In with the new and good riddance to 2017, which to say the least hasn’t been the most auspicious of years for me. It started well enough and looked quite promising, up until May that is. Then things started to go awry and without going into more detail than necessary, my year hit the buffers in that month when I was diagnosed with cancer – Hodgkins Lymphoma to be precise.
I was prescribed a lengthy period of chemotherapy and was warned at the outset that the treatment would be worse than the disease. And that has proven to be the case, the more so as due to the disease being diagnosed at an early stage, I was experiencing no symptoms from it, as indeed I still am not.
I’m not saying that the treatment has been truly ghastly, because it hasn’t. And I say that because although everyone’s journey through cancer treatment is individual and different, there are some awful scare stories in circulation about how chemotherapy is ‘poison’ and how ‘it affects your brain’ or ‘it damages all your major organs’ and worst of all, ‘it’s terribly painful’.
Maybe I’ve just been lucky, maybe the team over here in Périgueux have been especially good at implementing and managing my treatment (they’ve been fantastic, professional and genuinely caring actually) but in my experience none of those things are true. Yes, you do have good days (at the top of the cycle) and some bad days (at the bottom) but in case, just in case, anyone reading this has been diagnosed as I was and is thinking about rejecting chemotherapy because of the scare stories they’ve heard, all I can say is please, please don’t do it.
Please don’t trust the most valuable thing you have to quack homeopathy treatments or ‘magic’ diets that you find on the internet. If fighting cancer were that easy, treatment centres all over the world would be getting people to do those things. But they’re not and huge amounts of resources and money are being spent year after year on research into finding new ways to fight the disease. And by the time you find out that the quack treatments don’t work, you might find, sadly, that it’s too late.
Chemotherapy isn’t perfect but for some forms of cancer, it’s all we have. If I’m anything to go by, immediately after four or five hours of having chemicals pumped into you, all you want to do is sleep for a few hours. Then after a day or so, you feel generally unwell for a few more days while your body recovers, but not so bad that you can’t cope. In my case, chemo also hit my white blood cells mainly, pretty hard, so I’ve had to have follow-up booster injections, but if I can do it, anyone can.
So if anyone reading this is like an Englishman over here who my doctor wanted me to talk to after being diagnosed with the same disease as me the day before, please, please do not despair. Cancer is still a killer disease in many of its forms, but not all. And when your oncologist tells you that it will not be pleasant, but that you will have a greater than 90% chance of achieving a full recovery after treatment, believe them. And go forward with a strong spirit and a positive frame of mind.
So that’s it for 2017. I’ve still got one chemo session to go in January, so I’m now much nearer the end than the beginning. I said at the beginning that I wasn’t going to make my illness a big issue here on Micro-Trike and although I’ve had to refer to it a few times, I’ve tried to stick to that decision. I also said that I refused to be an invalid, that I wouldn’t allow my illness to define me and that I’d try to live my life in the meantime as normally as possible.
Without being ashamed to say so, I’ve only been partially successful in all of those things. At times I have been an invalid and needed the help of my friends and others. My illness has also defined me during the past few months, unsurprisingly so as although I had my hair all cut off before I began to lose it, which I knew I would, I haven’t had a hair on my body for months now and have wandered around looking like something out of Lord of The Rings. And I also haven’t lived anything like the normal life I would have – I haven’t flown, I haven’t been out to cafés and restaurants enjoying the company of my friends and in fact my illness has taken over my life with every week being packed with appointments and treatments.
Sometimes you laugh and sometimes you cry, and I have done both in the past few months. Sometimes you need your family and friends to support you and pick you up when you’re down and I’ve been so incredibly lucky in that respect. But at the end of it all you end up learning a lot about yourself and life in general. Being forced to confront your own mortality makes you think about what your true priorities should be and this has been so with me. I think that I will come out of this experience as a different person, at least I hope so anyway.
The simple gift of life is not something that we place great value on, until it’s almost taken away from us and that’s the thought that I’d like to leave my readers with going into 2018. Let’s try to concentrate on the good things that draw us together, not the differences that break us apart. That’s not easy to do I know, but maybe if we keep on thinking it, it will become less difficult as time goes on.
A happy new year to all – may it be for you a healthy and peaceful one and a time for good to triumph in the world.
Just came back to add an extra note. After typing the above post I went into my kitchen to do a little bit of washing up before getting ready for bed. I came across some water in front of the sink and thought that maybe I’d spilt some onto the floor. Unfortunately that wasn’t the case.
When looked more closely it seemed to be coming from under the washing machine but when I pulled it out and mopped up the water underneath it, it was obviously coming from even further down the line. To cut a long story short, it looks as though the stop-cock where the main enters the kitchen has failed. The trouble is, it’s behind the principal floor corner unit.
I’ve turned it off for now but it still seems to be dripping. The bad news is that if it isn’t just the valve stem packing that’s leaking, which I can just about get at, it’ll mean ripping all of the floor units out of my kitchen. Not exactly the start to the new year that I was hoping for 😐