Monday, 19 November 2012

Onward and upwards

It's Monday morning, the start of what I hope will be a really good week. This time last week I thought I was at death's door with the chemo side effects, life was not up to much at all. Then, from about Wednesday onwards, the side effects largely melted away, and somehow left me with more energy and wellness than I've had for months. Maybe it's the extreme contrasts between the good days and the bad days, but on the good days lately, everything just seems to be bursting with colour, music, happiness and life.

Last week, I did the first of many Laughter sessions at Mencap, and it was a really good one. No one had been before, but the group really gelled well together and within seconds everyone was laughing like crazy. Laughing for a whole hour is fairly exhausting, but in a very energising way, and the health benefits are really worth having. It's excellent cardio-vascular exercise, the deep breathing that laughter causes really does get the oxygen in and circulating well in the body, the eye-contact and human connection that all the laughter exercises encourage has a very positive effect on self-esteem and confidence, and the whole thing has a tangible "feel-good" factor.

I'm having another session at my house tomorrow evening, and then hosting a session for the Mencap staff on Thursday morning, so at least this one should be a very happy week. Then next week, if chemo side effects allow it, I'm back in training to take my laughter skills up to the next level, which will enable me to offer one-to-one laughter sessions in a much more theraputic way. This will open up all sorts of opportunities to work with people who are housebound, and it lends itself very nicely to Skype, so I can be housebound too! The new training will also enable me to offer 8-week work based courses too, for team building and productivity purposes, but I think that will have to wait until I've completely kicked this cancer into submission. 

It's a bit risky signing up for a course in the middle of chemo, but I'm keeping all my fingers and toes crossed. Next week, because I'm starting Herceptin on Monday, chemo won't happen til Tuesday. The course is in St Albans on Thursday. Normally side effects kick in on day 3, so I'm hoping I'll get away with it, but we'll just have to see.

The other highlight of this week was drama, where we began in earnest to adapt this blog for the stage. It was both hilarious, and quite surreal to see other people playing my dad and WM, and hearing from the rest of the group about what bits of the blog they feel are important. I had a bit of a surprise when I realised that, so far, I've already written 39,000 words, so unless we keep the audience in their seats for several weeks at a time, we'll have to take far more out than we leave in. 

All this means that I'm having to revisit the blog and reread it all taking copious notes. It's quite strange going back over the past few months, and trying to analyse what it might mean to other people, and how best to portray it. What has struck me is that is seems to be a series of conflicts being fought out in my very being and messing with my head, like what I need to eat versus what I want to eat, what I want to do versus what I need to do, turning up for painful treatment after painful treatment versus running away to Barbados, and most of all, the onward march of the cancer cells versus all the medical weaponary and my own immune system trying to capture them and stop them in their tracks. Whenever I think of those cancer cells on the march I somehow end up singing the Dad's Army theme tune in my head, with an image of the German flag crossing the channel. 

It's also making me realise that whether I like it or not, this cancer stuff is subtley changing me too. I can't quite put things into words yet, but I suppose something this big and intrusive in my life is bound to make me look at the world differently. That in itself can be quite isolating, because I'm tuned in differently at the moment to life and seeing things from a slightly different angle, whereas everyone else in my world is just getting on with their lives in a way that I'm unable to in quite the same way for the moment.

I've also had enough energy to tackle a big supermarket shop, and even to half clean the kitchen. Mind you it took ages, I kept having to sit down to get my breath back, and I finally flopped halfway through, but it's a step in the right direction. 

The major issues with two of the children are still as pressing and as worrying as ever, which inevitably is taking a lot of time and energy too, but they are both far more important than a clean kitchen, so they are rightfully taking priority over everything else, and it's painfully apparent that I'm not able to drive both situations in the direction that's needed as quickly as I need to. 

The other thoughts that are beginning to filter in concern my hideously disfigured body.  The 12-inch shark-bite style scar that slashes across the place I used to have a second boob is something I can only deal with by tuning out completely. Then I have to take on board the bald head coupled with the missing eyebrows and eyelashes - altogether not the greatest look ever. The last lot will grow back, but do I want to go through the whole big issue of a breast reconstruction once all the treatment has finished? I really can't get my head around that one. At some point next year I'll probably lose my other boob too, that is part of the plan, but do I want to put myself through yet more major operations, with all their potential side effects, just so I get a cleavage to flaunt to the world again? The bit of the operation I'm quite keen on is the tummy-tuck - they would have to dig out masses of tissue from my very ample tummy to make new boobies, so I'd have a nice flat wash-board belly, but I doubt if Mr Lovely would agree to just that bit and then foregoing the sticking the belly fat where the boob should be bit. I get to see Mr Lovely early next month and I think we'll need to sit down and talk about it all. Sitting down and talking to Mr Lovely will be lovely, and if I do decide to go ahead with new boobies, I'll get to do a lot of that in the next few months, I'm sure. 

This week is also the week where I'll start to plan Christmas. I'm seriously considering delaying Christmas Day by 3 or 4 days if my kids will agree, so I can take advantage of the best chemo side-effect days. Don't tell them, but I might even get their presents much cheaper in the after-Christmas sales too! 

So, there's a lot going on, things to think about, things to do, and even a few projects on the go, exactly how I like life to be, and letting the cancer know, once again, who is really in charge. Onwards and upwards, it's going to be a good week.


  1. One thing only, sweet, sweet lady. I have seen that scar of yours, and it is beautiful. Strange, maybe, but that is how I see it. Your are LIVING, and smiling, and crying, and just... beautiful. xx

  2. Benedicte, thank you, you always manage to say the most lovely things. You're absolutely right, I'd much rather be vibrantly alive than buried with two beautiful boobs in place, but it still is hard to get my head around it. Words like yours do help though.Yvonne xxx

  3. Oh Yvonne, I have been where you are now. Things will only get better. You are in my thoughts.

  4. You must be Evvie! Thank you! I'm off to bed now (it's half midnight here in London) but I'll catch your blog tomorrow xx