Stage 4 Cancerversary

Jan 13, 2017

The Queen has two birthday's, I have two Cancerversary's

If I’m honest I’d prefer just the one, but these are the cards I’ve been dealt, so if I have to have two, I might as well acknowledge them both.

On the 1st Cancerversary of my Stage 2 diagnosis in October 2014, I went out for a fancy lunch with my friends. I was still having Herceptin, and probably had 3 or 4 more treatments to go, but after a year, I felt amazing. The chemo, the surgeries, the radiotherapy were all in the past. We enjoyed good food, wine and laughs, and I picked up my kids from school feeling a little bit tiddley. And why shouldn’t I? I’d beaten the beast…or so I thought.

Fast forward to January 2016. After a CT scan the day before, I was called in to see my Oncologist to get the results. Getting results that soon, Ross and I knew something was very wrong. You don’t get called in that quickly for a slipped disk. The thing is Ross and I had a copy of the CT scan on a CD and we couldn’t see anything…but how could we? We didn’t know what to look for. What was it that was wrong? The scan picture below gives it away. The L4 vertebrae was a slightly different shade of grey to the other vertebrae. That’s it. Thank goodness for Radiologist’s who know what to look for.

Naughty Vertebrae

If you read the blog, you’ll know what has happened in the last year, and if I’m honest I didn’t want to acknowledge this Cancerversary in the same way as the Stage 2 1st Cancerversary. This one is different. It isn’t a happy occasion. I’m still having treatment, just like last time, but this time there is no count down to finishing. This is how it is. Three monthly scans, four weekly hormone inhibitor implant, three weekly Herceptin and Zometa, and daily hormone tablets, and enough painkillers to fell a horse. The fear that every niggle, every pain, anything unusual will be another tumour raising it’s ugly head. This is my life. This is the New New New Normal. And it sucks.

Last week I saw the Spine Doctor, and apparently I’m doing incredibly well for someone who has had this operation. It’s a big operation and he had his work cut out. He’s one of the best, and if he hadn’t been so good, things could have been very different. I could be in a wheelchair, not able to walk at all. You don’t want the work experience kid doing spinal surgery.

The Naughty Vertebrae had ended up in pieces after the CyberKnife radiotherapy, and had to be partially removed as well as the remains of a still active tumour which was crushing the nerve to my leg, and then using cement and metal work to reconstruct my spine. Clever stuff! The image below shows my broken spine on the left and different views of the metalwork solution on the right.

Spinal Story

So this morning, I few friends came round, for coffee and cake. I didn’t mention the Cancerversary, I didn’t want it to overshadow a normal morning. Cancer has taken so much from me, I didn’t want it to take away the few snatches of normality I get.

Right now, things are stable, and I’m hoping it stays that way for a long time yet. I’ll happily count up the Stage 4 Cancerversary’s, because that means things are ok. But I won’t celebrate it. That gives it some significance that it doesn’t deserve. I may have Stage 4 cancer, there may be no cure for it, but I am not terminal. I am only terminal when there are no treatment options left, and I’m on round one. I have options.

It is my 40th birthday next month and there are a few events planned so I can celebrate with my friends and family. Birthdays and anniversaries are the things that we need to celebrate. Not cancerversary’s.