Halfway Through Chemo

I’m HALFWAY THROUGH my chemotherapy now! 3 cycles behind me and just 3 more to go. What a great feeling!

This trip was the best so far as I seem to be still improving and regaining strength (now 3 months after surgery). The weather was lovely and cooler so we enjoyed many walks and outdoor activities. I will cherish memories from this fortnight shared with Evan (who accompanied me as my carer this time) and Janet!

We visited the art galleries, botanic gardens, reverse garbage, maritime museum, saw ‘Alice in Wonderland’ in 3D at the IMAX cinema, had a barbecue at Southbank and joined a free yoga class in the park and another barbecue at Kangaroo Point watching the abseilers. One evening we took Janet’s portable crockpot with a hot meal to a lookout spot on the Goodwill Bridge to enjoy the city view for tea. On our last night we rode by ferry down to Bulimba for fish and chips and a look at the bookshops. I love the river ferries and am really becoming fond of Brisbane. It is impressive to see the crowds out walking, cycling and enjoying the city in the late afternoons. I even rode Janet’s bike along the riverside myself one day.

After wasting away in hospital I was in despair of my funny little stick legs but now I have calf muscles again. (I’d like some buttocks next.)

Look Good Feel Better dress-ups
Look Good Feel Better dress-ups

After Janet’s shave, she and I attended a Cancer Council “Look Good Feel Better” workshop with make-up and other hints for the hairless. We also were given an excellent private lesson in mindfulness meditation with a hospital Occupation Therapist. Janet’s shave party was a highlight and I admire her bravery as well as her attitude of wanting to share my experience. Hanging around with me, she was indeed mistaken for a cancer patient at times too!

Contrary to what I expected, I find that I’ve been feeling best immediately after the chemo, then it is on Day 6 and 7 that I begin to feel a bit nauseous and more tired. The Oncology nurses say this must be the effect of the anti-nausea medicine wearing off over time.

Where I go for 9 days each fortnight is a focal point for suffering families, and hearing their stories is very humbling. My heart goes out to those with little or no support, especially elderly patients whose loved ones have predeceased them. Then there are patients who are themselves in a caring role or with more than one cancer sufferer in the family. For others cancer has come on top of disability so the difficulties are compounded. Many people are in treatment because their cancer has come back so their journey has been a roller coaster with the repeated trauma of hearing a medical estimate of only months or years to live.

Cancer diagnosis is no gift, although it may be possible to appreciate positives from any calamity and this helps us get through it. The love and support of family and friends and the wonderful unforgettable sharing with those closest to me ameliorates the painful time.

Although the doctors have only given me excellent reports and predicted “the best possible outcome” so far, naturally I am confronted with my mortality. With shock and disbelief there is sadness and fear, although I think maybe I haven’t had to face fear so much yet. I still think I can cope with whatever lies ahead and I’m glad of my age because of the stuff I have at least learned so far. For example, it took me a while to get the hang of caring and loving without excessive worrying and control issues. (OK, ongoing learning here, but I’ve come a long way!) Here is a sobering thought: I’d like to die a good death, to ease the suffering of my loved ones, but this is likely to be something I can’t control.

For me it comes down to the old questions of when to accept and when to challenge, requiring serenity, courage and wisdom. Of course I’m working on all of these (who isn’t?) and I hope to have another 50 years to master these elusive skills.

Terminal illness touches all of our lives and most of us have some personal connection with cancer or similar – so best wishes to all of you as you cope with thinking about this yourselves. While on the topic, here are a few more of my thoughts:
*  My cancer is not my fault.
*  Bad things do happen to good people.
*  You can’t compare people’s pain/suffering.
*  Everyone has serious challenges to face.
*  We all die in the end.

I am at home again now after we flew up yesterday. It is so good to be here with John and Helen again and what a treat that now it is Helen’s school holidays!

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