Well, it’s been the best part of 2 months since I last updated this blog. And just when you thought this thing was finally dead, here I am clogging up the internet again ;).
And we are approaching Christmas, which was always referred to as some kind of landmark in the treatment process; it was always “[such and such] will happen after Christmas” or “You’ll be able to [whatever] after Christmas”. With this in mind, I’m constantly reminded by my eternally optimistic parents how far I’ve come. And, though I hate to admit it, looking back they do have a point. It’s been nigh on three months since the operation, and I-don’t-know-how many since the start of treatment.
It’s been over a year since the whole saga for me started, way back in October or November last year when I went to the GP with a pain in my leg. I can still remember first stepping into the paediatric cancer ward in Southampton, walking past patients’ doorways and catching glimpses of the hairless, hapless, anonymous occupants inside. I’d seen Cancer Research UK adverts on TV, but now it seemed like I was inside one. It was always one of those things that happens to someone else – I’d always just taken my health for granted.
Then fast forward a month or two, and I was a “veteran”; part of the system, one of those very same people that I’d gaped at before – my energy and enthusiasm gone, as vacant as the expression on my face. The tube coming out of my chest wasn’t alien anymore, it was part of me, and spending 80+ hours attached to a drip stand was normal.
And then came another “landmark” – the operation at Stanmore. I’ve already detailed (in quite graphic fashion) my experiences there in previous posts, but that certainly changed more than just the upper 6 inches of my femur. Being naked isn’t embarrassing, it’s just not having clothes on; defecating is just a bodily function; pain isn’t painful, it’s just the feeling you get when the pain nerve endings are stimulated.
A while ago, as a mock paper for GCSE English, we had to write an essay answer to the question “What is the most important thing you have learnt in your life?”. I did a double take, scoffed, and wrote some cynical answer about learning to walk, because otherwise I wouldn’t be able to do the vast majority of things that I could do then. Now I’m pretty skeptical (and an atheist), but karma or something came back and bit me in the arse for that. Well, bit me in the thigh; I have a foot long “shark-bite” scar that I would show off far more often if it didn’t involve being arrested for indecent exposure.
And so now I am learning how to walk again. Regular physio sessions (he is a sadistic bastard) teach me new and painful ways to retrain and rebuild muscles that were cut and stripped from their original places, re-equipping me with the tools that I need to do what I wrote about so sarcastically months before. Of course, the fact that my chemo consultant had some spare drugs left over in the fridge and didn’t want to waste them (psh, I don’t believe that whole “treatment protocol” crap she keeps saying) doesn’t help this process. Chemotherapy works by killing all rapidly dividing cells. Building new muscle requires, you guessed it, rapidly dividing cells. And this was supposed to be a coordinated treatment programme.
I’ve still got a long way to go. Chemo ends around Easter, and it’s only then that I can truly crack on with the physio (oh joy) and learn to walk again. At least I have the summer for that, but it may well take a year or more to get to any form of normality as far as my mobility is concerned. And school in September, which will be a bit of a shock to the system, having had a rather extended summer “holiday” (it will have been 16 months?). “Hit the ground running” is what they usually tell you at the beginning of term. I’ll be lucky if I hit the ground walking, but I guess that’s another matter and I’ll cross that bridge (holding onto the handrails) when I get to it.
However, this hasn’t been some epic struggle undertaken by a heroic boy of 16, faced with the daunting Leviathan of Cancer and left to defeat it single handedly. As if it wasn’t already apparent, it’s been far from it. Aside from the medical support provided by the team at Piam Brown in Southampton, and all the practical stuff my parents and family have had to do, everyone I know has been amazing with the amount of moral support they’ve given me, and I want to genuinely thank everyone who’s supported me in one way or another. There are way too many people to list here, but you know who you are.
Just as an example of this, one of my relatives in America is a teacher at an Elementary school (? or whatever weird school system they have there). Anyway, she got what seems like the whole year group to do me “get well” cards/posters:
And that’s all from (effectively) one person! And that’s without counting all the countless get well cards/messages/visits from friends and family. I really couldn’t have got this far without it all, and you really don’t know how much it means to me.
Anyway, to round off, although on the “Christmas Spirit” scale I am firmly towards the “Bah Humbug!” side of things, I want to wish you all a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!