This week marks 27 weeks since I first found my lump, 25 since my breast cancer diagnosis and 20 weeks since my operation.
Friday 18th May was my final chemotherapy and PICC line removal. I can’t believe we are finally at this last stage – it seems a long time since that diagnosis 25 weeks ago and a lot of appointments and treatments have happened but yet it seems to be over so quickly.
Neil and the girls came with me for the final infusion and I was really glad they were all there. I could sense they were a little nervous and to be honest so was I – I really didn’t want another reaction!! I had all the pre-meds to make sure it wasn’t going to happen and there was rather a lot of it! Two big infusions of steroids and one of antihistamine. The antihistamine made me feel really sleepy but generally I was feeling good. The last chemo infusion went well with no problems. All the time the girls were watching, checking I was OK, asking if I was alright, seeing if I needed anything. It then came to me that this was the first time the girls had seen me like this – hooked up and watching the drugs go in. How did they feel? What did it make them think about? I have mentioned it previously but the people who are fighting this bloody awful disease go through the motions, but we, I, can forget what affect it is having on our family and loved ones around us. They are completely helpless and just have to stand by and watch. No matter how old our children are, they are still our children and they are watching their ‘mummy’ going through the treatment, seeing the side effects and its not nice.
The final drip went in and that was it. Over. No more chemo! One more final week of self injecting to keep my immune system boosted and then that’s it.
My nurse came over and said she was going to take me PICC line out. Was there going to be another saga?!! – Neil and Lara left and the nurse said that’s good as she didn’t want any fainters!! Amy stayed with me but I tightly shut my eyes and held my breathe! The line itself came out OK and I didn’t really feel anything. The PICC was held in place by two small metal hooks which needed removed. One came out quite easily and only stung a little but in true Ali style the other one got stuck – so a little bit of wiggling had to be done!! But it was fine. And that is that.
It was quite an emotional moment – 7 months of dealing with cancer, operations, the uncertainty, being scared and all the emotions you could ever imagine had now come to an end. It is over. It is a very strange feeling – a good one – but its strange. What do I do now? How can I just go back to being Ali? To being normal? But life goes on.
We didn’t really celebrate as such. I was and still am so very tired – much more so now than previously. The weekend was a fairly quiet one and I went to support Lara doing Tough Mudder on Saturday with her boyfriend and was so proud of them. They did so well and it was a really nice atmosphere.
One of my closest friends bought me a Pandora charm for my birthday which had these words on it – “Sometimes you gotta fall before you fly free”. This is so apt and the girls have adopted it as our new family motto! I think this may also be my next tattoo!! I again am so completely overwhelmed by the support on Facebook to my girls posts and I feel that I am one very lucky lady – not only to have beaten cancer for the second time but also to the support and friendships I clearly have.
The doctors will never give you the ‘all clear’ but they cut my cancer out, took 16 lymph nodes with only 1 affected and 6 cycles of chemotherapy to kill any little rogue cells that may have ‘got away’ – so today – I am cancer clear. And this is something I aim to be for a long long time to come.
This might get a little deep! – I am only 48 and have been told to have had cancer twice at this ‘young’ age is fairly rare. I don’t want to have it a third time. I still want to be here in another 30 years – and even then 78 is still ‘young’. I want to enjoy my old age and my grand children and not to have it cut short. I am one of the lucky ones and I am hugely thankful, but I am always mindful of those who have not had that same luck and whose time has been taken way to short.
I have done some research into breast cancer (well quite a lot really!) and it has been scientifically proven that there are definite links with alcohol and breast cancer. Now as many of you know I do like a little drink! – but did I cause my cancer by drinking alcohol? Neil said all those weeks ago “what have you done to get cancer a second time?” Is this the reason? Did I do it to myself? It is a scary and indeed sobering thought. So many things that we eat and drink have links to cancer and we can’t deprive ourselves of everything, but if it means that I will stay cancer free then it is a small price to pay.
Life is precious and should be cherished. You really don’t know what is around the corner. One of my daddy’s friends used to say regularly “Ali, life is not a dress rehearsal”. And that is so true. Live everyday to the full, be kind to yourself, be kind to others, and never go to sleep on an argument – because you really just don’t know.
So what happens now…
I see my oncologist next week to discuss my tablet medication that I will be on for at least 5 years – if not more. These tablets suppress my hormones and of course they come with their own set of side effects including bringing on an early menopause, joint pain and weight gain!! Oh joy!! But if it helps reduce my risk of cancer returning then surely it’s worth it.
This is not the end of my blog and my new chapter is only just beginning so I will keep writing. There is so much more to tell, to say and to do. Thank you to everyone who has supported me along the way. I know I have seemed strong and positive all the time but there have been dark moments and it has been with your support and the support of my family and friends that I have made it to this point today.
Thank you and keep reading!!