Being diagnosed with cancer makes me feel as if I've been inserted onto the other side of a fence that's separate from everyone else who has no cancer diagnosis. It's an odd feeling because somehow I feel as though I'm watching everyone else get on with all their things in life while I do my own weird half existence over here - like I've accidentally wandered into a dance class full of people who know all the moves and I'm in the back, wearing the wrong dance costume and moving out of beat with the wrong body parts! Kind of funny actually - if you're on this side of the fence!
I'm learning a great deal about how I used to behave, think and talk to those with cancer in the past as all the non-cancer people I encounter are just like the old me, before my diagnosis. I know everyone is well meaning and I do very much appreciate how they must feel especially those close to me, but things that I'm finding very unhelpful are people who like to compare having cancer to some other illness (especially chronic illnesses like MS or Asthma) or also saying how crossing the road is also the same as facing our mortality like having cancer but really that's just ridiculous as it's nothing like having cancer.
Some well meaning individuals have sent me emails with long medical descriptions about various cancer treatments for people with Triple Negative Breast Cancer and these I've just deleted immediately and tried not to look. What helps me more are positive stories from real people who have survived this and lived to tell the tale and even share a joke along the way because laughter is medicine and making me smile while I wait for treatment to begin and perhaps during, will be more healing for me than medical information.
My doctors are the only ones I want to hear medical stuff from and I'm lucky that my mum and my boyfriend are my other sets of ears who want to hear it too as I sometimes check out while trying to listen because hearing what part of my body has this invasive thing in it, isn't easy to hear over and over again.
I have now got a nurse assigned to my journey through the cancer jungle which I'm very grateful for as I know I'll need her support as this adventure unveils itself. I'm rather excited to get started, which yes makes me sound utterly bonkers, but I want to begin the fight and experience everything even the nausea, sickness, chemo brain and yes even the eventual possible surgery because I want to see who I will be when I reach the other side.
I also feel very positive about all of it.....I'm the sort of person who attempts to chat or joke when having a core biopsy or when having needles repeatedly inserted into my hiding veins. I don't mind needles and don't mind hospitals. I don't like pain, like the majority of the population, but I'm fortunately under the wonderful care of the NHS which means, I'm getting the best treatment there is, for free and delivered by the nicest most wonderful nurses and doctors I've ever met so I'm in really good hands and very grateful and excited to be receiving my treatment at the incredible Royal Marsden in Chelsea. Finally, after a year in endless national lockdown, I get to see London again and can confirm after just one visit that the city of London is still there! What a relief!
So this coming week, I have an appointment on Wednesday morning with Professor Turner and Dr. Okines who are going to reveal their treatment plan for me and on the same day, I'm also getting my blood drawn to be tested for the special genetic gene that will give them more information about any future reoccurrences of breast cancer but I've been told that the results will take months to come so probably by the time my treatment ends, they'll know which will give them an idea of what type of surgery I'll need. My Wednesday appointment will apparently be half an hour so it's short, sweet and hopefully, they'll answer all my lingering questions and then I'll at least have an idea of what's to come which will be a relief!
On Thursday this coming week, I will be getting up at the crack of dawn for an early morning appointment at the Royal Marsden to have another core biopsy and then later a bone scan so I get to spend the day there which I'm actually quite curious about as it's a beautiful hospital and I've also been promised snacks or a room with snacks and comfy chairs while I wait in between tests. I've done a core biopsy before and know what to expect and already have my arnica tablets ready to go so that I heal fast and I'm very curious about the bone scan and crossing fingers that they let me in on any images of my bones as this sort of thing fascinates me, plus there's always a possibility that seeing an image of my bones will inspire some sort of drawing.
I've halted my online teaching this month until I know my schedule so my meetup group is suffering a little but so far all my members are very kind and understanding which is lovely! It's also kind of nice having a break from teaching as it's quite exhausting even though I do enjoy seeing my students progress along their creative journeys. In May I'm planning to add new classes to my website as my April classes were so much fun!
Outside of the cancer jungle, I also live a life in semi-organised chaos, with all my belongings clogging up the arteries of my boyfriends once trendy tidy flat. I just moved in and feel like I've taken over like an artist infestation....my art studio that we crammed into his little office has sadly demoted Robert to the kitchen counter which makes me feel quite guilty as I know my chaos pains him very much. Today is my day to do something about this chaos, so after we go to the garden centre (very exciting lockdown activity) I'm going to put in my earphones, get my latest audiobook going (To Sleep In A Sea Of Stars by Christopher Paolini) and sort out and organise my creative chaos! Who knows what kind of creativity will come out of the chemo but I want to have a clean organised space to be ready for anything!
Otherwise, life goes on and so do I. I've always loved myself, my life, my decisions and my artist self and embrace every change that takes place as it all makes me who I am, good and not so good.....I love Tolkien and have read his books so many times that his words often find their way into my brain when I need to hear them the most.
Lately, his words have been floating around in my head since the diagnosis and it's helping to repeat them often as it not only keeps me motivated, inspired and happy but it gives me renewed purpose in my own life which I know will be long and full of more adventures yet to come:
"I wish it need not have happened in my time," said Frodo. "So do I," said Gandalf, "and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us."