156. Onwards and upwards

The news is good for me and bad for this cancer blog.  Let's start with the good news. The lab results are back. No more cancer found. Not in my lymph nodes, not anywhere else.

No need for radiotherapy (hurray) or chemotherapy (hurray doesn't begin to cover it).

My friends, I am done. It's onwards and upwards from here. I can't tell you how much of a relief that is, and how brightly the next few years now shine ahead. Knowing that yes, I am still put firmly in my place if I think Aha, feeling better, let's do X or Y or Z which is then followed by an all-of-a-sudden collapse - but that will improve. And then I am truly back to being able to do X and Y and Z: perhaps even all at once.

Since my last cancer, I have not taken my health and energy and enjoyment of life for granted. It is a blessing to be counted, and I have been counting. What I hadn't counted on was the outpouring of love and support from all of you. The hundreds of messages, the prayers, the cards and flowers and chocolates and thoughtful gifts (yesterday there was a delivery of a big box of muffins). I will stop short of saying that it was worth getting cancer again just for the experience of being carried on wings, but there is a truth in that too.

I was unexpectedly nervous yesterday, waiting for the Chief's phone call.

No need to come into hospital, they'd said. Better to stay away, what with Covid and all that. The surgeon will ring you at noon.

I woke up from a dream that I'd missed the call (because I had popped into work to say hello to my team), and by midday I was clutching onto my knitting with husband next to me. I feverously knitted several inches of sleeve before the Chief phoned two hours later.

It's so easy to see why people forget everything they wanted to say or ask, and don't really take in what a doctor says. Despite being a confident patient and fluent in Hospital Language, I was in real danger of simply saying Yes doctor, of course doctor, bye doctor so we'd written all our questions down. Once we got talking, it was fine and I was back to being able to discuss things intelligently, but those nerve-racking waits for results could easily reduce the most confident of patients to something small and powerless.

So, in case you remember some of my questions from last week's blog and are wondering about the answers, here they are.

Q: How does hormone treatment work? Is the job of those pills to prevent the cancer coming back in your breast - in which case, is there any point in taking them, now that I have zero breasts?

A: It is indeed their job to stop the cancer coming back in your breast, but that can include the skin of the breast, so yes, it might be worth persevering with those. "What would you prefer?" (asked the Chief). "Well," said I, "I'd take your expert advice on that, but if it hangs in the balance, then I'd rather not take any more pills." The Chief agreed but is going to discuss it with the full team. For now, the thinking about those pills (which I've taken for seven years, with three years still to go) is to sack them. Grounds for dismissal: You had ONE job...!!

Q: Now that I've got two breast cancers under my belt, would it be prudent to have genetic testing? Two daughters, you see.

A: Initially no, because I'd said that I had no family history of breast cancer. But in the past week I've remembered a relative who was diagnosed after me (I'd forgotten that "history" can also include "recent history") so now I tick enough boxes to get a genetic testing referral.

Q: What is the best way to cope with all that spare fluid sloshing around behind my new scar? It's the size of my previous A-cup.

A: Grin and bear it. I won't bore you with the details of the discussion, which included the Chief sighing Oh Lord (I found that remarkably supportive) and explaining, "You can imagine the many meetings I've been to where we looked at possible solutions! It's 2022, and we still haven't cracked it!" and, alarmingly, "There's a surgeon in Germany who puts his patients in a corset for six weeks. Can you imagine? SIX WEEKS!!?? And it doesn't even work. You wouldn't want that." I agreed that indeed, I wouldn't. I also accept that draining the fluid (a) risks introducing infection and (b) encourages the body to make more fluid. But what am I looking at? A few weeks? A year? About three months, the Chief reckons. Oh well. Grin. Bear.

We raised a few glasses last night.

I am going to be sensible, I promise. My GP has signed me off work for another month. I have gone to East Sussex for a couple of weeks and am going to spend my time watching the remaining few episodes of The Great British Sewing Bee before the brand new 2022 series starts next week (don't miss it... BBC1, 27th April, 8pm), plan my new wardrobe, make daughter a ball gown. I am going to smell the tulips, walk among the bluebells, swim in the sea (sorry nurse, I'm ignoring your advice to wait six weeks before swimming. My scar has healed so I can't see any reason why I shouldn't take a life-affirming dip). 

I am going to live. 

So, as I said, bad news for this blog... You can safely assume that no news is good news. Now, excuse me, Otus and I have some walking in the woods to do.