I think a lot of people have the year 2016 in their Room 101 for a number of reasons. For the removal of any doubt, the Room I refer to is that of the George Orwell novel , “1984”, whereby any person who enters it, faces their worst fear, nightmare or phobia - essentially a torture chamber. I’m not referring to the BBC One series where ‘celebrities’ talk about pet hates and grievances, which are then locked away in Room 101 as some sort of detention. Anyway, back to the reasons:
- The ‘Great” British public deciding to leave the safety, sanctuary and sanity of The EU.
- The Great British Bake Off leaves the BBC.
- The residents of The Land of The Free voting for a man I can’t come up with a title scathing enough other than, The Idiot that is Donald Trump.
- The deaths of so many of those we refer to as Celebrities. A few which made me feel especially sad as they were part of my childhood and formative years: George Michael, Carrie Fisher, Terry Wogan, Victoria Wood, Ronnie Corbett, Alan Rickman and Paul Daniels.
- The government has ridden roughshod over our NHS and education system. (There’s better people out there to comment on this in more detail…but I thought that it should be mentioned.)
For my family and I, the year 2016 will be regarded as the Year the Cancer Came Back. The year things all went a bit weird. The year I never want to have to go through again. My Room 101.
We started January 2016 filled with optimism. We saw in the New Year with our very good friends, and then enjoyed a Strong Special on New Year’s Day.
So far, so good! I made some New Year's Resolutions which I documented in this blog post. Well, that got messed up quickly. (And I shout as much or even more than I did in 2015...oops).
The kids went back to school on January the 5th, and my back started to give me grief. But nothing to worry about. I'd had back pain before. Extra painkillers, no drama. I went swimming, I did Pilates and I carried on as normal. On Sunday the 10th, we trekked down to Hertford for a rugby match with the kids. Each at different ends of Hertford's massive grounds. I got the short straw and had the longest walk to where Felix was playing. Whilst there, I spoke to Pinky, who suggested that rather than stick to the painkillers, I have a word with my Oncologist.
That Monday morning, I walked the kids to school, and two women I knew by sight but not to talk to, asked if they could walk them rather than me, as I was obviously in pain. I declined, and soldiered on. I laughed about it to my friends. It couldn't possibly be sinister. All evidence pointed to a slipped disk. Never has anyone wanted a slipped disk more than me at that point.
So, on Pinky’s advice and listening to the voice in my head that said something wasn’t quite right, I spoke to the Oncologist the Monday, had a scan on the Tuesday and on Wednesday 13th January, he told me I was looking at a 90% chance that the cancer was back, this time in my spine. This was most likely a secondary. No cure. Only management. New Year's Resolutions completely upended. And also not quite like Craig David’s 7 day’s.
Once the diagnosis was confirmed, in 2016, I had 143 medical appointments, including blood tests, scans, consultations, radiotherapy, infusions, counseling sessions and also reflexology sessions. That works out at about one every three days.
I restarted Herceptin and Zometa infusions every three weeks to continue indefinitely. I woke up in the night screaming as the pain in my leg and back was horrendous. I had to use a walking stick. I got a Blue Badge. I have had 3, hour long sessions on consecutive days of Cyberknife radiotherapy. I have had two weeks in a Hospice for pain management. I had a blood transfusion (and associated guilt). I have had a week in the Royal National Orthopedic hospital as the Cyberknife had caused my vertebrae to collapse, so I needed my vertebrae to be reconstructed and another blood transfusion (and associated guilt). They found active cancer cells which meant the Herceptin hadn’t worked on that particular tumour. The tumour had wrapped itself around the nerve to my leg and was slowly crushing it. I had two weeks of daily radiotherapy sessions. I’ve been on Morphine for the most part of this year. I was unable to drive due to the Morphine and pain from January until August. Walking the kids to school became the exception, rather than the rule.
So tomorrow, I will be spending the evening with friends, all with the hope that 2017 will be better than 2016.