Wednesday, 7 November 2012

I actually have good news

Normally this blog is a bit of a rambling collection of thoughts about my journey on the cancer roller coaster.  Mainly because I have realised that once the initial flurry of tests and results are over and established, there's not a huge amount to report back. Like most aspects of life, cancer takes on a routine, it's just slightly more fraught than average...

Anyway today I have actual news.

Every two weeks I have a blood test at the St Luke's cancer centre. The primary purpose of these is to establish how my immune system is coping with the battering it's given by chemotherapy. However my liver function is also assessed as this is where my unwelcome guest is at its most dangerous.

When I first started chemotherapy there were a proliferation of enzymes in my blood that demonstrated how hard my liver was working to keep going. In one test where a normal level is 70, mine was 700 and in another it was 59 where it should be under 20. 

Please forgive me for not knowing what these special enzymes or levels of stuff are called. I just know that they are released when your liver is in a bad old way. 

So today I asked what these figures are now (after 4 sessions of chemotherapy) and it's good news. Actual good news. Yes, good news!! In fact the first good news since this hideous thing kicked off. The 700 figure has dropped to 300 and the 59 is now 17 and normal! While ultimately my chances of having surgery are determined by the size and position of the lesions on my liver, this is a positive sign. It shows that my chemotherapy is working and that this disease is being controlled.

It's blooming lovely getting good news - and actually just as lovely sharing it.

Me and Obama eh! 

You can be ill and I can be well

Cancer isn't a happy topic and it isn't always easy to know how to respond or what's appropriate to say. This blog offering isn't critical of anyone (this cancer journey is bearable because of all my friends and family's support) but I do want to knock down a couple of taboos.

One of the slightly more random side effects of cancer is other people's embarrassment about being  ill around you. I appreciate that cancer is pretty much up there in the hierarchy of diseases but at the end of the day other people's illnesses, colds and trials still count.

Whether it's a rotten cold, a chronic ailment, a condition that means you're worried you might never be able to fall in love for fear of passing it on or a searing headache; pretty much anything (other than man flu) is deserving of sympathy. Cancer doesn't make anyone else's sinuses less blocked, tiredness vanish or stress and worry disappear, so please feel free to have a cold and don't feel bad about telling me. I will still drum up sympathy and look kind. I'm not about to pull out the cancer card and play top trumps. Plus I've had a cold/tummy bug all week and it's been horrible.

And the other thing is that other than having a life threatening illness I am actually quite well (despite the weird cold/tummy bug) So it's okay to say to me 'I hope you're well'. Being well is what is keeping me going throughout this thing, that and a full time job, three kids, two dogs, a cat, and a loving husband. I feel well. I don't take painkillers, once I'm off the steroids I stop eating like a person possessed. And when the post-chemo week is over I'm actually pretty energetic. I even talk about exercise. Oh yes. I have plans. Unfulfilled. But I plan to exercise a lot.

Cancer isn't easy for anyone and there are topics I'd rather avoid. Some of my fellow patients on the chilworth day unit may love recounting how many people they know who've died, but I hate it. I don't like hearing how desperately hard cancer is and I don't like pity; but I can still empathise, and I need encouragement so please keep saying that you hope I'm well because I hope so too.