I thought it would be literally impossible to ever think about anything else but it turns out it’s actually impossible to think about my diagnosis 24/7. The almost palpable anxiety that pervades this house has lifted, or shifted slightly at least. However cliched, life has to go on, and on it goes. I have resumed my role of new mum (or an impersonation of one anyway), despite being so dire in the early weeks following diagnosis, Super Ted still knows and wants his mummy. There’s a lot of myth-busting going on along the way. Being a mum and having something to “fight for” hasn’t helped in the way I and others assumed it would. At times it is almost physically painful being around Ted, the what-ifs and uncertainties smack me in the face as I watch him developing. “He won’t remember this” to my ear sounds like “he won’t remember you”. Now though I am more able to drag myself from under the surface of self-pity and get on with some semblance of normality.
My long-suffering and amazing mum has gone home, 200 miles away. We couldn’t have coped without her acting as live in house keeper, personal chef, child carer, wig advisor, emotional support. Driven by boredom I have taken to terrorising her by text. Me: Mum, we need you please come back. Mum: what’s wrong? I’m getting in the car. Me: There are THREE items in the laundry basket…. Me: mum I’m sorry we’re just not managing… Michael didn’t cut the crusts off my sandwich … etc
All the cancer
The most recent news is that I have two cancers. My original scan picked up abnormalities in my thyroid, suspicions were confirmed by biopsy. Cue jokes about not doing things by halves etc etc… turns out I also have completely coincidental, unrelated thyroid cancer. The good news is that it is very early stage and small, and the excellent news is that it is not metastatic breast cancer which may have “changed the outcome” ( scary doctor speak). Symptoms might not have developed for years. Hopefully we’ll one day be saying breast cancer saved my life. Unfortunately chemo is ineffectual on this veritable gnat bite of cancers. Treatment plan is unchanged but at some point they’ll be whipping out my thyroid and there will be more nasty hormone therapy I expect. The fact that we responded to this diagnosis positively shows how far we have come in the last few weeks.
The hair is shedding thick and fast. The biggest issue is a practical one, it gets everywhere annoyingly, horribly. I don’t think I’m particularly vain and my hair care routine previously involved whatever shampoo happens to be in the bathroom and a comb. However hair loss is an emotional issue, it’s a badge, naturally drawing unwanted attention whenever you leave the house. It’s hard to know whether to ditch the cold cap (hair saving device which prolongs the length of chemotherapy by 2 hours) or persevere. Hair is now very thin on top, and the Friar Tuck look is no good for a woman within touching distance of 40. After a bad experience with the wig ladies at the hospital (despite your prediction ladies that you will be seeing me again, you won’t. You can shove your nasty wigs up your arse) a lovely local lady was recommended and a syrup is on order. (Note to lovely lady if reading this: after our email discussion about my nervousness and your reassurances of compassion and discretion, I was not expecting a fucking sandwich board outside your house to “Welcome Alys!!!” WTAF?!?!?!) Sorry mum I couldn’t cut you out of the photo
There are surprisingly many. The overwhelming kindness of people who have contacted me with their thoughts and more, gifts literally from around the world, meals, time. I am innately shy (which can be misunderstood as aloofness maybe) but I am embracing these connections with gusto. There have been reaffirmations of friendships old and new. People genuinely want to help and are relentless in their offers. What a bloody marvellous world, how lucky I am to know so many generous and selfless people. And other stuff; watching my other half and Super Ted develop a relationship which would have been so different. I’m sure he didn’t expect fatherhood to be quite so hands on at 48 and third time around but what a beautiful thing it is! A closeness and sensitivity among my ever supportive family, for all our foibles we stick together in a crisis (my heart breaks for my extended family who somehow manage to think of me during their own tragedies). New friendships formed via online communities with whom I can share feelings and thoughts which can’t be expressed elsewhere (Cancer friends! Like New Mum friends but they moan less) Thank god for the internet. And the jokes. I am now privy to a whole new world of bad taste jokes and gallows humour, accessible only by meeting a rather crappy set of criteria. I can still make my best friend laugh, she can still make me laugh, even about cancer. Long may that continue.