So here we are. Today is officially the first day of the rest of my life. Because yesterday, gentle reader, I finished my cancer treatment. Yup, you heard right. I FINISHED MY CANCER TREATMENT! Whoop whoop!
I can’t quite believe it. No more intravenous drugs, no more radiation, no more hospital other than occasional check-ups with my consultant and the extra bit of surgery in January to give me two equal sized boobs. And five years of daily tamoxifen pills, of course, but that’s fine. And I have to look after my right arm and hand for the rest of my life, since there’s no lymphatic system there any more to deal with germs. (I’m on antibiotics at the moment after getting an infection in my arm for the first time since the surgery: the whole top of my arm went hot, and hard, and red, and swollen, and unbelievably painful. Cellulitis, apaz. Not nice. Taking ages to clear up. Must look after myself better in future, and stuff.)
It was an emotional day all round. I spent the morning alternating between grinning like a fool and sobbing, partly with relief and partly remembering how awful things were this time last year. You remember: my unexpected minibreak to a quarantined room at the Royal Surrey County Hospital when my immune system went awol after my first chemo. It was bitterly cold, snowing, school was closed, and I missed my daddy’s birthday supper in London. It was a particularly bleak week for DH and our families. At the time I was just hugely annoyed by the whole inconvenient episode. Looking back, I feel horror at how close I came to, er, dying from a common cold. I did not at all grasp the seriousness of the situation. Now I understand exactly how chemo can kill you.
The day started normally, leaving the house at 8am to do the nursery run and the school run. I had a busy morning and was late for my 12.30 appointment, because I wanted to get some Krispy Kremes for the nurses on the chemotherapy suite. As I bustled breathlessly up to reception, loaded with doughnuts, the receptionist smirked and looked at the waiting area, and there was DH, bless him, with a big smile and an even bigger poinsettia for me. It was so lovely to see him, and such a fab surprise that he would be with me for my final treatment, and to resign our membership of Cancer Club.
It all went remarkably smoothly. I’ve waited for two hours before now, but we had barely sat down when my name was called and I was taken into one of the little rooms with two comfy chairs and two drip stands. The sister got my canula in the back of my hand first time (it usually takes two or three attempts with my rubbish veins hiding away), and rigged me up to the Herceptin drip for half an hour. DH held my hand and was a bit tearful. It was very strange sitting there for my 17th Herceptin infusion thinking: ‘I never have to do this again. Gosh. Yay!’
We chatted away to the middle aged man in the chair next to me and his wife. It was his first chemo session for stomach cancer. He was as upbeat as I was during my first chemo, before I understood quite how hellish the side effects were. DH says I was holding court telling survivor’s tales from the trenches, but I don’t think I was that bad. (He was asking the nurse about wearing the cold cap to avoid hair loss, but I advised him not to bother as it was bloody cold, uncomfortable, made the treatment twice as long, and I still lost pretty much the equivalent of all the hair he had on his head.)
Then all of a sudden it was over and I was out of there. OUT OF THERE! With a huge spring in my step. On my way to our celebratory lunch at Burger King (DH didn’t have much time before a meeting, and we fancied something that was defiantly as far from an anti-cancer diet as it’s possible to be) I made a couple of elated calls to my mummy and my sister. I felt all full of giggly bubbles, giddy as a kipper, light as a feather, a skip in my step (which got me some funny looks in the car park).
Oh, the feeling of freedom, and relief: I cannot describe to you how I felt. All the cliches in the book: on top of the world. On cloud nine. Really, really aware that my rebooted life starts right here, right now, that nothing can hold me back, and I have a duty to make the most of every day, to fulfill my potential, to follow my dreams, to be utterly, completely, joyfully, authentically myself.
And how did we celebrate, you ask? Well, in style, of course. By happy coincidence it was my darling Pops’ birthday yesterday, and he and mummy arrived bearing flowers and a bottle of Pol Roger (Ooh! Big fizzy treat!) which we drank as we got ready to go out. A lovely friend had offered to babysit (thanks honey!) so me and DH and my olds got a cab into Guildford and met my sister and my brother-in-law (whose birthday it si today – a triple celebration!) for rather good margaritas in the swanky new bar (and were joined briefly by our friends E&G, who were out celebrating their tenth wedding anniversary – a quadruple celebration!), and thence for a slap up Thai supper. Nom nom nom. Lots of toasts all evening. Lots of glasses raised. Lots of smiles. Because we were all together, unlike last year, and I am well, and I have well and truly f*cked caaancer. Hurrah, hurrah, and thrice hurrah.
So now we have reached the end of my cancer journey. The beginning of the best years of my life. This blog will revert to mostly mummy, parenting and school topics from now on (which may be a blessed relief, if you’re bored of the whole cancer thing. I’ve had cancer, yadda yadda yadda, time to get over myself). I’ll post relevant updates and let you know how the surgery goes. I might even treat you to some topless photos next time (now there’s a promise). Thanks for coming along for the ride, you’ve all been MARVELLOUS and I couldn’t have got through the past year without all the love and support I’ve had showered on me from loved ones and friends old and new, near and far.
I don’t know exactly what’s next. Big changes are afoot, in the way I work, in my actually getting on with writing the damned novel, in the way I am in the world. Today, the butterfly has emerged from the chrysalis, only a tiny bit hungover. My wings are still damp and new, but when they open, it’s going to be one hell of a display.
And this is the happy ending, where the director pans out a shot of me and DH cuddling up on the sofa in the House That Cancer Bought with our gorgeous babies, smiling into their sweet smelling hair (well, Oatibix smelling hair, anyway). That’s all folks!