Finally

Woman with Altitude

Writing here has been an incredibly helpful experience.  It has helped me to process my many varied and conflicting emotions.  It has given me a safe space to scream, to cry, to joke, to connect with others, and to keep people up to date with my progress.  Primarily it has been a journal, just one that I have made public.

I am not yet finished with my treatment.  I still have 4 more years of Exemestane to endure.  I still have a few more stages of reconstruction to undergo.  And while I will undoubtedly blog these events along the way, now feels like the time to gather altogether in book form.  So that is what I am doing.

I hope the bulk of my story is now written.  I hope occassional updates will be all that are seen here.  Like everyone else who has ever had cancer, I live knowing that it may return.  But I strive to keep that knowledge firmly at the back of my head and to live fully in the present.

Thank you for walking with me,

Helen x

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Reflections

obscentities

Recovery is an odd business.  I am basically well.  Very well.  Gloriously, deliciously, delightfully well.  And I am revelling in that.  Ask me how I am and chances are I will reply with great enthusiasm that I.  Am.  Well.  Because I am.  Really.

However.

You just knew that was coming, didn’t you?  As time marches on I find more things that are not quite as they were.  Bits of me where chemo has left its mark.

I seem to have been left with permanent tinnitus.  I sleep now (when I sleep) with an audiobook playing to drown out the incessant noise I hear otherwise.  It is not all bad.  I am working my way through some fabulous tales and having a bedtime story told to me as I drop off is really rather pleasant.

I get very very tired.  I believe this may go on for some time.  I am fine, fine, fine.  And then I am so not.  My body seems to revolt with tiredness.  I not only stop sleeping, I become far too intimate with the toilet.  Not something that happened before.

My skin is very friable.  It tears easily.  It dries out more readily.  It becomes sore at the drop of a hat.

My internal thermostat is on the blink.  This may be down to my hormonal treatment, my exemestane, but it is not just hot flushes.  Which, frankly, are not that bad.  I become cold very quickly.  In temperatures that would not normally cause me to feel cold.  It is a little bit like permanently having the erratic thermostat associated with a viral infection with none of the poorliness.

I have muscle pain/weakness in my left shoulder & back where my mastectomy and reconstruction surgery took place.

On top of this, there are the muscle cramps and joint aches from the exemestane.  I have another four and half years of it so there is little to do but put up with these but they are not much fun.

So there you have the physical stuff.  But I think the worst moments are when the ol’ cancer demons come to call.  Whether it is the whispering voices that say it is returning; the flash backs to the grimmer parts of last year or unexpected glimpses of a different shape as I pass a mirror or see a reflection; all serve to remind me of what has been, what has changed and what could have happened.  It leads to a lot of mixed emotions that can be overwhelming.

Spending time away on our boat has been amazing therapy.  It has provided me with the opportunity to reflect, the time to grieve, the time to heal and the time to recuperate.  But I miss the talking one does when one is surrounded by people, by community, by family.  So I am hugely grateful that one of my best friends is coming to stay next week.  We have much to celebrate as she has just reached her five years post successful treatment for Non Hodgkins Lymphoma.

In the meantime, this poem has given me much solace.  It reminds me very much of my belovéd Psalms, in particular 23

The Peace of Wild Things

When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

Wendell Berry