Monday, 22 April 2013

The upside of Cancer

Thank you for all your positive thoughts on Thursday - they worked a treat because I got through it relatively unscathed, although I was so exhausted by all the nervous anticipation beforehand that I slept the afternoon away. Sometimes there is somebody who works at the hospital who must have been an angel in a previous life,and I had one of these lovely guys easing me through the whole Pet Scan process. Not only was he compassionate, caring, and knowledgeable, he was also one of the very few people who can find my tiny, deeply buried and almost invisible veins at the first attempt, and knowing how needle-phobic I am, he used the smallest paediatric needle there is. Altogether, he made the whole thing a thousand times more bearable than I had ever imagined possible.  

Do you know what the very worst part was? No, it wasn't the needle going in. It was the shock of being told staying perfectly still for a whole hour meant that I wasn't even allowed to talk. Me? A whole hour of silence? Total torture. You should have seen the look of WM's face. He was trying so hard not to laugh, but he also looked like all his birthdays, Easters and Christmases had arrived at once. He never gets much peace and quiet with me around.

He was actually marvellous during that hour. There are definite advantages to having a Clinical Hypnotherapist as the love of your life. He spent the whole time making me totally relaxed (again something I'm really not very good at) and got me floating away in a lovely healing trance.

So it's done and dusted, and I get the results this Friday, so I've got the rest of the week to enjoy - in blissful ignorance as to whether or not I've got incurable cancer.

I'm dreading Friday, but not because it's results day. I've just made an appointment that is much more scary than that. I've got to have a tooth pulled out. So it's cancer news at 11.15 and tooth extraction at 2.45. I've had toothache for nearly a month now, there all the time but nowhere near as excrutiatingly painful as the couple of times I've had major infections. With all the comings and goings lately, I tuned it out and put off making a dental appointment. Last week, the worsening pain made a dental visit essential, and it turns out I've got a really nasty infection, and the reason I haven't been screaming in pain is because it's on a tooth that  had root canal treatment donkeys years ago, so there is no nerve. The dentist gave me antibiotics, but warned me that I'd be lucky if they worked well enough to save the tooth. Root canal treatment a second time is a huge deal, only done by specialists, and prohibitively expensive because it's not available on the NHS. The 5 day course of antibiotics has finished and I've still got toothache. It took me nearly an hour to pluck up the courage to ring the dentist. Then they offered to do it this afternoon. Crikey wikeys. No way Jose.  Sudden light bulb moment and I knew it had to be done on Friday. That way I will worry about the dentist rather than results all week. And if Friday turns out to be a bad day, having a tooth out won't make it any worse, and if it turns out to be a good day, well then I'll be walking on so much happy juice that even having a tooth pulled out won't rain on my parade.

Cancer isn't very pretty, and it's pretty devastating when you find out you've got it. The treatment for it is vile, and  there is new research that shows that nearly 30% of people who survive cancer suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome, with flashbacks to the horrific treatment ordeals. But there are definite upsides to having cancer too. For many of us, new opportunities open up that would never have been possible without a cancer diagnosis.

Without cancer, I would never have written this blog, which is now read by people all over the world, many of whom have become really supportive online friends. Without this blog, I wouldn't ever had had the chance virtually dropped into my lap to turn it into a stage play, with me also being able to play the title role. Now how exciting is that?  We have less than 4 weeks before we open at the Brighton Fringe on the 18th May. So much line-learning to perfect in such a short time. So few rehearsals to get the timing, the entrances and the props working in the right way. Most of the script has been lifted directly from the blog, but there are one or two new bits. We're calling it "Coke Floats and Chemo", but it could just as easily be called "Breast Cancer - the comedy". Most of it is hilarious, certainly during rehearsals, but peppered with the odd moment of seriousness every now and again because cancer actually isn't that funny. My problem is trying to keep a credible straight face during the darker moments because I'm so busy laughing my head off. 

The blog and the play is only one part of the upside, there are so many others. In June I've been invited to talk at the NIVAS conference, addressing leading medical professionals from around the world about what it is really like to have needle-phobia. It is a very humbling opportunity to maybe just make a tiny difference to the way needle-phobic patients are perceived by those striving to treat them. Most humbling of all though, is the way my friends and family have wrapped me in loving, warm support from the moment this cancer malarkey started. Without cancer, I would never have known just how blessed I am with the people I love.

Other people have had similar experiences to mine. One very dear, new friend I have acquired online is Chris, who keeps a blog called "Chris's Cancer Community", here's the link if you'd like to read it.

Cancer has totally disrupted Chris's life too, but doors have opened for him too that wouldn't otherwise have been there without his diagnosis. He writes about it more beautifully than I ever could. Chris is very highly regarded within the online cancer community, because he is continually supportive and enso couraging to those of us who are a bit newer to the whole cancer caboodle than he is.

Then there is Ann, who has become a very dear friend over the past few months.Since her diagnosis, Ann has channelled her energies into a very exciting project giving children educational outdoor experiences at her Forest School, building their confidence and inspiring them to care more deeply about our planet. Last week Ann was invited to a very top-level meeting which included an MP to discuss environmental issues, but it clashed with one of her chemo appointments. Guess what? The other meeting attendees have decided that her input on this is essential, so they are going to re-schedule the meeting around her hospital appointments! It made her day last week to realise that her views are so highly valued, again something she may never have realised without her cancer kick-starting her chain of events. If you would like to read more about Ann and the Forest School, here's the link to her JustGiving page, which has a very good overview of her project:

Back to Coke Floats and Chemo. If you really do want to come along and watch me make an idiot of myself, tickets are selling out quite fast already. We are doing two afternoon performances at the Brighton Fringe on Saturday 18th May, followed by one at the Charles Cryer Theatre in Carshalton on Thursday 4th July. Both venues are very small, and at the Charles Cryer we are appearing alongside other Savvy drama productions so tickets will sell out very quickly. The box office phone number for The Charles Cryer Theatre is 020 8770 6990. Here's the link to get tickets for Brighton

Here's a photo of last week's rehearsal featuring the MiniYvonne puppet and WM, with the legendary Paperwork Mountain in the background. 

 Don't even ask what they're doing but it's almost certainly not what you think! My current big ambition? To knock that real paperwork mountain into shape before Friday, Then, I'll have something to celebrate no matter what. 


  1. Again, an inspirational post, missis!! Love you!

  2. This is such a great post, Yvonne. You share your action-packed schedule, your lows and the highs with such honesty, eloquence and great humour! I bet your play is going to be a big hit. I so wish I could hop over from Canada to be in the audience! I wish you the very best for Friday...I'll be thinking of you and sending loving energy your way.
    Love and hugs, Sharon xox

  3. Good luck for tomorrow Yvonne. Everything crossed for you.

    Elaine x

  4. Benedicte, Sharon and Elaine, thank you so much for all your good wishes. Yvonne xxx

  5. What a wonderful post. Yes, one good thing that has come out of this nightmare has been the chance to meet so many amazing people from the team at the clinic to new friends whose paths I never would have crossed if it were not for my diagnosis.

    Bon courage, Yvonne.

  6. Thank you Sharon, Elaine, Benedicte and Victoria so much for your lovely comments, I'm sorry I haven't replied to them until now, but with the getting of the bad news, plus all the excitement of the play and handling all the publicity for it too, never mind the antics of the naughtiest dog on the planet, and somehow I haven't revisited this post. I really do appreciate all your warm, positive and thoughtful concern. Thank you xx