It creeps in and attacks one of the most fundamental aspects of what it means to be human, it attacks the need to eat, and the need to sate hunger. Hunger is one of the most fundamental human desires, it signals we are alive, that we want to survive. It means that there is something inside of us that must strive to live and consume energy in order to do so. It manifests itself at our most fundamental level of physiology, when we convert glucose into ATP, and it manifests itself in our day-to-day, at a social level, when we sit down to a meal.
Nausea destroys all of that.
In many ways nausea destroys one of the key things that make us alive, by destroying a fundamental desire that is integral to living. For three days, I was denied this fundamental element of life.
I had really wished having had 7 months off chemo would have given my body some time to recover and improve how I tolerate it. To some degree, this has been the case, but truthfully, the experience was a harsh reminder of some the least pleasant times of my life. The experience of chemotherapy is unique to each agent used, and re-starting came with some degree of psychological trauma as I relived a previous nightmare, one I can’t wake from. With it came the slow remembrance of a previous life (albeit only 7 months ago) that was easy to forget, but painful to recall.
This round was re-initialisation into the future months, so whilst I paint the experience with melodrama, what it really did was force a reset of my world view. Seven month of chemo-free life tempted me into dreaming of an alternative reality that in the end never materialised. I now have to adjust to my new one.
My new reality in actual fact isn’t that bad, at the end of the day, I am still alive and incredibly blessed.
The pain of chemo reminds me of this.
It is ironic that even though suffering sometimes strips us of feeling alive, it’s existence in our lives is a vital reminder that we are indeed still living.
And perhaps that is the biggest blessing of all…
Till next time…
Last week I was interviewed on Good Morning for Beat Bowel Cancer‘s second Bowel Cancer Awareness week. Last year you may remember 20/20 did a story on myself and another girl called Claire, and I was also interviewed on the Breakfast show as part of the week. Sadly, Claire passed away about 6 weeks after it aired. Statistically speaking, I only had a 20% chance of surviving to this years awareness week.
The interview didn’t get put up onto on-demand, and thanks to MySky’s inability to export files, I had to resort to the somewhat manual means of filming the video in realtime using my 7D. So please excuse the quality.
Well, it is official. I am restarting chemotherapy on Friday 22nd of June. I will be going back onto the regime I was on previously (FOLFIRI), so round counting resumes at 42.
The 42nd weekend of my life lost.
The 42nd close encounter with nausea and vomiting.
The 42nd reminder that I’m mortal.
I have spoken to my employers, and they are happy for me to go back to down to the 2/3rds employment status I was on previously, and hopefully I should be able to stay in my current position of surgical rotator. I have to say, I have really enjoyed having six months of no chemotherapy. It has literally only been in the last few weeks that I can say I was starting to feel physically like chemo was in my past. There are lingering effects that seem to take a while to flush from the system.
There was some discussion around the fact that if this regime fails, the only remaining options were non-funded ones such as Avastin. I’m not particularly interested in paying $10,000 per fortnightly round for a treatment that has only been shown to increase life expectancy by an average of 3 months. We aren’t there yet, but it will be a call I will have to make eventually. I think I would rather see the money spent on vaccines in the developing world, somewhere where the benefit per dollar spent is far more impact-full and tangible. When you develop a global perspective on life, it is very hard to even justify the expense that has been spent on me to date, especially when all we are doing is delaying an inevitable outcome.
In the mean time, I will continue working as I can, for as long as I can. The hope is that the new cancer responds to chemotherapy, and remains stable. The fact that it did this in the past is unfortunately no guarantee it will continue to do so in the future, but we continue to hope and pray. Re-engaging with an uncertain future again certainly tests resolve. I guess ultimately all human and natural sources of resolve are finite, and eventually exhaustion takes over…
I count my blessings that I don’t resource this journey by my own means, but by something greater, something that will endure past death.
Until next time..