1 year on from diagnosis – My life won’t ever be the same again but there is lots to be thankful for
So it’s official, I’m the world’s worst blogger, even 1 year after diagnosis! The last few months have been pretty tough and whilst I have had plenty of ideas, I really couldn’t get the motivation together to write anything.
It’s actually been almost 14 months since my diagnosis and I’m still in limbo really; I don’t have any big all clear news so I’m left just waiting and wondering. My consultant has said there is no point in doing any scans at this stage, but I am due to have my first post-treatment colposcopy in January and from there I have years of regular check-ups ahead. I have been asked repeatedly am I all better now and whilst I have no doubt this comes from a place of kindness and genuine concern for my wellbeing, it can be frustrating. Partly because I don’t know the answer to the question, but mostly because even if I get an all clear, I won’t ever be all better! My body has been cut and mutilated in the last 1 year, I have been exposed to radiation and had cytotoxic chemicals pumped through my veins…all this was of course for the purpose of treating me and I’m immensely grateful for it all, but my body won’t ever be the same again. I am unable to have children and have to take hormone replacement therapy for the next 20 years just to keep my body functioning normally, I have to use dilators 3 times a week for the rest of my life otherwise I will develop vaginal stenosis (where your vagina essentially closes up…for reals) and the treatment to destroy cancer cells actually increases the risk of developing other cancers! Beyond the physical changes there are all the psychological effects; depression, anxiety, anger and frustration. I’m not angry at having cancer per se but about the impact it has had on my life. I was forced to suspend my studies by my university and now I’m left watching all of my friends carry on and (soon to) graduate and qualify whilst I still have a whole year to do. I’m so proud of them all, but I’m frustrated I won’t be graduating with them, particularly because my journey into nursing has been LONG with lots of hurdles!
Having said all of that, I have so much to be thankful for. For starters, there are no words to express how grateful I am for the NHS; it’s no exaggeration to say that the National Health Service and the incredible people who work for it saved my life these last 16 months and unlike so many others I haven’t once had to think about how I’m going to pay for my treatment. On social media I see young women in my situation or similar setting up crowd funding pages because their health insurance doesn’t cover all of their medical expenses and they have no way of paying the huge bills. Imagine having to make the choice to refuse treatment that might save your life because you can’t afford it. So many of us take our public health system for granted because we have never experienced anything different, but it is invaluable. So, next time you feel like moaning about waiting times in A&E, or having had your elective surgery postponed, or how short staffed they seem on the ward your relative is staying on, think about how much worse it could be. The NHS is the lifeblood of the UK and it’s currently being starved. This blog isn’t about politics so I will try not to go off on a tangent, but there is no escaping that the current state of the NHS and its rather precarious looking future is political…something to think about next time you vote!
In addition to the NHS, I have so many people in my life that have helped me out immeasurably over the last 1 year or so and whilst I like to think I can do anything on my own (because I’m fiercely independent and stubborn af), my life would have been a lot harder without you all. So, to my darling friends, Ciara for coming with me to the appointment where I got my diagnosis, for always being available to talk things through and for the red wine (it’s full of antioxidants don’t you know) and drunken Irish singing, Harry for coming with me to my first scan, for taking me to see Jezza and generally being my all round political ally, Pamela for the hugs, distractions, endless chats about food (what else) and for putting up with me letting waifs and strays stay in our flat, Luke and Niall for the presents, presence, hospitality and for never looking at me like I’m a mad woman during our drunken ‘philosophical’ chats, Ruth for the beerz and bantz, for coming all the way from Oxford to keep me company and for getting a piercing on my behalf when the nurse said I couldn’t, Hannah for the postcard, chats and ‘alternative medicine’, Naomi for 30 years of friendship, Phil for the flowers and fun and for literally not batting an eyelid when I took out months of built up anger on you on a night out (I was vile, I’m sorry), Grace for the yogic light, laughs and bath shot requests, Elise and Lottie for the updates and positive vibes, Tate for the haircut, straight talking and kind messages despite having so much on your plate, Jo for your awesome sense of humour, for bringing your gorgeous babies to see me and buying me vegan treats, David for setting up this page and giving me a gentle shove to get back to blogging, Abi for the postcards and jokes, Ness for the lifts, gifts and company, Liz for new friendship and for tolerating my terrible text response time, all the friends who sent me kind messages, prayers, good thoughts, positive vibes, healing light and offers of support, reiki, lifts, coffee, company etc. and all my new online friends; strong, brave women (and the odd man) who are boldly sharing their experience with the world (via social media) and who offer a network of solidarity and shared experience.
Then there is my family…I’m blessed with a huge extended family and whilst we aren’t the sort of family that is all up in each other’s business all the time, when needed everyone rallies around. First, and most importantly to my brilliant mum, you somehow managed to hold down your very stressful job whilst driving me to the hospital EVERY SINGLE DAY for my radiotherapy and chemotherapy. The journey was an absolute fucker; because of roadworks we had to take the rural route and it was a 3 hour around trip each day. Plus, you had to listen to me moaning about every bump in the road every bloody day! You went out and bought whatever weird thing I felt like eating and never complained once when I then felt utterly chunderific just looking at said craving, you put up with my horrendously bad moods and sat freezing in the car because the hot flushes and nausea meant I needed the air con on full blast and you held it all together because you are strong as hell. Thank you Ma. To Joseph for being strong and dependable, for coming to sit and wait with me and buying me cake when I had my first op, for agreeing not to cook the roast potatoes in goose fat (I know that was tough), for lending me money and paying my rent, Louis for the presents, messages and post-op visit, for not freaking out and for the booze fueled game tournaments. To San for the gifts, for letting me (and the rest of the clan) visit all the bloody time and for making me congee. To Chloe for the presents, flowers and beautiful letters, to Chris and Sarah who sent me money every month to help me pay rent and to all my aunts, uncles and cousins who sent me money, flowers, cards, messages, chocolates, knitting kits and afternoon tea, who gave me lifts and who respected my wishes not to have visitors during treatment (it wasn’t that I didn’t want to see you, rather I didn’t want you to see me like that…I HATE being the patient!) Thank you so much each and every one of you over the last 1 year, I have no idea how I would have managed without your generosity and kindness. Best family in the world during this 1 year!
Thank you to those who recommended Penny Brohn and those who have offered to help me reach more people with my blog and social media and if there is anyone who I haven’t mentioned, rest assured your gesture did not go unnoticed and I am immensely grateful.
Read my first ever post here.