Preface: I wrote this on a train to Harrogate on Wednesday night and have left it largely unedited.
My car is in the garage overnight so of course my sister goes into labour. A mad dash to catch the last train to Harrogate cursing the bad timing and the mechanic who convinced me they needed it for another 24 hours. The train from Leeds is SO busy. I’d love to know where everyone is going at this time of night. A few hours earlier I was cleaning out the chickens and mowing the lawn. I’ve not looked in the mirror since then but am sure I probably look a state!
I made it to Mallorca but it was a pretty miserable experience as the combined effects of chemo and a brutal chest infection finally got the better of me. Neither my fabulous team-mates or my hired Pinnarello managed to lift my spirits. Apart from one amazing day cycling to Lluc I was too ill to do very much and spent much of the time feeling sorry for myself in a slightly pathetic way. At times like this it’s hard to cancel out the voice in my head questioning if I’ll still be here to make this trip next year. It’s made me reflect on the overwhelming sense of loss I feel and the sense that I’m grieving for my former, pre-cancer self. My cancer is boring. I cancel stuff, treatment is dull, talking about it is dull, hearing about it is dull so to all my friends and family who offer continual support, I’m sorry.
Post Mallorca, chemo and chest infection, I started to prepare for the Great Manchester Run but was alarmed to discover that I could only run about 1K without stopping. This was frustrating but as my chest infection cleared up and I moved on from this bout of chemo I recovered quickly and got back up to 5k…. still way off the 10k mark though. A few weeks before Deena Campbell from North West Tonight came out to interview me about exercise and cancer and why I was taking part. The highlight of this was getting my chicken Warren onto the film and forever immortalised in the BBC Archives. If anyone wants to see the chicken, she’s here:
On the Sunday before the run a camera-man came out to film me teaching RDA as part of the “runner stories” to be broadcast on the day. This was a pretty daunting experience but I quickly forgot he was there due in part to his skill and in part to the RDA kids being as fantastic as ever. Monday 22nd I woke early and unable to sleep decided to go to the pool. It was on the drive there that I first heard the devastating news about the bomb in the centre of town. I don’t really have words for the horror that unfolded over the rest of that day and the following week apart from to say that the spirit of the city and its people shone through regardless. Suddenly the schedule interview I had on Tuesday took a much more sombre turn and the run itself was in doubt.
In the end the run did go ahead as planned and against the odds I managed to complete it without walking. It was a fantastic, moving day and a tribute to all those who lost their lives the week before as well as a show of defiance in the face of such appalling actions. My friends Kat and Rowena were interviewed at the end of the run and amongst all the positive comments managed to get in my curtain making skills. Thanks Kat!
Earlier in the year I cancelled my place on the Coasts and Castles cycle tour. When it became clear that I’d still be on a chemo break I re-joined and I’m so glad I did. 8 of us did 210 miles over 4 days which sounds quite leisurely but the constant headwind and my lack of bike fitness meant it proved super hard. On day 2 I was ready to throw in the towel but after teary conversations with Jess and Mike I got back on the bike and stayed the course, thanks to the fabulous Glow girls who gave me the encouragement and support I needed too. On the final day we were rewarded with possibly the most beautiful, sublime descent I’ve ever done in stunning weather with breath-taking scenery. For the cyclists among you, take NCN route 1 from Innerleithen, climb for about 15 miles then weeeeeeeeeeeee. It’s only in times like that that I’m truly able to live in the moment and forget all the rubbish.
Anyway – my next scan is 17th July and I’m anticipating and dreading more chemotherapy. I’ve kind of got used to being bald and it’s strange currently having hair again. My latest way of taking control of all of this is to book myself in for a scalp tattoo. The plan is that between blocks of chemo I can have this tattoo extended and start not to dread the inevitable hair-loss so much. I mostly choose not to wear wigs or hats so this feels like a good way to embrace it although I’m somewhat scared about the pain. It can’t be as bad as a liver biopsy though, right? Anyway, pictures to follow in my next blog.
Postscript: baby Liliana was born on Thursday morning and is healthy and beautiful. My sister is amazing and was well enough to leave the hospital 6 hours later. Yesterday I had half of my first tattoo on my shoulder done and I love it – even though it isn’t finished. Today I’ve been to the local animal shelter and adopted a new cat. Life really does have a way of marching on regardless. Here’s to a stable scan and 3 more chemo-free months.