Starting from around this time last year, I've just come to the end of a constant and relentless round of treatment:
-16 mg of Dexamethasone (steroids) daily over two months
-two craniotomies (surgery) to remove the tumour in my cerebellum
-further hospitalisation to treat meningitis arising from the surgery with nausea-inducing antibiotics
-15 fractions (doses) of radiotherapy to my whole head
- five MRi scans of my head
- one CT scan of my whole body
-hospitalisation for a further week on the cancer ward to re-hydrate me after the debilitating effects of these procedures
All washed down wirh
-three weekly infusions of Herceptin
-20 mg Tamoxifen daily
So when the latest MRi showed 'no sign of disease', and a good news letter came from my oncologist at the end of February, confirming that there was nothing in my brain to warrant further treatment at present, who can blame me for feeling I've been given some shining respite? There were times, of course, when I wondered if all this treatment was worth it, because I was bound to need more and more, especially after meeting many courageous people in the hospital whose disease had come back several times, each one more vengeful than before. Now I'm just grateful that I was offered this treatment and agreed to it and have somehow found the patience and strength to see it through. No, I am not the same as I was before this started. I'm not allowed to drive for at least two years because of the surgery to my head; but all that entails, in the final analysis, is finding alternative ways of getting about, as far as my energy allows. Everything is down to energy levels these days - a late side effect of the radiotherapy. But so it is with all ageing people, and I am mow past my half century. I am eating well again now, without vomiting, and taking taxis on my own into town, instead of relying on friends to fetch and carry me. My singing voice has returned (though much deeper and weaker) and I can play the piano again. I can even contemplate a holiday this summer with my daughter, having thought I'd never have the ability, much less the inclination to travel again. This time last year, I was almost at the stage where I lost the ability to sign my own name; now I am tackling the Arabic alphabet again, after twenty five years.
What am I getting at here? That there is light at the end of the tunnel, even for people with Stage 4 cancer. It being the nature of the disease to be capricious, I also know that this may not be the outcome for everyone; but I do know that taking each day at a time (which is about all I had the energy for anyway during last year's treatments) privileges the present experience above past regrets or future fears. As I wrote at the very beginning of this blog, a couple of years ago now, we all, including cancer patients, begin each day on an even playing field, equally human and equally alive. The faith we bring to each day is up to us.