Friday, 15 September 2017

The best letter I ever received

This morning I opened the best letter that I have ever received. (It's right up there with the letter telling me that I had got into Oxford and the email from the Nigerian billionaire who told me I had inherited millions of pounds from a distant relative and all I had to do was send him my bank details).

So, the amazing letter was from my oncologist after our consultation a month ago. Here are the highlights (and brace yourself...there are LOTS!).

Content: Oncology department; Capital letter overload: All my own.

"The CT showed NO evidence of recurrence or new metastases" (cancer spread)
"The MRI showed NO CHANGES AT ALL in the area where she had the metastases"
"A previously seen mastoid effusion had resolved"
"Small areas of high signal NOT suggestive of a tumour"

"No lymphadenopathy and no breast lumps"
"This is an excellent result from the surgery and radiotherapy"

"She is in REMISSION...this means that there is NO detectable breast cancer" (yayyyy!)
"Even though she had a metastasis there will come a point when we would CONSIDER HER CURED if she did not develop a recurrence" (can't read this without crying)
"There is nothing magical about five years. It is HIGHLY UNUSUAL for a Triple Negative Breast Cancer to show itself beyond 8 years." (so, not out of the woods yet, but I can see sunlight through the trees)
"Most recurrences show themselves in 2 - 3 years from diagnosis" (29th November 2013)
"All of this makes us OPTIMISTIC both overall and from the point of view of the cerebral metastasis"

So, this is incredible and miraculous news. I am immeasurably grateful to my surgeon(s), my oncologist, the NHS, my church and my amazing husband, Dad, friends and family. Above all, I am overawed and deliriously thankful for God's healing after my diagnosis of 'months not years' to live. (October 2015)

Whilst I am absolutely thrilled, I am also conscious of those who are still suffering from cancer and those whose time is limited. My heart goes out to them, and I am embarrassed to share this news when people close to me are still suffering and others too have lost their lives to this dreadful disease. My joy is therefore tempered with a great deal of sadness. But I hope this is a story of faith and hope to those who are just starting on their cancer journey.


Thursday, 7 September 2017

Body shock

Leafing through a pile of well-known women's magazines, my attention was drawn to a headline about an international model's 'body insecurities'. Irked, I flicked through to the article to check that she didn't have a medical condition that meant that she saw herself differently to the way that others do (body dysmorphic disorder and the like), but it was plain old lack of body confidence. Clearly, the modelling industry can be pretty cut-throat (if Britain's Next Top Model is to be believed) but in my opinion, body criticism is kind of part of the job spec.

The reason for my ire was that I, and tens of thousands of other people with, or recovering from, cancer, have more serious body insecurities to overcome. When I was bald, bloated with steroids and had a bad case of 'Cushings Syndrome' (euphemistically called 'Pillow Face'), I experienced some serious body blows.

One of my friend's children cowered with fear when he was confronted by me and my massive head, another told me that I looked like her Grandma and when I built up the strength to go to a friend's birthday meal, a former colleague didn't recognise me at all.

Other excruciating memories include talking to an ex-boyfriend who thought I must be insane when I reminded him that we used to date, and meeting with an old school friend who after speaking to me, said to his partner, "NO way! That wasn't Amanda...was it??"

Even complete strangers would do that awkward double take before averting their eyes, and I always welcomed the people who didn't pussy-foot round me, for example, the woman in a local shop who said, "have you got cancer, duck?" (a local colloquialism, not a toilet cleaning aid).

Now of course nobody means to offend you, and it's always an innocent mistake, but it can make you feel pretty awful. Now I'm past the balloon head phase and have normal hair, I don't stand out from the crowd. But whenever I see someone with a cancer head-covering or a bald head, I look them straight in the eye and give them a knowing smile. A smile that connects us in the cancer community and shows that I empathise and wish them well.

Why not do it too?


Me on a good day