The past few weeks have definitely felt like a theme park ride, with many highs and a few lows, and sometimes (well most of the time) I’m very bored of the ride and I just want to get off!
Before starting back at work I wanted to fit in a couple of trips away… I’ve missed my holidays soooo much. The first one was me and Big G returning to our piece of paradise, our cave house in Spain. I was very worried about what state we were going to find it in, as we’ve not been since last April and we left the windows open for ventilation – thought we would return a few months later. Luckily it wasn’t too bad – the fly screens had stopped most of the dust going in. We had such a relaxing time, lots of vino tinto and tapas, sitting by the log burner, looking at ‘my’ mountains, and time with friends, a proper charge up of my batteries.
Then my sister, Bryony, and me went to Crete for 10 days. Brrr, it was a bit chillier than expected so I had to sit in the sun to keep warm! I’m not really meant to but Vitamin D is good for you, as I kept telling myself, and I was very sensible about applying the sun cream regularly. I was very pleased with how much walking I managed on the few days we went out, but painful joints (due to the hormone treatment) meant I had to take it easy when I could. At one point she had me climbing over a wall, which would have made video of the week on ‘You’ve Been Framed’ but I drew the line at walking down 50 steps just to have my photo taken (which I knew I would hate), knowing I’d have to walk straight back up them! After all who wants to see themselves as an almost 49 year old, bald, fat bloke – better to imagine that I am a svelte 30 year old, with long flowing locks – it’s clearly the photos and mirrors that lie! We laughed so much throughout our stay; we will have to make it a yearly jaunt!
The day after we got back, I had to go for my heart scan to check if the heart function has gone up so I can resume the Hereptin injections. After the last time I was incredible anxious, but I popped an anti-anxiety pill that the hospital gave me, and luckily they had no problems finding the veins this time. And good news, I heard today that its back up to 55, so can start the injections again next week – mmm something to look forward to!
I had already been into work for a morning or so a week before I went on holiday, but Monday 29th April was the first day I was going back in properly, to do actual work, all be it for only 2 mornings a week to start with. Bearing in mind that it has almost been a year since I was there, this was a pretty momentous day. My emotions were all over the place – anxiety, pride, fear, and happiness. The journey there involved quite a few tears, then lots of hugs and smiling faces from colleagues which was amazing (thank you so much guys), telling me how good I looked – slap on, drawn on brows, big earrings, fake it till you make it! Then, seemingly from nowhere a total engulfing feeling of being overwhelmed whilst sitting at my desk – what the chuff am I doing back, I can’t even remember my own name sometimes, let alone function well in my job! Luckily, there was just me and my manager in the office at the time, and she was fab, as she has been all the way through this, so I let myself cry and then got on with the morning!! I think the anxiety will continue for a while, but I felt better when I went back in, and I’m sure it will get easier. There were a few jokes about playing the ‘cancer card’, especially when I was being ‘bullied’ into holding a mouse and gerbil (er no thanks, minging creepy tails), and actually I should have been more careful re the risk of lymphedema but hey I forgot – well surely it’s a good thing that cancer isn’t on my mind constantly (although I guess it should be a little more!).
The next day I started the ‘HOPE’ course, which is run by Macmillan, and helps you cope with life after a cancer diagnosis. I’ve not used their facilities or services at all throughout, but have been having moments of panic about the future etc. so thought why not give it a go. I fully expected to hate it and not go after the first week – I still don’t want cancer buddies – but actually it was really nice to know I’m not the only one feeling this way, emotionally and physically. When I arrived, early of course, I felt a bit sick sitting in the car park. I get social anxiety in new situations (I’m very good at hiding it) but as soon as a car pulled up next to me I had to laugh and turn away – there was a lady with hardly any hair, well she’s clearly going to the same place as me!!
Thursday was a mixed day! Joy at spending time with our new great niece, frustration at driving around Cambridge to look at new cars with Big G, his sister and Dad (confusion all around), excited to be feeling well and almost energetic – should have stopped at that and known that it had been a long day! But oh no, I thought I was all good, and as Big G is off to Australia today, and Thursday evening would be our only opportunity to go out before he went, let’s go out for a meal and a few wines! All was well until I had finished my meal – G was still going (haha), well it was a buffet – and a wave of tiredness hit like a bus. “We are going to have to go, I can’t be here anymore”… then the tears started! Not embarrassing at all in a restaurant, I felt a right tit (got to love a good pun!). The tears were clearly aided and abetted by the red wine, but I felt so upset, so desperate, that I couldn’t even last an evening without feeling so tired, so ill, so not ‘me’. More tears followed at home, when the hell am I going to be ‘back to normal’, when the hell can I do more than one thing a day without feeling shite. I absolutely know it is a matter of time and the importance of being kind to myself in the mean time. I also know that I will never fully be the old me, and that’s ok. But at times it really gets to me, and I also know that’s ok because the next day will be better – well the next day I spent most of it in bed – but the day after was better!
I have to keep reminding myself that my body, and mind, are amazing – they have got me through this last year and as one of the ladies at the HOPE course said ‘We are rock stars’ – and I know patience is the key, one step at a time, just setting realistic goals, appreciating what I have, where I’m at, how much I’ve been through and am coming out the other side.
We are all fantastic; please don’t let the daily grind make you forget that.