LIFE AFTER CANCER: 8 THINGS I HAVE LEARNT SO FAR

Cancer Research Winter Run 2016 - Running on Chemo's first ever race
My First Ever 10k Race – Cancer Research Winter Run 2016

Life After Cancer Lessons – Part 1

Two things happened last weekend – Facebook decided to remind me that on 9 September last year I was having the very last chemo and my cancer coming out moment on social media… And with that anniversary in mind I went for a first post-broken toes run. For those new to the story– back in July I went running and took out the London black cab – yes, the story took some spin and it’s likely to evolve even further into a black cab bashing vigilante roaming busy London streets in no time 😀

It’s not quite the end of treatment anniversary yet because my chemo was followed by radiotherapy and that only finished in November 2015 but the reminder of the end of chemo celebrations at the Sky Garden in London, those were some awesome espresso martinis BTW, got me to take the stock of how far I have gone since then and what

I have learnt so far:

1.       How to let go – okay, I may still be working on that but it turns out cancer gives you a unique perspective on living in the NOW. Stepping into a cancer survivor shoes means realising that there is no coming back to your pre-cancer self and that the post-cancer now is all that matters so you may just as well make it as best as you can and dig in hard into the ultimate bucket list. No holding back and no regrets!

2.       How to feel alive – it comes as an ever so tiny shift, a by-product of the acceptance of post-cancer reality. Suddenly everything feels a little amplified and somehow worth it. Unfortunately that includes the dark side of human experience too, yet the good and the bad get to be a bit more real and altogether life starts feeling pretty good again.

3.       How to stop and do nothing – that would be an extension of letting go yet quite a separate skill altogether. In all honesty I did have to get run over by a car to finally stop, reflect and appreciate the ‘not doing’ mode of existence. It’s amazing how everything seems to fall into place once you stop attempting to control the outcomes and just let things be.

4.       Running is the answer to the ultimate question of life, the universe and everything[1] – it also gives you much better tights, something that number 42 could never deliver.

5.       Writing brings clarity – there’s plenty of research on de-stressing effects of putting the pen to paper.  It worked a treat for me when the end of treatment drama started to unfold and nothing seemed to make sense anymore, and turned into a blogging project. Result, I say!

6.       How to enjoy small things – hair growing back, yes, it grows back everywhere in case you wondered; full days at work including the early starts; travel that is no longer just a distraction from the illness; getting tipsy on wine which was impossible on steroids (just to add insult to injury it’s pretty much impossible to get drunk while on chemo) and plenty more.

7.       How to be just good enough – all in all, getting through cancer, starting running and finally embarking on finding out the life’s purpose makes for a true good enough feeling.  Would I rather cure my perfectionism in any other way? Hell yeah! But in the spirit of letting go of the road not taken regrets, I declare the cure inadvertently delivered by my cancer as very much good enough too; and last but not least:

8.       How to embrace the freedom bug – a brush with own mortality can drive the fearless factor up a bit, hence the running into traffic mishap. Getting free from own inflated expectations and being true to the brand new self is hopefully a much less dangerous and potentially beneficial lesson. Having gone through the 8 months of cancer treatment it is really difficult to care anymore what would imaginary or even real people say to pretty much anything.

Now onto living the lessons which may be a bit of a hit and miss, as life tends to be – that may be the greatest post-cancer lesson of all times in my case, accept what life brings and make the best out of what lands on your plate!

 

 

[1] Douglas Adams – The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

Peripheral Neuropathy Flashbacks – One Year On Musings

broken toes in the window frame
broken toes looking out of the window

One Year post Chemo Notes plus Some Broken Toes

Peripheral Neuropathy is a common side effect of the taxane based chemo regimes – numbness and tingling of fingers and toes that usually extends further with each cycle, but in most cases the issue remains mild and transient. In my case it was mainly toes that got affected, it started from the baby toes and luckily didn’t go much further past the middle section, four courses of paclitaxel went and the symptoms started to improve. Numb fingers meant that my handwriting got worse but it had been bad enough already – the scribbles just got a bit more artistic, let’s say, and just a bit less legible but hey, that silly quill to paper business is so over now with the keyboards and touchscreens. Typing might have been a bit of an issue too I think but autocorrect saved the day on few occasions 😀

Perpheral Neuropathy Realities

It’s funny how realisations get delayed in the surreal world of chemo. I did not quite realise that my feet were affected until I went to a yoga class, all defiant with my picc line covered by a cut off sock, and nearly wobbled face to floor attempting a warrior pose, warrior two I think but it could have been anything else that needed some basic balance, like a … low lunge. Same with the handwriting, I just got used to guessing what I had written here and there, when suddenly last week I realised that my control over pen somehow got back to normal. 10 month after the last paclitaxel there is a chance that people will now be able to read their birthday cards. Shame about my post it notes that would now lose their awesome Picasso style appeal.

It’s totally different with the foot treated to the full on black cab weight. The realisation of not being able to use the foot, transformed into a foreign looking and feeling appendage in seconds, is so instant and the numbness so pronounced that it all puts the mild chemo peripheral neuropathy in a totally new perspective. The coincidence of my hands getting totally back to normal just as my foot went the other way is just following the basic karma rules I guess.

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