In social work we used to do '6-month Reviews' where we cast our eyes back at where we had come from and where we seemed to have landed up. (Other definitions are available!)
This is the final blog for this year so a brief overview seems appropriate. (NB - There may be the occasional follow-up article in the next few months if I simply cannot help myself!)
I look back now on Episode 1 and the descriptions of our holiday in France, of Girona Airport and high speed trains, the heat on sun-drenched hikes through vineyards, the churning sea from the boat-trip and it seems like, well, a foreign land, to misquote L.P. Hartley. Since then there has been a diagnosis, an operation, a consideration of options and six sessions of chemotherapy, each three weeks apart. There will be fifteen days of radiotherapy for three weeks in January.
My world has shrunk, often to a chair and a view and a radio, and small (actually big) things like going out for meals or coffee with a friend, and playing music with the Random Recorders have become major undertakings and massive treats, and disproportionate blows when they have been cancelled at the last minute due to poor health.
Unlike many, I am very fortunate never to have been seriously ill before.
So this has been a huge eye opener and a steep learning curve. I have had to learn to ask for help, and to then accept that help, I have had to feel ok about going to bed in the afternoon and just lying down, and to going to bed at 8pm because my eyes would not stay open. I have had to learn to deal with considerable physical discomfort and to trust that eventually it would recede, which it always did.
The seasons have moved from a distant summer through a beautiful autumn into a damp and chilly winter and I have watched them all from our bright top floor flat that has happily survived an eviction threat. I remember seeing a ragged 'V' of geese high above me as I crept to the bus stop to go to the hospital for a blood test and stopping on the pavement and staring at them for many minutes and forgetting absolutely everything.
And as I sat in my little cancer-bubble the world has carried on as well.
At different times in the treatment I have watched the Tour de France and La Vuelta a Espagna (a sort of Tour de Spain), parts of the Rio Olympics, Wimbledon, and two snooker tournaments. There have been shocking earthquakes and tornadoes, terrible plane and train and tram crashes, unspeakable horrors in Syria and terror attacks across the world. Politically the UK voted to leave the EU (and Scotland voted to remain so we watch this with interest…), an unbelievable nomination process unfolded in the United States resulting in the equally unbelievable Donald Trump being the chosen Republican nominee and then, to the world's disbelief, becoming the President Elect. There is a new Prime Minister in London, the polar ice caps continue to melt and I discovered Man v Food on the Food Network channel.
Prince, Muhammad Ali, Leonard Cohen, Jenni Diski and Fidel Castro have all died, along with Jean Alexander and Caroline Aherne, David Bowie and Victoria Wood, many from cancer. (But probably no more than normal – if you decide to buy a V W Campervan suddenly all you see are V W Campervans…)
I've learnt a lot about cancer as well. I didn’t previously know that there were various kinds of breast cancer and it was interesting to realise that my consultant did not initially give my own variety its proper name, perhaps to avoid alarming us at an early stage. (Or maybe he did – I know we never remember everything that doctors tell us.) We learnt its proper name from the oncologist who discussed chemotherapy with us and even then it was mentioned only in passing.
Afterwards Suz and I both said to each other, 'Did she say Triple Negative Breast Cancer?' and agree that yes she had. I confirmed this later with both the genetic counsellor and with the chemo staff.
Only about 15% of breast cancers are Triple Negative (meaning that they do not respond to the usual hormone treatments) and the five-year survival rate drops from 93% (for most breast cancers) to around 75% for TNBC. Numbers numbers numbers. I refuse to live my life based on statistical probabilities and possibilities.
Writing these weekly blogs has also been hugely therapeutic and fun, a regular weekly focus even when day-to-day things were a bit grim, and the many positive comments that folk have added have been great. I've made new online friends and reconnected with friends from the past, I've even learnt how to retweet a tweet and compose an original one!
So – finally – a huge thanks to everyone for reading my weekly rambles and a particularly big thank you to Jan Rosser and www.OAPSchat.co.uk for offering to host the blog and for doing so in such a professional and magnificent manner.
As I write this I am nine days beyond my final chemotherapy session and my energy and taste are slowly returning. We are going up to the wire on this one but at eight days from our much anticipated Christmas lunch we remain quietly confident that it will happen and be thoroughly enjoyed!
A Very Good Christmas, much love and a Happy and Healthy New Year to All xxx
EDITOR: I would like to thank Alison for sharing her very personal blogs with us over the last four months. I am sure you will all join me in wishing Alison all the best for the future and hope 2017 will be happy and HEALTHY.
See Episode 1 here
See Episode 2 here
See Episode 3 here
See Episode 4 here
See Episode 5 here
See Episode 6 here
See Episode 7 here
See Episode 8 here
See Episode 9 here
See Episode 10 here
See Episode 11 here
See Episode 12 here
See Episode 13 here
See Episode 14 here
See Episode 15 here