Monthly Archives: June 2015

Warrior women

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Gynosphinx

Gynosphinx

‘Warrior women’ is a term that’s been bandied about a fair bit, often connected with feminism or reclaiming that which is lost. Well, lately I’ve met the real deal. I’ve met a lot of new people online. Mostly women, all with similar advanced lung cancers to mine. And what a feisty lot they are. I’ve never met people so strong, so determined, so bloody-minded and intelligent. They have been my salvation in these last few dark weeks, waiting for results and a treatment plan.

They have taught me to look at life in a different way. They have warned me never to look at cancer statistics on Google – ever. They are brave and wise and I am totally in awe of them. None of us have the time, or the inclination to deal with bullshit – from anyone. We say it as it is, we are kind to each other, we offer information and virtual hugs. We know what this is all about. It is a very exclusive club that none of us wanted to belong to.

So within a week I will have started chemo and I can begin to beat the cancer cells into submission, wherever they rear their ugly heads. They will never be totally gone, of course, but that’s not the name of this particular game. Science is amazing – within a couple of days now, the genome sequencing will be finished on my cancer, the mutations identified, a plan of attack worked out. The diagnostic process I have undergone, with scans and biopsies etc. has been phenomenal. The NHS comes in for a lot of stick, but I can put my hand on my heart and say I have never felt so much confidence in any organisation as I do in all the doctors, nurses and  technicians responsible for my wrap-around care, at York Teaching Hospital and St James’s in Leeds.

Two months ago, I didn’t think I’d ever feel positive about life again. Today is different.

One month on, and waiting…

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One month on, and still in the diagnostic process. Each test adds to what I know of the cancer, but it also adds to the bad news, the compromised lymph glands, the potential spread.  Just the biopsies left now, for a positive identification of the cancer cells, then hopefully a treatment plan.

It has been the worst month I can remember, with stress levels off the scale and mood swings like I’ve never known before. I haven’t felt like writing a blog, or doing anything but essential stuff. I’ve sorted out my wardrobe, put together a list of letters and documents I need to write, and I’ve started winding up my small business. Thankfully, I’ve no writing commissions on the books right now, because I’ve not been able to string half a dozen words together lately.

All of this is negative. It has everything to do with endings, and nothing to do with continuation. Every time I open my diary, put in an appointment, it feels like an act of faith. The further ahead the date, the more faith it takes to write it down.

There have been islands of  pleasure, at weekends, going out for days with my husband. We have found new places to visit, we have laughed, we have sat on benches in the sunshine watching the world go by. The silences, the long pauses between words, let in the sadness and it leaks into the brightness. We do our best to ignore it, but tears are never far away.

I’d love to be one of these brave people who can deal with the prospect of death with stoicism. Or perhaps no-one does. Perhaps the dark nights of the soul drag at us all in the end, and the rest is just bravado, putting on a good act to save our family and friends the distress  of seeing how terrified we really are.

People who know these things tell me that I will feel better when all the test results are in and treatment starts. There will be a focus then, a clearer road to travel.  I will fight like I’ve never fought before, and it will be quite a battle, I think. There are still things I want to do, things I’ve put off for other days, that suddenly seem important. The ‘other days’ aren’t there any more. The time is now.

       The woods are lovely, dark and deep,   
       But I have promises to keep,   
       And miles to go before I sleep,   
      And miles to go before I sleep.
                                               Robert Frost