Tomorrow I have an appointment at the hospital. It will be my yearly check up, hopefully I will continue to be told that everything is fine and I can now be signed off their care list. For those of you who don’t know the history of this I was diagnosed with cervical cancer on 9th March 2001. That day and that date are indelibly etched on my memory. It’s odd how I can remember the date I was told I had cancer but the date I was told I had the all clear is somewhat hazy. I remember it was late September 2001 I had an appointment in October for the results of the most recent tests but it was brought forward.
So it is almost 6 ½ years since I was told that my cancer had all gone and my body is now clear of all traces of cancerous cells. Great that must mean the end of my cancer. But no, that was just the start of it all. My daily trips to the hospital for radiotherapy had long ago ended. My three days of isolation in the contamination ward unable to move, being sick at regular intervals, all that was over. The invasive exploratory operations to see what was going on inside my body had ceased. I was clear. I could get on with my life without cancer, couldn’t I? It took a few months for my body to recover my strength sufficiently to start getting back to some semblance of normality.
My body continued to suffer the effects of my treatment. The radiotherapy had been so close to both my bladder and bowel that I had side effects in that my control over, both these organs were severely hampered. For a few months I had such little confidence in my body behaving that I rarely left the house. On those occasions when I did I had to be certain that I knew where the nearest convenience (rest room) was. I had to continue the diet I had been on during my treatment which meant very little roughage. I missed my fruit and vegetables, wholemeal bread, anything with fibre in it. I only had to eat an apple and I would go running to the bathroom. My kids took to saying
‘mummy only runs when she needs the toilet’.
No matter where I go or how long I am gone the very first thing I do when I get to my destination is rush to the bathroom, all my family are used to that now. Gradually over the last few years this situation has improved but I do still have some problems. I don’t have time to decide to hold on until later, when I need to go I need to do so very soon, its like being a toddler again (not that I remember being a toddler myself).
When I took the last of the many tablets I was on during my treatment I thought that would be the end of the drugs. It wasn’t. Now it’s the hormone replacement drugs to prevent the lining of my womb from growing. I need this to reduce the chance of getting cancer of the womb. When I first learnt that I had a tumour I believed that I would have a hysterectomy the cancer would be removed along with my womb. Apparently my tumour was too large, too advanced for surgery, hence the 6 weeks of daily radiotherapy followed by 3 days of continuous internal radiotherapy. (3 radioactive rods inserted into my cervix for 3 days). I wouldn’t recommend anyone try this unless they have to. So I started having 3 monthly appointments at the menopause clinic (I was 38) so that I could have oestrogen and testosterone implants. Then finally I began a course of progesterone tablets. The menopause symptoms like hot flushes were short lived once I started the HRT.
So here I am in my mid forties, knowing that I never have to go through the awful pain I had endured since my mid teens every time I menstruated (I can’t say monthly as I was not regular it could be 2 weeks or several months between menstruation, it always caught me by surprise).I also know that I have been through a sort of menopause, I have had my hot flushes etc. I no longer have a working womb, although I had been sterilised when I was 33 at the time of my third caesarean section when my fourth son was born, so that didn’t make any real difference to me.
Initially when I was given the all clear I was to continue with a series of hospital checkups which would be every three months for a couple of years then it became every four months then 6 months. By the time 5 years were approaching I was convinced I would be discharged from care of the hospital. But no they wanted to keep me under their care for a little longer, at least by this time it had become yearly checks.
So my cancer was removed from my body more than 6 ½ years ago but I still have the hormone treatment, the bowel and bladder problems and the check ups. To anyone on the outside the cancer is forgotten but for me it is ever present in my life, as is the threat of a recurrence of this all too often devastating disease.
Perhaps tomorrow I will get an early birthday present and be discharged by the hospital. One more link with my illness cut from my life.
after waiting for an hour in the Oncology clinic it was my turn. a very quick eamination and I was told everything looks good and I should come back in 12 months time. So I know exactly where I shall be at 10am on tuesday 10th March 2009