Sunday, 23 December 2012
It's Christmas day in two days time. All the presents are wrapped, all the food is in the fridge and freezer, the Christmas tree is up and decorated - it's only modern technology and the state of the house which is defeating me. Trying to transfer data onto newly-bought mp4 players and a tablet has had my brain working to a frazzle since the small hours of this morning, and still nothing will open and play on the devices. Copying and pasting onto SD cards and onto hard drives in a hundred and one different ways - absolutely nothing works. Why does technology have to be so flipping user unfriendly? I'm doing everything by the book, then writing new books when that doesn't work and doing it all over again, and I might as well just be banging my head against a brick wall. Why can't IT equipment be designed by real people for real people? A task that should have taken an hour or so at the most has so far had me on the verge of a nervous breakdown for over six hours with no end in sight.
These are presents for Toby, my severely learning-disabled teenager. He will open them and expect them to work first time. I'm getting increasingly stressed out about it all - I just want my kids to have the perfect Christmas this year. I've broken the bank buying them loads of things they will hopefully love. They've all had to put up with far too much this year with me being ill, and once cancer looms it's ugly head, you become very aware that there may not be as many future Christmases as you assumed there would be last year. I just want this year to be able to put cancer away in a cupboard and forget it over Christmas, and concentrate on letting them know how precious and loved they all are - and creating memories for their future, whether I'm there to share it with them or not.
Then there is the small matter of the house - it looks like a bombsite at the moment, with a huge amount of clearing up to do before Christmas morning. Somehow it will happen, but right now it seems like a mountain to climb.
Christmas and chemo revenge together really doesn't work well. The past few days have been really tough, with feeling like death and hurting just about everywhere. Each chemo cycle seems to outdo the previous one, with the total exhaustion just gaining more and more speed, til even standing up for a second or two is beyond me.
This chemo that I had on Monday is hopefully my last ever, if it's done it's job properly. Providing the cancer doesn't come back, or they find that it's spread anywhere else, that's it, I'm done and dusted. I wish I had the energy to party and dance about it, but it will take about 6 months before the side effects completely melt away, and I can fire on all cylinders again. Meanwhile, I'm still having Herceptin every three weeks until next Christmas - the procedure is very like chemo, you turn up and get plugged onto a drip in the chemo-room, and wait til it's all dripped into your bloodstream. Hopefully, it won't cause too many side-effects though. Then I start radiotherapy in the middle of January - 4 weeks of daily appointments Monday - Friday (maybe cancer doesn't do anything naughty at the weekends?), and at about the same time I'll start a Tamoxfen equivalent drug to take every day for 5 years, which stops oestrogen-production, and therefore slows down any potential tumour-growth.
I've also got to make some decisions on when I'm having the second mastectomy. Straight after radiotherapy or leave it a year and maybe have reconstruction at the same time? I'm so not sure about reconstruction. Whatever happens in the boob department from now on will be fake, either a little cushion I wear inside a bra, or a major operation with an 18 inch scar across my belly so they can take fat from there, shape it like a boob, and sew a new one on either side. I had a long meeting with a Plastic Surgeon a couple of weeks ago, and learnt far more than I really ever wanted to know about how they do the op. The bit about removing part of the cirulatory system from the tummy and reattaching it to the chest wall to create a more natural blood supply was the stuff that nightmares are made of.
So I may decide simply not to bother. After all, I'm beyond the age where a Porn Star career is a viable option, and will I really want to put myself through a major operation which will lay me low all over again after everything I've been through? I've had breast cancer. On both sides. I have the battle scars to prove it. Do I really need pretend boobs at this stage in my life to pretend that none of this has happened? Probably not. Unfortunately, I have to make some of these decisions in the next few weeks because what I decide will impact on radiotherapy treatments too, and what I don't want to do is make any decisions that will close the door on any future options. Who knows? I might survive another 30 or so years, and decide at aged 80 that I really want a cleavage all over again! Unlikely, but you just never know.
The family crisis that we faced a few weeks ago is slowly resolving itself. We're not completely out of the woods yet, but we are back on the right track, and things are definitely a lot happier here as a result.
A very long story that I can't go into here, but we're getting a dog in the New Year. We are complete dog-novices, and it will undoubtedly add to the stress, mess and workload initially, but the kids are so excited about it that it's definitely the right decision. We went to visit Battersea Dogs Home last week and met several of their dogs, and registered with them. They need to do a home visit, and once we've been approved they will help us choose a nice, easy, steady dog who is already house-trained. Most of my friends and family think I'm completely crazy, but we will make it work. If I've survived everything that's been thrown my way this year, a lovable pet dog is hardly going to defeat us!
The other thing I've started in a very small way is more Laughter Yoga Sessions, this time on Skype, delivering an 8 week one-to-one Laughter YogaTherapy Course, working with a fellow cancer patient. It's working well, but I would really like two or three more people to trial the course with, so please let me know if you might be interested. I'm not charging anything for it, although if you took part and enjoyed it and could afford it, a donation to the Mencap Sensory Room fund would be appreciated.
I'm off now to get even more stressed with SD cards, and to try the Mary Poppins trick of snapping my fingers and seeing if all our rooms tidy themselves. It will probably be after Christmas when I write again, so all the very best wishes for a splendidly lovely Christmas and a New Year that brings everything you could wish for.