Today I had my 12th visit to the chilworth day unit. The end of 6 months of hardcore chemotherapy.
I've had cuts on my fingers, cuts behind my ears, cuts on my heels, nosebleeds, thin hair, horrible steroid bloat, even more horrible spots, weekly stomach cramps and vomiting, tiredness, peeling skin and st banda eyes to name but a few of the side effects. And I've cried (a lot).
I've also seen how astonishingly lovely people are; from my fabulous husband who has put up with tantrums, tears and the terrible twos (that's Rosie not me) and been a brilliant wonderful rock who very very rarely gets it wrong, and believe me living with a cancer patient can be a mine field of what not to say; to the kindness of friends and family who've made this hard 6 months so much easier.
Without wishing to go all Gwyneth and sob my way through a thank you speech (it's six months of chemo not Shakespeare in Love) there are a few people (alongside Al) that merit a mention. Hopefully this also makes up for all the emails I haven't returned and makes everyone understand how much it has all meant. So, drum roll please as you meet the non-Sylvan Way members of Team Jane...
First up is my mum. She's been here every other week, for a week, since chemo began. She's put up with a regularly very stroppy daughter (me not susie), looked after three kids, cooked meals, washed everything going and ironed some of it (weird) as well as making numerous anti-cancer fuelled soups and even clearing up dog poo. She's been amazing and I 100% couldn't have kept working full time (so important to me) without her.
My dad; for visiting regularly (day trips from the welsh borders are not to be sniffed at), treating us to lovely meals, taking the boys (with my lovely brother) on a great day out and extolling the virtues of our lovely staffie.
The Cleggs - old and young. For sending some of the loveliest emails ever - and at some of my lowest points; and coming round and being amazing when I just disappeared upstairs to cry for an hour because my skin was so sore. Equally lovely messages came from the stateside Cleggs. And now Sussex Clegg, Tessa has been just wonderful too, sending the best books to read, lovely messages and a fab DVD set. Several chemo hours have been killed.
Liz, Jack, Carla, Jane, Hannah, Gemma and David along with everyone else at Battersea. I don't think anyone could ask for better colleagues. I get to work with people who aren't just amazing and supportive and kind but as the most phenomenal gift ever demonstrated this week, are thoughtful and creative. And whose responses to my email thanking them made me laugh out loud. The Fundraising team at Battersea score very high on witty.
My friends who've put up with dull rants, tears at random times of the day and who've kept emailing, arranging times to meet up (despite my flaky friendness and regular cancellations) and just been there. Consistently and amazingly. I wont list you all but you know who you are and you're all fab.
Two more to go!
Family. Aunties, uncles, Al's relatives that I've never met, my cousins, brothers and sisters. All of you sent notes of kindness, or emailed or made me laugh and just stopped me feeling quite so lonely at the points when it got tough. If I didn't reply don't think it didn't mean anything. Cancer can be quite time consuming.
My cousin Jenny, who I haven't seen for years, thank you so much for the kindest and most compassionate and understanding of emails. You, more than anyone, get the cancer fear and horror and your empathy shines through. Thank you. My sister Susie who has texted every chemo Friday without fail to send me a virtual hug and who is brilliant and wonderful and also the bestest of friends to me.
And the Beating Bowel Cancer forum folk. The kindness of virtual friends is very much a 21st century phenomena and wow does it help. Like Jenny, these people have been or are going through the cancer mill and just get it. It's an odd one but they've come to mean so much to me. And Beating Bowel Cancer is a great charity. Don't ignore any warning signs people - check your poo!
It isn't over. There's more chemo planned but I have a 2 month break. The PICC line comes out on Monday; and I have a totally submerged soak in the bath planned for that evening. I have a scan booked in for mid-feb sometime and then they'll be another one in April before the new regime starts; so this is a long way off finished. I have accepted that chemo and all its glorious attributes is a part of my life for the foreseeable future.
But Al and I, the three kids, two dogs and one cat soldier on. My big learn over this six months is to live for now. It's a big ol' cancer cliche but I can't think about the next 10 years. I think in chunks of time. Chunks of time that will add together to make years of time and that will see lots more laughter and fun and joy. They'll also see more bad news and good news, and more nasty side effects and plenty more hospital visits but this is the beginning of a new chunk without chemo, without the chilworth day unit or fortnightly train trips to Guildford and I fully intend to enjoy it.