Tuesday, 10 July 2012

Planning Permission Refused

You get to see an awful lot of hospital departments once they decide you have cancer, and it seems that barely a day goes by without an appointment of some sort, or a phonecall, or a letter arrives. In my case, from the outset, every single time I've had any sort of dialogue whatsoever with the cancer specialists, there has been at least a little bit more of the bad news. The size and shape and colour and rate of growth and seriousness and treatment plan has just grown increasingly concerning, and significantly more serious by the day. Today, I opened the letter from my oncologist, and I know enough about reading between the lines of medical letters to understand the implicit subtext of the words "I was sorry to inform her of the histology...." to know that it was going to be yet another difficult day. 

Luckily I was wrong! Mid-afternoon the phone rang. It was Lisa, the Breast Care Specialist Nurse from the hospital. Finally, a bit of good news. On Friday I had both a body and a bone scan, to see if either of the big city cancers in my breasts had started to build little suburban village cancers anywhere else in my body. Like any other rapidly developing community, all these little  cancer cells need somewhere warm and cosy to live to enable them to carry out their work effectively, and although it wasn't actually voiced, the feeling loud and clear in the consulting room at the hospital last week was that my cancer would probably have started to go forth and multiply uninvited across whole swathes of my organs. I know the statistics, and I knew my odds weren't great. Although it is true that many women in that situation can survive for several years, if it had started to spread already, the average survival rate is only 18 - 24 months. 

The good news? Both scans seem to indicate that it hasn't started spreading. My immune system has kicked in somehow and refused to grant planning permission to those cancer cell town-planners. This doesn't mean I'm out of the woods yet, and I still need more major surgery, chemotherapy, radiotherapy and several years of pills to take, but it does mean that I might not die quite soon.  This morning I thought I'd never get my granny bus pass, this evening I'm allowed to dream all those unfulfilled dreams and they might actually happen. Winning Wimbledon, becoming a Prima Ballerina, writing a best seller about how I did them both together, tonight anything is possible.

Please don't ask me how I'm feeling because it simply isn't all black and white. Of course I'm relieved, but that is heavily tempered with fear, both of the treatments ahead, and the worry that they may have missed something. 

It also doesn't mean that the cancer hasn't started spreading yet, because any new cancer would have to be at least half a centimetre to show up on the scans. However the idea is that if there are any tiny little clumps of cancer cells, the chemo will send it packing. Such a shame that ring doughnuts don't seem to work in quite the same way.

As far as the chemo is concerned, I'm started to really get in a tizzy over it. It's the thought of those needles that just has me in a flat-spin, heart-palpitations, hyperventilating, adrenaline-racing panic. Apparently I'm in good company, because both Alice Cooper and Jackie Chan share my thoughts about needles. Our phobia even has a name all of its own - Trypanophobia - which at least indicates that I can't be the only person who lies awake in sheer, unadulterated terror night after night about it. I've been so brave and brazen about naming my fear since I've had cancer, and I have to say, despite all my fears that the medics would laugh like crazy and think I'm pathetic, they have actually been very supportive. On Friday I was given a "happy pill" before the blood tests and radioactive dye was injected, and that did help quite a lot. On Wednesday this week, I'm seeing a specialist intravenous expert, who can talk through the various options with me concerning intravenous access for the chemo. The only problem is that all the options involve somehow puncturing a vein, something any sensible person should avoid at all costs because how can that possibly ever be good for you?

Back to my good news. Having spent the last 8 weeks learning how to take bad news on the chin again and again, and somehow trying to get my head around it, it's going to take a while to actually believe that things might turn out OK after all. The one bit of hope that I treasured in all of the bad news was that they might have decided that I was such a hopeless case that all this vein puncturing nonsense was going to be a waste of resources, and let me off scot free. I would then, of course, have embraced every iota of the alternative cancer therapies and drunk green tea and tumeric until I had had enough to swim my way out of trouble. Now, with the chemo, I'll probably throw it up before it can do any good. That's if they can catch me with those needles first. Yes it has been a good news day, but I just don't want to tempt fate by celebrating like their really will be a tomorrow, until I know for certain that there definitely will be thousands of them. 


  1. Such a relief. I hope you can enjoy the good news without letting all the other conflicting emotions take the gloss off it.

  2. I just LOVE reading your blog, it's like being in the room with you!! I'm glad that your body has refused planning permission to those pesky cells, and I'm sure the treatment will back that decision a hundred percent. Regarding the trypanophobia - I know a brilliant hypnotherapist that can stop people smoking after 35 years and apparently make labour a much less daunting experience - perhaps you've heard of him?? ;) Take time and digest everything you are being told, after all it is a mountain of information, andknow that we are all here if you need anything xxxx

  3. I just want to hug you - I have finally sat in front of the computer and read your blog (think I was probably a bit scared to be honest) and you are an amasing person and couragous - honest and just you which comes through so well in your writing.
    ( We'll do some Laughter exercise together soon). x Heidi (couldn't figure out how not to respond anonymously..)

  4. Thank you very much for posting this blog, it was very heart warming to read each of every one of your blog. i know a lot of alternative cancer treatment center and they definitely more than willing to help. I am hoping and praying for her total recovery and more than anything else, hope for her children.

  5. Hi Norman, Thank you so much for leaving such a kind comment, and I checked out the link you posted too. It looks like an amazing place, but I'm based in the UK near London, so I'm just too far away unfortunately. You are the very first person who I don't actually know in real life to comment, and that too is really heartwarming. Very many sincere thanks. Yvonne xx