Wednesday, 22 July 2015

Reflections of a long distance runner

It's been a really good few weeks.

After what had felt like an assault course of scans, biopsies, stereotactic radio surgery, starting biological therapy, and changing steroid doses up and down, I have been able to relax into a bit of 'marathon running.' My pace has been slow, but steady. Side effects (mainly fatigue, neuropathy and Cushing's syndrome as a result of the steroids) have been irritating, but not nearly as bad as they could have been. I've had a number of treats - a birthday meal out; a few days away in Manchester to see the fabulous Fleetwood Mac; visits from dear friends; time with my lovely Aussie cousin Joanne and her family which was really precious; the annual treat of the Duke's Promenade Play in Lancaster's Williamson Park;  and most recently an evening at the theatre in Carlisle. Apart from checking in to the clinic for a quick chat and to pick up my tablets, there has been no new news for ages. Most of the time, the idea that I have anything seriously wrong has seemed quite unreal; known as a fact, but not something that seems very believable.

But as I jog on through this week, I'm aware that the terrain up ahead is about to change again. The next couple of weeks will feature scans of both lungs and brain, and then consultations regarding each to hear what the treatment has achieved so far. If the tumours have shrunk, that will be very good news. If they have stayed the same, that will be OK news. If they have grown, that will not be good news at all. I have absolutely no idea how to call it. How I'm feeling is no guide to anything, because the treatments create as many - in fact more - symptoms than the tumours themselves. So I can't even guess at whether the news is going to be bad or good.

Whichever way it goes, though, next week marks the end of the slow jog through pleasant countryside, and the start of another section of the assault course. The body in and out of scanners, the mind and emotions in and out of waiting rooms, listening for my name to be called, steeling myself to receive whatever news is waiting. In a few days time, I expect the fact that I have something seriously wrong with my body will become all too believably real once again.

But for now, for these next few days, I'll do my best to make the most of the last section of the marathon course. I'll focus on the trees along the roadside, the flowers along the verge, the sunshine warm on my back. I'll try to live each step as it comes, not fret about trying to pack everything I still want to achieve into each day while I still can.

And when Monday arrives and the assault course begins again . . .  I will do my very best to embrace whatever comes.

Tuesday, 7 July 2015

Taking solidarity to new lengths

now where did I put those scissors . . .?
My daughter Ellie is planning a haircut. I still remember her first one vividly. She was aged about two, and had no intention of allowing anyone in the salon to get a pair of scissors within a yard of her head. Those blond curls were going nowhere, as I remember all too clearly from the subsequent years of wrestling with them, usually as the clock for playgroup / school / dancing lessons was ticking.

Sixteen or so years later, she has still never cut her hair to less than shoulder length, and it has usually been nearer to her waist. So seeing it shaved to a buzz cut will take a bit of getting used to. I have no doubt, however, that it will look fantastic. All the more so given the reasons why she's doing it.

Her hair itself will be sent to The Little Princess Trust, a charity which makes wigs for children who suffer hair loss through cancer treatment. And she's being sponsored to raise money for MacMillan Cancer Support, a charity we have found to be enormously helpful and supportive since my diagnosis earlier this year. 

There are lots of ways she could have chosen to fund raise, but she's chosen this one as a way of keeping me company. The combination of radio-surgery on the brain tumours and biological therapy for the lung tumour have left me looking a little threadbare on top. It's wonderful to have a daughter who thinks that's nothing to be ashamed of. 

Please join me in cheering her on - or even better, visit her Just Giving page and sponsor her for August 15th. She only set the page up last night, and we are overwhelmed by the support so far. £500, which seemed an ambitious initial target to set, was exceeded within a couple of hours. Amazing! Thank you all so, so much.