In about eight hundred days…

imageThe here and now may not be perfect but its an altogether better place than where I was around 800 days ago. Eight hundred sounds like a lot when you add it up in days, but in years it’s less than three. Just a tiny fraction of the longevity most of us hope to achieve in our lifetimes.

Long before my tussle with cancer began I developed a trait that has proven increasingly useful, particularly during the most challenging four hundred of the eight hundred day mountain climb I’ve taken on in the last few years. Though I haven’t consciously cultivated it, and on occasion even considered it problematic, looking back I can see just how helpful it’s been when the world seemed to be coming undone. Some might call it mindfulness or being in the present, others might say its selective amnesia. Whatever it is and however it happens, closing down frightening, painful or just plain bad memories so they no longer invade daily thoughts or conjure negative emotions is something I now consider a blessing. A body marred by the evidence of physical surgery and some serious chemical bombardment doesn’t need to retain a matching set of psychological scars.

As far as I can tell being anchored in the past makes it impossible to live in the present or imagine anything might have the potential to be different in future. Like many others dealing with cancer, my future is far from guaranteed but being permanently bonded to the fear, confusion and isolation that come with a cancer diagnosis isn’t something I want to sustain. Taking the lessons from past experiences is important, constantly reliving them isn’t. Closing the door on negative memories and the emotions that went along with them has helped me remain relatively calm and stable during some very unstable situations.

It’s about two and a half years down the line now and small signs of normality continue to emerge. A visit to the oncologist last week resulted in confirmation that all seems well so from now on we move to annual rather than six-monthly check ups. There are some things that won’t improve or mend – ankles, knees and hearing – but that’s fine, I can get by with them as they are. The same isn’t true of cancer and though I like my oncologist, I like the thought of a year away from him much more. Being able to go out in public without looking like a medical experiment, walking like a very senior citizen (well over 100) or having what appears to be a constant cold are all welcome steps forward too. They’re small steps but that doesn’t matter because they all contribute to renewed invisibility – it’s hard for chemo patients to blend in! – improving agility and a general sense that slowly but surely, health is beginning to return.

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13 thoughts on “In about eight hundred days…

  1. I have just found your blogs and thank goodness. I have just finished chemo. I am on the trial for Herceptin and was lucky to be randomised on the short arm of the trial. 3 sessions of Tax and Herceptin first and then 3 sessions of FEC. I think I crashed into the Side Effects tree and hit every branch on the way down!!
    I have never felt depressed – just had the attitude that I had to get through this Sh*t and out the other side!
    However, I am increasingly concerned about how long it will take to get over the side effects of all this and when does life become normal, whatever normal will be from now on?
    Your blogs have been great. My friend once told me at the start of this funny old cancer journey that life as I knew it was over and the future would be very different. I now understand that.
    Please continue with your blogs..great reading them
    Ade

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    • Dear Ade,
      I did a trial too, Persephone. 3xFEC, 3xTH (Taxotere+Herceptin) then 6xHerceptin. It sounds similar and I think we’ve both been unlucky on the side effects front. The good news is that they do subside. It’s taken a while, some things aren’t the same and I guess they never will be, but I feel like I have my life back and that’s all that really matters. The other piece of good news is that they’ve found Herceptin offers significant benefits over chemotherapy alone, especially for our longer term outlook. This isn’t an easy journey by any stretch of the imagination but you will recover from the side effects. Most people now don’t realise I’ve completely rebuilt my life, unless I tell them.
      Be kind to yourself over the months ahead, your body will regenerate and it won’t be long before you can look back at this experience without being overrun by it. I wish you normality, good health and renewed vigour. Tracy x

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  2. Congrats on going to once-a-year checkup. Here’s to your wellness! I heartily agree that “taking life’s lessons from the past is important; reliving them in the present isn’t.” Getting to that place is truly healing, even if we heal with a limp.

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    • Thank you Eileen. Healing with a limp is a useful way to think of it, it’s exactly how I feel and even with the limp, I’m just pleased to be here!

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  3. Wonderful photo Tracy. You must be very proud of Jim, I know I am. The sentiments expressed could not have been put better, or more precisely. Onward, ever onward…… May the future bring you improved health and much happiness. Love always. Dad xxx

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    • Thanks Dad, I am very proud and whatever happens in future I’m glad to have had this time and the chance to see Jim graduate because not everyone is so lucky. I hope the future holds much brighter things for all of us, I think we deserve it. Sending you much love, xxx

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  4. dear Tracy,

    I was stunned when I read this beautifully written post. I had just finished writing in my journal about how tethered to the past I have been feeling and reacting to, both with widowhood and cancer, and how much it has affected my feeling “stuck” in things that no longer exist. your post is such a reassuring, reaffirmation of measures I have decided to use to be able to move forward. “taking the lessons from past experiences is important, constantly re-living them isn’t.” so true! I am so glad you have found what feels right and good for you, emerging from all those 800 days, feeling and appreciating that health is slowly but surely returning. and what a lovely photo of you and your J!

    much love to you, my Dear Friend,

    Karen ooxoo

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    • Hello Karen,

      If I had a wish for you it is that I could somehow undo the pain, grief and loss you endure. I know it’s impossible, that we each have to find our own way through as best we can, in whatever time and form it takes. I am possibly the worst person in the world when it comes to ‘managing’ grief but it doesn’t stop me wishing for some way, any way, that I could help make all that’s unwell well again for you.

      Someone with so much goodness in her heart, compassion in her soul and generosity of spirit towards her fellow beings does not deserve cancer, widowhood or the shadow these life-changing experiences have cast upon you. We both know you’ll come through, that the stickiness will subside and then, with every sunrise, life will gain a new beat making up a new rhythm. My hope is that the rhythm, your new rhythm, is energising, warming, sweet and soothing and carries you effortlessly into a future where health, hope and happiness are all in abundance.

      With love and a huge virtual hug for you, your friend,

      Tracy xoxox

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        • Thanks Elizabeth, I hope you’re all doing well. I’m behind with things again so just catching up and trying to make some time to read and write again.

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      • dear Tracy,

        you have no idea that what you have wished for me has given me such incredible hope, and the solace of your precious compassion. the very best thing is that those hopes are the very ones I am working on; to know that in some magical and mystical way you have perfectly aligned those gorgeous hopes and dreams right alongside of my own is something I not only treasure – but also feel empowered and excited about each one of them. I release them with great joy into the Universe, believing, indeed, knowing, that together, with our special connection and the driving force I feel to move forward, it will all come to pass. I feel as though you have written a sacred and beautiful Psalm, as when I read it I hear the words flowing so lyrically – and they go straight to my very core.

        I feel your Love, and I have caught the hug you’ve sent me – I am at peace and filled with a magnificent sense of gratitude.

        much love and many hugs back to you, Dear One.

        Karen OOXOO

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  5. fabulous blog thank you! I’m just over half-way through chemo and radio to follow. am going to print out your blog as something to aim towards (and give me lots of hope). Love, hugs and good wishes for continuing wellbeing and improvements! (sorry – this looks incoherent even to me – and my brain is fec’d! but I hope you can get the general meaning) Di from Australia

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    • Hello Di, I’m sorry you’re also on this journey, it isn’t something I would want anyone else to have to do. If I can be of any help or support having gone through a similar experience then please do let me know. Though it might seem like you’re still slogging your way up the mountain, half-way through chemo is a huge achievement. FEC can be tough (they call the E bit “the red devil” here!) so be kind to yourself, hold on to your hopes and dreams and do what’s right for you. The time will pass by quicker than it seems. Before you know it you’ll be on the last chemo, then radio will be through and then you’ll be standing atop the mountain with the hard climb all behind you. I wish you a smooth journey through the remaining FEC and radio treatments and send love, energy and enduring strength to you to help in creating a happy and healthy future xoxox

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