Vicky’s Update 7th September 2011: The finish line – Looking good, feeling fine!
Who’d have thought: Sunday 28th August 2011, cycle 6 day 28, the technical finish line of my treatment and the Final Whistle of the Chemotherapy Tournament? The end of ten months of anti-cancer treatment: a time to take stock, to reflect and be proud of myself. Despite over a decade of my career being in anti-cancer drug development, I think my most intense learning experience has been the last ten months. I’ve more about myself than I ever thought possible, I’ve learnt a lot about my relationships with others, and others’ with others. I’ve learnt more about the Cancer Community than I ever thought that there was to know. I’ve learnt, by being on the receiving end, of how judgemental and presumptive some people are about a cancer diagnosis, a Mangy Dog hair-do and what cancer can do to your self esteem. This sounds a bit perverse, but I’ve learnt so much about me and what’s important to me, that I feel like a better, tougher, rounder person as a result, and the rounding is nothing to do with the on-chemo-off-exercise weight gain I’ve managed.
I’m now entering the post Chemo Age, and have graduated from the Beatson’s Tuesday Neuro-Oncology Chemo‘ Clinic to the Monday Follow-up Clinic. I’ll continue to have 3-monthly scans and clinic visits subject to me being well.
As expected, Vix hammered Chemo in the Chemotherapy Tournament with a final score-line after 188 days of play, of Vix 162, Chemo 26. The Tournament has been a resounding success, with Vix’s August scan showing her to be stable and there to be no active tumour. I hope my cancer siblings who have yet to reach the closing stages of play in their respective tournaments have and event with equally good results and sportsmanship. I am waving my imaginary flags, singing, cheering and skipping in support of you, sucking on half-time oranges and enjoying a post-match pint for you by proxy.
So, what’s being going on since I last wrote to you? It’s been a month with some real highs and lows, and some “normal” stuff in between. I seem to be causing less of a distraction in the workplace on my days in the office, which is good, as it means that my friends and colleagues are getting used to seeing the Mangy Dog, and from a business perspective, I get some work done, and drink fewer cups of coffee. One epic piece of news, well epic for me, but probably entirely dull for you in fairness, is that I’ve had my first proper haircut since VixBigShave in December 2010. It was done by a “stylist”, not a DIY-clipper trim. I don’t expect you to notice, as the pile of hair on the floor was very minimal, but visiting the hair dresser constituted a simple pleasure, and it was lovely being washed, conditioned, trimmed, preened and styled. There was no need for a blow dry though. I’ve been called “Sir” twice since though. Maybe I need a boob job. I suppose my hairstyle news is nothing compared to what’s been happening in the real news over the past few weeks, with the worsening famine in Somalia, hurricanes in the US, riots in the UK. I was on the train north to Glasgow when the riots were all kicking-off in London. On arrival in Glasgow, there was a massive crowd and banging and unexpected excitement. Fortunately it was due to the Pipe and Drum Band rehearsals for some big I competition. Meanwhile, south of Hadrian’s Wall, I heard that Baroque instrumentalists were playing every night. It transpires that it wasn’t luters and harpsichordists, but looters and riotists.
I’ve had a couple of really annoying and frustrating events, which unfortunately for me, occurred on successive days when I was at my lowest energy state. Firstly there was VixBigEmailHackScamThingy where some eejit contacted everyone in my hotmail contacts list, asking for money after concocting some fictitious nonsense, in poor English, about me being mugged in Spain. To those who called me, emailed me, and those who came a poked me in the office, I thank you for your concern. For those of you who said I am not worth 1000Euro, you have a good point. I’d like to know what you think I am worth, two camels and a goat perhaps? To those who told me to sort out my grammar, thanks, well spotted. To the individual who offered to send me a team hunky men clad in bullet-proof vests and balaclavas to save me, thanks for the image, I am still enjoying it. Thanks to the individual who suggested this as my next fundraising scheme… great idea with no exertion, but possibly illegal, but please keep thinking. Thanks for the offer of flippers and a wetsuit and goggles so that I could swim back, You certainly had me laughing and I hope the eejit scammers enjoyed your humour too. Please don’t use my vixter_g hotmail account for now, please use the vixbigstuff one. Thanks for caring. What a pain in the proverbial though and a mucking fuddle. I felt violated and cross at myself for not changing the password since I created the account in 1998! I’ve notified Fraud Action, my bank and credit card companies and recommend that you change your password more frequently that I did…. the adage of “learn from yesterday, live for today and hope for tomorrow” resonates with me. My Change Management exercise with you for the distribution of my updates has been expedited as a result, a new carrot and a bigger stick, so my updates will come from the blog from now on, so do register if you want to get them.
The following day, I thought I complete the simple task of getting my travel insurance for my trip down under., I’d started on-line, but thought that I’d do it over the phone as I was reluctant to use my credit card on-line following the hacky-scammy-thing. Alas, these things are never as simple as they sound, and to cut a long story short, it was an Insurance Endurance Test. Despite claims of being “cancer friendly” several companies didn’t like my kind of tumour, and by the end of the third medical questionnaire, I really did feel like I was a one-legged leper proposing that I hop to the Moon. I began to worry that I might be watching the World Cup on tele. It was painful, I was explaining to people on the other end of the phone about my diagnosis, my prognosis and what “median” survival means…. but I wasn’t ticking the right boxes on their computer-driven questionnaires. I ended up called Prof Chalmers at the Beatson and he helped me with some updated answers for the insurers, and hey-presto, I’ve got medical travel insurance, I am going down-under! As Chekov said, “any idiot can face a crisis, it is the day to day living that wears you out”.
On the more fun side of things, I have had Mum and my nieces Elsa and Jos to stay, and we went punting in Cambridge and had time with my Aunt and cousin in Herts, and we finally managed the union of Auntie Champa, me and niece Jos, all of us sharing the same birthday. Are we unusual in this, or is common –familial birthdays common place? No wise cracks about twins and triplets please, we are from three different generations.
I’ve been to the 80’s Rewind Festival in Henley with friends which made me feel thirty years younger, and served as a good reminder that my brain does work as the lyrics to tunes from my youth are still there. It’s been great to spend time at home and feel so settled here. I have committed the local bus timetable to memory and have established a good network of kind-lift-giving friends, which helps massively. One day I hope to repay my lift debts that I am creating and I hope they don’t have anything to do with the double-dippy talk of recession and Euro-debt in the news.
My celebratory event for the close of play in the Tournament was VixBigHalf, the Dingle Half Marathon in County Kerry, Ireland. My friends from the USA, Lindy, Lisa and Andy blame me for making them do it, but I am sure it was their idea to have a summer of sporting events raising awareness and funds for the charities Accelerate Brain Cancer Cure (ABC2) and Smith Farm.
Unforeseen hurdles were added, with hurricane Irene having too much wind and the pre-race preparations diminished from a week to a few hours… We had a wonderful day on Saturday 3rd September, along with a few thousand others, making our way west from Dingle, along the Slea Head Pass for a mere 13.1 miles of coastal road running. We’d created a bit of news interest with the local press, as this was the final event in a long summer series of races in “Lindy and Lisa’s Summer of Living, Loving and Laughing for Vicky”. Lindy taught me her mantra of “looking good, feeling fine” when we used to play rugby together several years back, and it did us well during the BigHalf, with Lindy being 4 months pregnant and me being 6 days after the completion of chemo!
I managed a Personal Best for the Dingle course (as I’d never done that particular half marathon before), and I got a new Personal Worst to exceed my time of my seven previous half marathons I’ve done, clocking in at about 3 hours. Don’t bother doing the maths to work out the average speed, it was slow, and a mixture being slow running and some walking. To make it sound a little better, I did have a few loo (Portaloo ones, not Paula Radcliffe-style) stops, which involved queuing, and we did stop and take photos and enjoy the view, and of course we chatted the whole way round. I really don’t understand people who run so fast that they can’t talk – it really misses an opportunity to have a good natter, make new friends. So, I clocked a totally unremarkable race time, but it’s is the Half Marathon that I am most proud of. I totally recommend it to you all, and I am up for it again in 2012 is you want to come and join me.
A few days later, I find myself in recovery plus recovery. My quadriceps felt like they had been butchered and my glute’s felt like they had been excised. I was walking like a very old lady. I suggest, that those of you wanting to partake in a half marathon, that you do something more athletic than chemo for your training. I can proudly say that we all completed it, and we must have won as they gave us medals at the finish line.
My next phase of the Post Chemo Era involves a trip to New Zealand for the Rugby World Cup and back via family and friends in Australia, as it seems rude to be on that side of the equator and not pop in for a cuppa.
Lastly, I’d like to tell you a bit about a young friend of mine, my Scare Brother and an inspiration to us all. Harry has spent his school summer holiday somewhat atypically for a teenager, as he’s recently undergone a massive operation to install a mechanical valve in his heart. Cardiology was never my forte, so I won’t pretend I understand quite what or where the new valve is and does, but what I can see, is a super-strong brave fighter of a young man, HRH HTH, who has no doubt been to places that most young teenagers never even think about. He just gets on with it, and trusts the experts, hopes that his Mum, Dad, Brother and dog will be there when we wakes up, whilst keeping a lovely twinkle and sense of humour. He’s created his own mantra: Health, Happiness and Hope, to which I will add a splash of “Humour”. He’s a great reminder of why it’s good to get on and “live with” whatever shite we have to deal with, to enjoy simple pleasures and focus on what we can do, not on what we can’t do. If you want to read more about Harry, have a look at his story on Tiny Tickers.
For your leisure time
Go and see the film “One Day”, if nothing else you’ll enjoy hearing an American trying to sound like she’s a Yorkshire lass.
Please enjoy.some on-line silliness:
To finish, some wise words: “Don’t wait for the light at the end of the tunnel. Turn the light on.”
Take care of you and yours, and do let me know your news.
Live, Love and Laugh
Big kisses and bone-crunching hugs