of Chernobyl type chemicals coursing through my veins, it still won’t work. After all, if a cancer the size of a small grapefruit is able to grow unnoticed in my body, where are all its friends?
In the middle of all this, I try to focus on the enormous kindnesses I’m being given. The enormous loan to see me through the next few months is just one, but a really, really big one for which I will always be grateful to my friends. My daughter offering me her hair to be made into a wig is another big one that saw me dissolve into tears. And my son, quietly and simply clearing his work and life commitments to be by my side is another. I am very, very lucky and intend to keep being lucky over the next few weeks and months, but don’t let that stop you from wishing me luck, finding a 4 leafed clover, touching the blarney stone and any other cliché you can think of.