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My oldest friend has recently been diagnosed with cancer. Non Hodgkin’s Lymphoma (NHL) to be precise and I wanted to share some of the positive elements she’s experienced since starting her treatment, in the hope that it might reassure any […]
Yesterday I taught a two hour workshop on deep stretching and strengthening, concentrating on the neck and shoulders. I was brilliantly assisted by my lovely friend who is bravely coping with cancer. She was feeling well yesterday after her second round of chemotherapy. We drove in her car and managed to park outside with all our equipment because she has a disabled badge. We got some funny stares moving everything in because thankfully yesterday, she did not look like she needed or indeed deserved a disabled parking sticker. She told me she had been confronted by people before, chasing her up the road in the entirely wrong assumption that she was abusing the badge. Once she said to an irate woman "OK, I tell you what, you have my cancer and I will gladly give up my disabled parking place". She is worried about her hair falling out. When we went to the Maggie's event, she got talking to Janet Ellis who hosted the event. Janet told her to that she had a fantastic hairdresser that cuts wigs and that she would arrange for him to cut hers. She has since been in touch with my friend. It turns out the hairdresser she mentioned is only Mr Trevor Sorbie himself! My friend has now decided that even if she doesn't want to wear a wig she's going to have to go and get it styled by him anyway. Just for the experience. She's been writing about how she's been coping with chemotherapy in her blog. You should take a look. It's very moving. Here are some of her recent words:- Thursday: First to enter chemo ward at 8.45 am. Last to leave at about 7pm. Only advantage is I have eyed up my favourite position (in the corner with the shelf) so getting there early means I get a choice of seats. Lucky old me hey? We get straight on with it. 1o hours later I am full of toxic chemicals, steroids, tonnes of fluid, anti sickness and I think I managed half an egg sandwich too. Last night after much sobbing, I went for a walk. Around the dining room table. Yes the dining room table. It was quite an achievement. I couldn't quite make it back to the sofa so ended up on the floor near the sofa on the grimbles carpet. Jonny reached out to me to help. I wailed "you need to take me to the seaside." And again, "the seaside!" Bless he said he would. Just not last night. Simple dreams hey. So far we have the field and the seaside. Although sunshine is needed for both. So. After a week at home in grimbles land, I have made it out of the house. And it was SO nice. Coffee (ahem well sparkling water) with friend this morning, followed by being driven to Marble Hill Park and the very pretty coffee shop where I managed to share both a main and a cake - like real proper food and everything. Look at me everyone. My friend asked me what kind of things I like to do. I said "things like this." Share life. Share living. Share cake. Yes there were tears today. But I felt better for letting them out. I really need to invest in some better blusher though. Seriously I put a lot of that stuff on this morning and apparently I still look really pale and washed out. Need to consult my make up expert. One of my experiences of the past few days has been letting local hospice care help me at home. This has been hard. Emotionally. It's that word. Hospice. Is that where I am? Is that what I need? How can this be? It turns out that this is Ann's job though. To visit people like me who are dealing with side effects and symptoms at home. And she was really helpful. She just got it on many levels. I had been putting a lot on myself about how badly I have been coping recently. Whilst the reasons were not what I wanted to hear, to have someone who knows there stuff tell you it is not you, it is your body and everything you are going through, gave me some acceptance that it is not just me. I'm really sick. And that isn't my fault. So we are pleased and so grateful for this help. Even if it is a hard one to accept. She left some leaflets on the coffee table. Some of which were hard to read even the title of. She also mentioned the day hospice. I am sure for some who are isolated and alone these are a real life line. But for me, right now, I'm not sure. You see I have tried various cancer support places before and it turns out I don't really fit in there either. Why not? Well one reason is my age. Believe it or not I can find myself in a situation were the staff and other visitors all treat me like some sort of "weird special case" because I have this dreadful disease at such a young age. So I end up feeling like I don't fit in the one place where in theory I should. But I don't think it is just my age. I know of others in my situation who that kind of thing is not for them. That's not to say that this support is wonderful for many. And maybe I will change. But right now - it is not a place I feel I belong. For me this disease takes over enough. And I long to be free of it. And when I feel well enough (which is not that frequently right now) I want to see those friends and family I trust. Who I know just see me and not the cancer. I believe most of us yearn to belong, wherever we are in life. For me, heartbreakingly, doors have been closed. But that is not to say I don't belong anywhere. There are special people and places and moments where I totally do. Not defined by illness or labels or what I look like or whatever. A level beyond any of those temporary things that seek to destroy my human spirit. Where I do belong. Yesterday I started eating properly again. I had a very frustrating mid week experience where I wanted to eat more than just toast but my stomach was really struggling to take it in. Last night someone made us fish pie. It hit the spot. Whilst I have been FED UP, the other member of our household has been very WELL FED all week. We have been so touched by the kindness of the church community who are reaching out with love at this time. For over a week we had Jonny's evening meals delivered for him and this has been a huge help. There have been pangs of guilt. You may have got by now I struggle with accepting help. But goodness. The boy has eaten well. Obviously this illness doesn't just affect me. On our wedding day we had a phrase from dove poem which read "two parts of a loving whole, two hearts and a single soul." And whilst I am camped out in chemo land at home, the other part of us is working 12 hour days, coming home to try and look after me, as well as dealing with his own emotional fears I know. So having a good proper meal sorted has REALLY helped. So we say thank you. Thank you. And thank you again. Tonight we will be eating in Pizza Express. And that feels like a massive treat of a different kind too.