Sooo…where was I?? Oh yeah…scan results time!! It was now fast approaching December 2017 but November had one final shocker of a blow to hit us Ovarian Ladies. I got news from ‘A’s lovely daughter that her amazing Mum had died. I was gutted but glad that ‘A’ was finally free from all the pain and that she had managed to hold on to see her son who had travelled over from Australia to see her. She was determined to die at home and that’s exactly what she did. All throughout her treatment she never once complained. Sure she was angry about never being able to have an operation and she hated her “bitch” of a cancer – many people have a nickname for their tumours and hers was called “the bitch”. Very fitting (I called my original 2 “the twins”…yeah, I’m warped!). Here in Northern Ireland, funerals normally take place 2-3 days later. I was gutted all over again as I couldn’t go to the funeral as I had to be at the City hospital for my results and my latest magnesium drip. With hindsight, I’m glad I didn’t go – I’ve actually never been to another funeral since J’s as it totally devastated me – I have admitted to myself that going to funerals – especially when they’re for my very dear friends who have
lost their battle died of the same shitty disease that I have – just takes one hell of a toll on me mentally. I just can’t do it.
So December rolled around and with it my scan results date (plus another vomit-inducing dose of magnesium to look forward to). I popped into the Bridgewater Suite first to get my latest magnesium number – it had finally climbed back up to 0.6!! By this stage I’d discovered a good magnesium supplement that I was taking religiously every night. Whether it was that or the weekly infusions that were finally doing the trick I’ve no idea. It looked like I’d need another infusion so I was to return to get it after my results. So it was time for me to head to see my oncologist. I hardly dared to hope that I’d reach the no evidence of disease (NED) stage again. All I knew was that my CA125 numbers had still been dropping and my shoulder pain had never returned. I was hoping for the best and preparing for the worst.
It was Oncologist 2 I went in to see – with Neil fretting as much as I was. The results turned out to be not too hideous but not as good as I’d hoped. My CA125 had dropped to 34 – normal is under 35 – so my oncologist was delighted with this result. I wasn’t – my CA125 at its lowest had been 12 so that value gave me the head’s up for the next bit of news…the 4 wee buggers were still there. BUGGER YOU FECKING BUGGERS!! The good news was that they had all responded to the chemo and had shrunk significantly. So no NED but the chemo had worked up to a point. It was a disappointing result with a silver lining. The oncologist did give me some excellent news though – she was happy with my magnesium result and said I didn’t need an infusion that day. Woo-fecking-hoo!! I said my goodbyes, went and got another sample of blood taken for my CA125 (I have no idea to this day what my current value of this is – it’s a number I don’t like dwelling on and just adds to my general uneasiness) and then practically skipped back to the Bridgewater Suite to tell the nurses that they didn’t have my delightful company for the next couple of hours!
It was then time to get the feck out of Belfast and pass on my latest news to my nearest and dearest – most people picked up on the “chemo has worked” part of my message rather than the pisser part that the cancer was still there so I got lots of relieved messages back which made me realise that, yes, the news could have been much, much worse.
And just like that, my life started getting back onto an even keel again. What I’m about to say might not make much sense…but I have found that it was easier to deal with mentally – knowing that I still had cancer inside me – rather than being put back in an anxious tailspin waiting and wondering when and where the wee fecker would pop up next. I have had to get my head around LIVING WITH CANCER and for the most part, that’s exactly what I’ve done. Sure, I have days where I do nothing but worry about what the wee buggers are doing inside me…but in between the 3-monthly scans, I generally cope pretty well and I know a huge part of that is thanks to my support network – my hubby, my kids, my rocks (sometimes rockets when we’ve had too much prosecco – you know who you are!!), my job and all my great friends there and – last but by no means least! – my ovarian ladies and fellow cancer buddies – both here in Northern Ireland and my online pals. I’ve said it before but it’s worth repeating – nobody gets cancer peeps better than other cancer peeps and I am so glad that I’ve made so many firm, loving friendships with so many amazing people. Give yourselves great big hugs from me!
Sooo…it was back to working nearly a whole week at a time – bar the hour or so I’d need to disappear to get my PICC line cleaned and checked by the district nurses and my bloods taken for my magnesium levels and then the day a week I’d have to go up to the City hospital for my magnesium results and the dreaded drips. It was so much easier this time to cope at work because I’d kept going into work during my chemo. I wasn’t as badly affected by fatigue and was nowhere near as weak as I wasn’t recovering from a big op this time. Sure, I’d had 7 shades of shit knocked out of me (sometimes literally – remember all that sharting??!!) but I was being my usual belligerent bugger and carrying on regardless.
My Macmillan social worker had referred me on to the Cancer Fund for Children as requested and they had kindly asked me if I’d like to bring a pal with me for a lovely pampering experience. I took Alison along to Daisy Lodge down in the Mournes (one of my favourite places and the views at Daisy Lodge are amazing) where we were completely spoilt. I had a lovely foot and leg massage and even had my wig cut into a slightly choppier do rather than the sleek bob – there is nothing sleek about me normally! We had the most relaxing yoga session and even made wee Christmas decorations. Oh and the food!! The food was all cooked in the on-site kitchen and it was delicious! But the best bit was meeting fellow cancer peeps. There weren’t many of us down there as the weather was pretty grim which meant some people had cancelled. It meant that those of us there were thrown together in such a relaxed, beautiful place and it was easy to just start chatting and not stop!! Having cancer is a double-edged sword – it can build barriers between the person who has cancer and some of their friends and family but when we meet other people with cancer, any barriers that might have been there come crashing down and we can start chatting straight away…finding out what cancer each of us has, what treatment we’ve had, what stage of regrowth our hair is at, enjoying hot flushes together – you name it, we talk about it and we hardly have time to draw breath!! It was a very special experience. Any families affected by cancer please do get in touch with Cancer Fund for Children – I can highly recommend it and am so grateful to my kids’ teacher for suggesting the charity to me! It is for all kids affected by cancer – both those who have cancer themselves or who have a parent who has cancer.
The next day I was back up at the City with Alison again for my latest magnesium drip. I was in for pleasant surprise – my magnesium was holding steady at 0.6 so I didn’t need a drip and my oncologist was happy that it was stabilising so I could get my PICC line out!! About fecking time and a very Merry Christmas to me!! If anyone doesn’t know what a PICC line looks like, have a wee nosey at the pics. I have to be a wee bit different as per fecking usual and have mine anchored to my arm by something called a stat-lock as the usual device is embedded in your arm and contains nickel – something else I’m allergic to besides carboplatin chemo!! Thankfully I remembered that allergy before I got my first line put in back in 2015. Phew! It’s pretty self-explanatory that there’s a before and after pic of my arm there!
It was now full-steam ahead to Christmas and my birthday – I made it to the grand old age of 45!! Yippee! Unluckily for me, I had caught a stinking cold AND I had given myself a fat lip the night before my birthday when I fell asleep reading my tablet in bed and it fell on my face! It takes a special kind of stupid to manage that manoeuvre!! There was nothing else for it than to go out and drown my sorrows and spice things up with a yummy curry and lots of booze! My nearest and dearest joined me – Neil and our kids, my Mum, bro Davy and his better half Robyn and their wee boy Logan plus my 2 blood-runner pals Alison and Helen. Prosecco, an Irish coffee and a hot toddy (whiskey, boiled water, plus honey, cinnamon sticks and cloves – yummy and great for colds!) when I got home all meant that I woke up the next day with a mild hangover but feeling much better stinky-cold-wise. My day got worse when I got the news that I just knew was coming…’A2′ had died. Our wee group of ladies had now lost both ‘A’ and ‘A2’ in a matter of weeks. It was hard news to take – my heart went out to the families whose Christmases would never be the same again and, like with ‘A’, I was glad ‘A2’ was at peace but just gutted that this bastard cancer had robbed another fun-loving, passionate, vibrant woman of her life.
Christmas was a lovely, relaxed affair. Christmas Eve saw Neil and the kids all gathered on the floor all x-boxing together while I captured the moment for posterity. See the pic! They’re a sociable-looking lot aren’t they! The main thing for us all was that I’d successfully made it through another round of chemo and had lived to see another birthday and Christmas. These big events are so much more precious and special to us cancer peeps. We treasure them but can’t help wondering if this is our last birthday/Christmas/holiday. It requires giving ourselves a damn good shake and just enjoying the fun times when they come along. Nobody knows what is around the next corner, whether they have cancer or not. Us cancer peeps just feel things extra deeply. I compare it to taking my rose-tinted specs off – I’m seeing life in its most raw and beautiful state and can grasp how fragile and special it really is.
Neil had had his usual meltdown of what to get me for my birthday and Christmas and I’d made things even more difficult than usual by not giving him big hints on the Amazon wishlist by saying there was nothing I wanted or needed and to just go ahead and surprise me. He managed just fine and I was very happy with all my surprises. There were a few wee hiccups caused by my increasingly fecked-up chemo brain. One of Neil’s shirts was the wrong size…as was one of Elliot’s t-shirts…and I unwrapped a box of chocolates going “Oh! Great minds!! You might find something very similar in a mo Thea!”…only to find out a mo later that I’d used the wrong fecking wrapping paper and I’d unwrapped Thea’s fecking chocolates!! Whoops! Good job Neil’s always in charge of the Christmas cooking innit!!
The rest of the day was a relaxing success. Yummy food, the obligatory game of Monopoly (we used Elliot’s new Game of Thrones version – I still was the first one to be bankrupt, I nearly always am!) and lots of bucks fizz! The next day we went up to Davy and Robyn’s for more of the same and I had a couple of mates round that night for more games and watching Elliot kill Neil over and over and over again on the Xbox. Ahhh, good times!!
The next day saw us drop the dogs off for a wee overnight break at the local kennels while we escaped for a wee break back to Daisy Lodge. Neil and the kids were gobsmacked by the location and the sheer awesomeness of our rooms and of course the yummy food! It meant that I was unable to go to ‘A2”s funeral. Again, I had mixed emotions about this – but me and ‘A2′ had chatted on several occasions about how badly going to our chemo buddies’ funerals had affected us so I knew that if anyone could understand me not being there, it would be ‘A2’ herself. Instead, I made the most of being in those beautiful surroundings with my wee family and again got chatting to another couple of families who had either the mum or dad with a cancer diagnosis. When Daisy Lodge has events on, they always tailor it so that the families there always have the parents with cancer there together OR the kids with cancer there together.
Back home, we another big event to look forward to – New Years Eve round at Alison’s house. Certain events leading up to the night (death of the 2 ‘A’s being major ones for me) meant that the night was a huge success as the adults there got…a wee bit merry shall we say?? Neil was the only slightly sensible adult by the end of the night…Helen was squishing me to death with gigantic hugs declaring her undying love for me, Alison was ensuring our glasses were never allowed to run dry and was the hostess with the mostest playing all our music requests and I was doing my Single Ladies dance routine with Alison’s daughter as I’d had to come up with a routine to it for her group at Girl Guides a few years ago – Beyonce has nothing to fear, her choreography skills are still unmatched!! I’d also be highly put out when a song came on that I couldn’t stand (according to Neil my music taste is a bit limited…I argue that nope, I just don’t like shit music) and could be heard guldering “wank!!” when a rave song was played and then when “You’re beautiful” came on I was muttering “James Blunt…rhymes with….!!!” You can fill in the blanks!! One thing that is definitely not limited is my colourful vocabulary!!! I was back in a much happier state by the end of the night/middle of the morning. I just hope my singing Duran Duran all the way home didn’t break any windows or mirrors, waken sleeping babies, set car alarms off or make dogs howl the house down. I apologise profusely and can only try and reassure folk that the same thing won’t happen this New Year!! Aye right!! The hangover the next day was totally worth it – it was such a memorable (albeit a little bit blurry at times!) night…good friends and our families all getting together for a right good laugh with plenty of craic. A couple of the less messy pics are included here! It was a solid 2-fingered salute to the back of another mixed bag of a year and a big “c’mon let’s see what you can hit me with!” invitation to 2018 to hit me with its best shot.