Behold, with apologies to the Latin scholars out there, our new motto! Very roughly translated this means, “achieving shit, despite the shit”. This was borne out of an intense champagnestorming session Mrs P and I had after she handed in her PhD thesis last Friday. We are designing a quartered coat of arms which will include a drip stand, a doctoral gown, a rabbit’s face and a vat of wine.
I sincerely hope that this will be the final cancer-related post. Since my last communication Katie completed chemo, had a mastectomy, a three-week radiotherapy digestif/victory lap and, of course, completed her epic “The Leper and the King” (which I’m sure Waterstones will be stocking in time for Christmas). Katie’s suffering from chemo side effects, mainly joint and muscle pain and is still getting used to the side effects of oestrogen blockers, which she’ll be taking for the next ten years. The prognosis is good, the consultant was happy with Katie’s progress when we saw the team in March and we’re both loving the short-haired look.
As for me, it took a long time, but my blood and bone marrow is finally 100% my sister’s, which was the point of the allograft (bone marrow transplant). I got the call from Lara, my wonderful technical nurse, just as I was coming through the barriers at Reading station on my way to work on a grey November morning to tell me the good news. That has pretty much been that. The time elapsed between appointments has grown longer and the length of consultations has got shorter as there’s far less to discuss.
The support that we’ve had from friends and family has been amazing and I’d like to thank everyone for that. Sadly, I got to know a couple of patients who weren’t as lucky as me and it would be remiss of me not to mention them. I met Amy Yates through a Facebook Hodgkins Group when we were both on the Nivolumab trial in the Summer of 2015. Amy had been through ABVD and, after relapsing, nearly died during her autograft treatment. She was still brave enough, after another relapse, to take the risk of going for a cure by having an allograft with a stem cell donor. Amy didn’t come out of hospital after being admitted for the transplant and died in ITU in February 2016. We’d chatted a few times on the ward when I was readmitted post-transplant and Amy was waiting for her pre-transplant chemo to start. She was unflappable and hilarious – even making multiple attempts to be cannulated funny.
I got to know Claire Owen a little better through a fellow friend and “allografter” Lisa Ralls. We had our transplants around the same time. Claire was in and out of hospital for almost six months due to a variety of transplant related complications, but was given the all clear from leukaemia in 2016. I was losing my mind after four weeks on the ward, so I take my hat off to anyone who has the mental strength to cope with longer. Sadly, Claire relapsed unexpectedly (even the medical team were taken by surprise) just before Christmas 2016 and, after having the kitchen sink thrown at her treatment-wise, died last September. She was extraordinary and exemplary. I was completely intimated, blinded even, by Claire’s good humour and bravery. Talking to her on the ward or in outpatients during the last few months was like staring too long at the sun. Last year was neatly, but darkly, summed up by the fact that I missed Claire’s funeral, because I was with Katie at Royal Berks for a mid-chemo ultrasound scan. That was 2017 – right there.
Maybe it’s impending middle-age, but it seems that so many of our friends are having health struggles – young people have suffered from strokes, mental health issues, meningitis, been diagnosed with cancer…the list goes on. Another close friend, who we’ve known for nearly thirty years, was diagnosed with lymphoma a few months back. We have everything crossed for his continued good health through chemo.
As for Mrs P and me, we are going on holiday soon – our first without the shadow of cancer since September 2014. Our horizon has perceptibly lengthened during the last few weeks. You spend so long living from appointment to appointment or from treatment to treatment that the concept of a future becomes a foreign concept. Hopefully, for both of us, there’s a bit more future to come.