What a difference a week makes

Regular readers will know that there has been quite a gap since I last blogged. I apologise for the lack of continuity but lots of challenges can present themselves on a daily basis which just gets in the way of sitting back, reflecting and ruminating on the world around, an activity I, nevertheless, love doing. I’m afraid the last few weeks has been one such period. I have not been consistently well and have also suffered more from what I call fatigue, which fellow cancer survivors know is a particular kind of malaise, which is different to simply tiredness. For me, fatigue is most evident in the brain fog or muzzy headedness which makes activities which involve any mental activity that much more difficult. So writing, reading, engaging in the world and other cerebral activities suffer.

I was able to enjoy a wonderful weekend away with my children for my pre-birthday treat something I always look forward to and is arranged without my knowledge so it’s always a surprise. A few pictures below but basically this year they took me to Stratford to watch Macbeth and then we stayed in a beautiful cottage in Shipston where we were joined the following day by my younger brother and his family. It was a great weekend. An annual treat with so many surprises. But I guess sometimes you pay the penalty for having a good time and fatigue and tiredness crept in in the past week so I’ve been unable to blog more fully on this lovely annual treat.

In my current state, my body is much more liable to pick up bugs, infection and the like and indeed over the last weekend I picked up a gastroenteritis bug which laid me low and I had to miss out on my actual birthday meal. It laid me very low and has taken until now to begin to feel better. I hope now to be in a better frame for enjoying the next few weeks. Tuesday will have helped a lot.

Tuesday was a big day in terms of the potential progression of my cancer as I had a meeting with my oncologist following two scans. The very good news is I have emerged relatively unscathed from these investigations my disease appears to be stable and I’m continuing on the current treatment rather than having to move into the rather scary and uncertain world of those treatments (precious few now) left in the box. Yesterday whilst I was waiting to have an infusion at the hospital centre which administers chemotherapy I was witness to a heartwarming story which I thought I would describe as best I can here. The photographer in me wanted to capture this moment but it was a private moment even though it was happening in public and I did not feel it was right to take any pictures.

Suddenly I noticed an old man, I would say in his 80s, walking down the corridor with a nurse expertly teaching her some dance steps, this despite the fact he was clearly unsteady on his feet. By the time he reached the end of the corridor where there is a bell, he stops and surrounding him are a dozen or more medics, many with moist eyes. I assume that this was his last treatment and they invite the patient to ring this bell by a poem of hope to mark it. As I said it felt too private a moment to take a photo but such a poignant moment and a huge positive to the staff for their obvious engagement.

One thing you become very aware of in this suite, even though I am there for only a brief time, is that you are not alone. A stoic and relaxed atmosphere created by attentive nurses and other staff, sets the scene and the level of concern for your well-being is high. You watch as patients are talked through treatments, welcomed back like long lost family, cups of tea are made and yet those most intrusive of treatments, different forms of chemotherapy and drug and blood infusions are quietly administered. It reminds me just how many people just get on with cancer treatment as do the staff in treating them. There are frustrations, there is pressure on time, there is never enough time for staff to spend with you but we are served by such a great system as the health service it feels nothing short of criminal to be undermining it. I cannot praise what they do enough and I know that many of the shortcomings are directly a result of systematic underfunding and undermining of its philosophy not the system itself. I will always be grateful for the care I receive. If I wait 30-40 minutes for an appointment it’s not deliberate someone else is getting that care. Be a patient patient!

So with this good news behind me and overcoming the bugs and malaise for now life can suddenly feel a lot easier. The slightly unsettling thing is you can never guarantee this will last for more than a few days but I think it is vital to assume it will last and keep planning, always being prepared to cancel or change plans if you have to do so. People understand, in fact I am humbled by the understanding that you get from friends, and so rather than retreat into yourself keep engaging. I have to resist the temptation to retreat, to just get through the day and not take the day on. If I wake not feeling great but with nothing scheduled to do, it is tempting to pretend I do not need to go out and I can miss out on the whole day. Sometimes on balance you need to rest but others you need to get out and see what is happening and then you reap the reward.

I want to finish on a really positive engagement. I had a friend travelling up from Bristol just to see me today. I had real doubts that he should make the journey on Monday. I held my nerve, the week showed slight improvements so he came. We went to Brodsworth Hall. Had a lovely lunch in their tearooms, and, in my scooter, we looked into the house then enjoyed the lovely gardens. The scooter made it possible but the conversation was great and it’s just been a great day out. I have to keep doing stuff and I have to keep telling myself that too. What a difference a week can make, they say a week is a long time in politics but a week is a long time for cancer sufferers so best make the most of it.

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