Tim and I were on our way into Cork city to see Dr Deirdre O’Mahony, my consultant oncologist. “It’s all about the scan results today,” said Tim, wondering if there was more on the agenda. I replied, “Yes, it’s all about the scan.”
We mostly travelled in silence. I was trying not to think about cancer and cancer treatment. I’m sure Tim was also bracing himself for whatever lay ahead. We had a few minutes to wait in The Cork Clinic. I scrolled through my phone looking for something to distract me.
The door opened and there was Deirdre’s smiling face. We entered her consultation room and took our seats. There was a tiny bit of small talk, and I mean miniscule. Yet I’d enough time to go from the possibility of being in a coffin before the year ends to starting new treatment with new tumours all over me. I have this silly idea that if I have imagined every scenario then hopefully, it won’t happen.
My racing thoughts were interrupted by Deirdre’s lovely, kind voice saying, “Your scan is fine”. Those four little words mean that I can continue getting well. I felt the relief travelling from my head to my toes as I dared to relax a little bit.
It is taking me time to get over the effects of chemotherapy and surgery. Deirdre reminded me that it will be roughly a year after finishing chemotherapy before I’ll be back to myself, which will be next September.
My racing thoughts were interrupted by Deirdre’s lovely, kind voice saying, “Your scan is fine”. Those four little words mean that I can continue getting well. I felt the relief travelling from my head to my toes as I dared to relax a little bit
She advised me to work at getting well, taking exercise and eating a healthy diet. She also told me to use my GP to keep things like cholesterol and blood pressure under control. That’s sound advice in general.
I find it quite difficult to get beyond the trauma of being a cancer patient and recognising that I’m now actually a cancer survivor and very lucky indeed. I think it is something that will take time and more clear scans to make me confident of my health status.
Top class care
I think back to that day when I first met Deirdre. I was terrified. I knew I was being managed but at that moment, that was what I needed. I was completely overwhelmed. Deirdre said, “You sit there and Tim you sit beside her. Now, let’s take one step at the time.”
The tears just poured down my face. I was in very safe hands. We left Deirdre that day with a planned start date for chemotherapy. Tim took on the challenge of getting me through treatment with gusto, as did my family, siblings, in-laws and my friends.
Tim tried to find foods that I liked. A toasted sandwich and buffalo mozzarella with vine tomatoes were two of my staples. He cooked for the family and managed me and my medicines throughout my treatment.
My readers sent cards. Text messages came often. Candles were lit in countries afar. When I was blinded with chemicals coursing through my system, the sight of a picture of a candle lighting in a far off place was heartening. People on holidays had me in their thoughts and prayers. That meant a lot and was often enough to get me through the day.
I would not have been the recipient of a clear scan last week without the help of Tim and my family. I was always able to take my treatment and I never had to go back into hospital during a cycle. I was allowed to rest and get well. That is testament to the care I received at home.
If I’ve learned one thing, it’s that keeping your problems secret is futile. There are times when in order to stay healthy and safe, you have to stay away. Those are tough times when you’re feeling miserable.
Other than that, keep the lines of communication open. Talking to people will cheer you up. Talking about it might give you a fresh perspective or new ways of managing the situation. At least that worked for me.
I know some people might like to navigate their particular trauma alone and everyone has to do what feels right for them. However, it can make for a more difficult time for everyone involved. I chose the path of allowing everyone to help me and it has worked for me.