six months since diagnosis.

it’s a little over six months since i was diagnosed with cancer. it feels mostly like no time has passed at all. as though yesterday, i did not know i had cancer, and i only found out today. at the same time, i’ve now been through six months of fortnightly chemotherapy (unless we count the neutropenic week, which meant it was spaced out an extra week). for a long time, i felt like i couldn’t really comment on cancer treatment because i was too new to it, too inexperienced. i now know that 11 cycles of chemotherapy are a lot. i’ve been essentially hammered because my body is doing so well, and the more they could give me, the better my ‘chances’ are.

i wrote this a few days ago and forgot to post – so i’m not actually feeling bad today at all. but thought i would put it up anyway.

i had the first sort of emotional episode in some time today. no severe sobbing, just … overwhelmed. i am alive. that, in and of itself, is pretty fantastic, and the fact that i am makes me feel like crying. i have advanced cancer, and six months from diagnosis, i am not dead, and in fact, feel better than i have in a very long time, even on my off days. the treatment has made me feel better, and even if it’s just a brief bit of time, it is good. it is really, really good. it is hard though, knowing that this is temporary, and i will soon feel really bad, after the major surgery that is coming up, and that radiation is another unknown. i’ve spoken to more people who have said it’s easier than chemo than not, but i was in hospital next to a woman who was so ill from the radiation that she was hospitalised. she also was in her late 70’s, and talking to the palliative care team, so her situation is nothing like mine, and her radiation was likely also nothing like mine will be.

i bought a book today – a series of stories from a comic called Mouse Guard with beautiful illustrations. i think it’s meant for kids. i thought about it, and how beautiful the drawings are, and that made me cry too. i cried because i got to read Benjamin Bunny to a little tiny baby, and i probably won’t live to see that many major milestones. i saw her laugh for the first time. that makes me cry, not because i am sad, but because it is big, and wonderful, and i am glad to be alive right now. i am sad because i live so far away from so many people i love and want to be around right now. normally i am ok with this, and sometimes i am not. it is important i visit people interstate. and it is always exceptionally hard to come home.

when i buy things, i now always question if i will live to use the Thing i bought. will i wear those fancy clothes i got, bought because i always wanted to dress like that but felt too shy? will i read that book i bought? i will never finish all the books on my shelves. that makes me feel empty. there is always too much, not enough. stuff – brutal, overwhelming, emotionally laden stuff. my stuff connects me, and one day, i will be disconnected from it, because i will be dead. and i know, i know, none of us know when any of us will die. but i have cancer in my lungs that they probably can’t get rid of, and i know what that means.

i am also sad, a bit, because i say goodbye to the people who have been treating me for the last 6 months as i move onto the next stage. seeing my chemo nurses twice every two weeks has been a constant. i have come to really like and care about most of them, and i am going to miss them. i’m planning to instagram selfies with my favourite nurse, Chris. i also have to show him photos of my cats. he understood when i said i cried because i realised the cats would outlive me. he pooh-poohed it, and said i might make it too. they are the ones who have given me this time, dressed in hazmat suits, exposing themselves every day to chemicals that are toxic and dangerous. i’ve had nurses hold my hand while terrified of what it would be like when the chemo drugs went in, and nurses who sat beside me while i cried. nurses who have reassured me about receiving blood – transfusions still really make me uncomfortable – and nurses who have laughed with me at my dumb jokes. they smile and say hi each time i see them, and they have given me back my life, to a large degree. my oncologist, god, yeah, he’s obviously instrumental, but he sits in a nice office, and tells people news they never want to hear, and plans to make them live as long as he can help them – us – to. the nurses run around all day, checking on our bloat and our shit and our piss.

i am sad because my time is running out. each day is closer to it catching up with me. i am running from something that runs faster than i can. this is not a battle. this is never a battle. i personally can do nothing to stop this, or fix this. i just wait, and do what i can. and again, as i’ve said before, time is no more running out than it was before i was diagnosed. i just know i have an expiration date that’s sooner than i thought it would be.


About elizabeth

various things.
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6 Responses to six months since diagnosis.

  1. You write so eloquently about your feelings, my version would end up sounding like “I feel sad. I feel bad… ” It is just that I have no idea what to say. I want to reassure you but I know I cannot as I have no idea what will happen in the future but at the same time I think being positive can have a huge impact on people’s coping abilities and outlooks. I too feel like I am missing milestones in my friends children’s lives (though not because of illness but distance) and so can relate to you crying. Love you and think of you always. oxox

  2. David Heslin says:

    I would love you to read to my child. I don’t know if he’d like Beatrix Potter (probably too young to have much of an opinion on these matters), but he would enjoy hearing your voice.

    I hope that all the books on your shelf wind up throughly flicked-through and dog-eared. Reading should be endless.

    • veritas says:

      i think every child loves Beatrix Potter. sort of? they are pretty bleak. i’ll have to see you when i’m next in melbourne, and should set you up on a Parent-Date with my newly-parenting friends.

      a part of me likes the fact that i will never read all the books in the world. we all leave something unfinished.

      • David Heslin says:

        That would be really lovely (both suggestions). Would love to see you.

        Re: Potter, I grew up reading her books but don’t quite recall if I liked them. I think I found them a bit grim! But they all had beautiful illustration.

  3. Your words are beautiful and you’re right – it’s not a battle. It’s a fucking horrible disease and I loathe war as a comparison for health issues – they just don’t work because we don’t lose – we die.

    I much look forward to reading your next post and how well the treatments have worked and how many more children you’ve got to experience the first laugh with.

    • veritas says:

      thanks so much. and yes. there are no ‘losers’ – no people who failed at being Strong and Brave enough – there is just a roll of the dice – the chance of how your own individual body reacts to treatment.

      proof is in the Next Scan pudding, which is due between christmas and new year. everyone’s hoping for the 7 cm one to be down to 4 – it was 5 at last count. if it’s small enough, it can be ablated. if not, it needs to be surgically removed which is super risky. fingers crossed, eh?

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