I’m just going to cut to the chase – last week I was diagnosed with cancer. It started in my large bowel and has already managed to sneak its way into my liver. Bowel cancer is 1) very rare in people my age, and 2) notoriously silent until it spreads and starts causing problems, which is why it hasn’t been identified before now. In my case the key problem was the near total obstruction of my gut, which has now been opened up again with a magic expandable tube called a stent. I had a lot of tests last week to assess the extent of the damage to my bowel and liver and doctors will discuss the results of those with me shortly. For now, I am being fast-tracked to chemotherapy; I will be on two week cycles of 2-3 chemicals for around 3 months beginning on 21st June with a view to shrinking the cancer as much as possible before surgery later this year.
I am, in general, holding up pretty well given the situation. Clearly I’m terrified, but medically I know I’m in the best hands possible and I have an amazeballs support network of family and close friends who are already looking after me really well. Like many things in life, being diagnosed with a rare cancer feels a lot more normal when it actually happens to you than you imagine it would, and so at the moment I’m focused mostly on the project management side of things – making sure I have an adequate supply of cosy nesting spaces, decent scifi and fishfingers is much higher on my todo list than indulging in existential crises. Hopefully I can keep it that way.
If you want to get in touch, that’s great and I’d love to hear from you! But please don’t phone – I find phone calls stressful at the best of times, and at the moment I am constantly on edge waiting for calls from the hospital about tests and things. Messages and emails are great (as are physical letters! See address* at the bottom!), but please don’t expect me to reply quickly, or at all – as you might imagine, I have quite a lot going on right now. A lack of response doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate you getting in touch, it just means I’m exhausted.
Similarly, if you’d like to visit me then by all means ask, but don’t expect a response straight away, or be prepared that I might say no. I am normally the kind of person who gets a huge boost from people being around, but I currently have no idea how chemo is going to affect me. However once I’ve gotten used to the cycles it’d be lovely to know who I might be able to persuade to join me for boardgames or Star Trek or short healthy walks in the park, etc.
If you want to get in touch but you’re worried about doing/saying the wrong thing, here are some articles about talking to/supporting people who are going through cancer and other big crises that I think are helpful, particularly the Comfort In/Dump Out Ring Theory:
Finally, if you have questions about any technical/treatment stuff, please ask Google and not me! If I have more information I will post it in my blog or on Facebook if and when I feel comfortable doing so. Depending on how I’m feeling I’m hoping to document a bit of what it feels like to go through chemo and everything else, but that’ll depend on my energy levels and motivation at the time. If I don’t post a lot, don’t worry! Again, I’m probably just exhausted. I might set up a Facebook page or something so that my above mentioned support network can help you keep tabs on me (gosh, the future, etc.). And speaking of that support network, if you do happen to know my housemates or my boyfriend or anyone who’s sat with me and waited for me in a hospital recently, then please remember that they’re also going through a lot right now and you should definitely buy them a gin.
Right, I hope this post has been informative and helpful, and that as I step out onto the big scary battlefield ahead I can count on your support as I aim to kick cancer in the balls as hard as I can. Thanks for reading.
*Address for postal correspondence: 568 Caledonian Road, London, N7 9SD.