Its 2018 – or as I prefer to say New Year, New … Lymphocytes.
As I write this on a rather chilly January morning, the Christmas decorations have long been put away but the overeating continues – some high calorie habits are harder to break! However, my neutropenic routine got well and truly obliterated over the festive period as I munched my way through leftover Turkey, Smoked Salmon and Cheeseboards for at least around 10+ days as expected. And, after the success of my Teenage Cancer Trust Nandos and Panto outing to Liverpool, I couldn’t resist the opportunity to indulge in yet more public transport and crowds, with a last-minute trip down to London to see in the New Year. This included, but was not limited to, surrounding myself with the tourists and dust collecting dinosaur skeletons at the Natural History Museum, making several hops on the Tube, a gathering in Tooting and a wander down Oxford Street before making my way back north.
One of the many landmark moments of January – finally finishing the last of the tablets! I had been longing for the time when I would no longer be able to identify the days of the week by whether or not it was 2 tablets or 1! My rattling days are over.
In other news, I was also happy to say that I finally graduated from Durham, only around 7 months late. Delaying till January certainly had its advantages besides the obvious of being chemo and cancer free! Being an undergraduate at a large postgraduate affair meant special treatment as I was able to attend not one but two drinks receptions with nibbles, including one hosted in University College aka. Durham Castle (though I must admit, here the emphasis was definitely on liquid refreshments as the food offering was nothing compared to the extensive canapes of the night before up at my college – evidently, they had blown the budget on the room booking!). I had the privilege of being the first person to graduate at my ceremony (a decent claim though this included added pressure of having no-one to follow in terms of knowing which direction to exit the stage). Also, I was able to take advantage of the opportunity for some light conversation with the College Principal and Head of Modern Languages who at least pretended they knew who I was. To top it all, my rather fetching fur trimmed gown very much stood out against the fairly plain hoods of the MA students. After 3 days of excessive dining, drinking (of the soft variety!), catch-ups and with a little bit of cultural visits squeezed in, it was time to depart Durham for the last time (TBC), happy to have finally brought some closure to my university career and mark an end to what was certainly a rather different final year.
Graduation, 12th January 2018 – It was so lovely to swap a hospital gown for something ever so slightly more formal!
So, what is on the cards now as everyone keeps asking, well … an exotic holiday for starters as it is now less than 2 weeks before we jet off for the Far East – travel vaccines have been completed, hefty insurance premium forked out, itinerary planning on-going, packing to be completed at some point hopefully pre-departure. Before that though, I have the slightly daunting prospect of, dare I say it, attending an assessment centre for the Wellcome Trust whom I slipped off an application to many moons ago. On an ever so slightly different future related train of thought, I have also been fortunate enough to receive a couple of invitations to interview for a potential MA in, wait for it … ahhm, Social Work – gasp! Again, on a completely well-thought out whim (if any prospective universities or employers are reading this) and after some deliberation with my own contacts, I came to the conclusion that I had nothing to lose and that potentially the best way to find out if it’s a job for me is to actually go through the application process! So, we will see where this leads and I’m quite content with the thought that I have absolutely no clue where or what I might be doing in 8 to 12 months’ time … In the meantime, I continue to be a loyal Young Reviewer for Macmillan, Online Champion for CLIC Sargent and general ‘doer’ for all things TYA as I keep my fingers in many charity pies.
Now for the soppy stuff so grab the multipack of Kleenex and crack open the sharing size box of Maltesers … It would seem an apt time, as I wait for my battered chicken dippers to heat up, to write just a few well-meaning words to reflect on a frankly Hodge-podge year I guess. It was about this time just over 12 months ago that I first realised something was a bit up … my temperature and a gland at the top of my neck! And as you’re all well aware, after 3 and a bit months of fumbling my way through the NHS I finally got some answers and settled myself in for the complimentary rollercoaster that is 6 cycles of chemo. Yes, it was a weird way to spend my 2017 and a slightly more unique chain of events to mark finishing 4 years of my undergraduate degree. It depends on how you look at it doesn’t it – Yes, I could see 2017 as a ‘Let’s forget about that one’ / A write-off, or, As the year I finished my degree, got myself into (and out of) some very strange situations (attending an exclusive wig-fitting in Eastern Cheshire, posed around Heaton Park in with 2 vampires and a witch in mid-August, to name but a few), beat cancer and discovered the merits of frozen Doner meat.
Speaking of which … Given the evident remarkable return of head hair, I’m afraid to say that the wig has stayed firmly on someone else’s head in recent times! However, that is not to say that I do not put it to good use … and I am also known to still slip it on for novelty occasions.
It’s all that glass half-full, half-empty, glass sprung a leak, glass you’ve just dropped on the floor and it smashed so you’re having to sweep up the remnants with a dust pan and brush whilst tap dancing around the kitchen because you’ve got no shoes on … yeah all of that usual tat!
I’m still not entirely sure where I lie on this scale of things so take the following with a decent shake of salt (and Pepper): -I don’t think I’ll ever be one of those people in years to come who will say, ‘Cancer made me a better person’ or similar. No, cancer made me infection-prone/wrecked/nauseous/virtually bald/pretty unwell, it semi-ruined my final term of uni when I should have been spending sleepless nights stressing and worst of all it has meant that I shall never be able to eat Jam Roly-Poly or Country Vegetable Soup again! Yes, I did make the most of it (if I can say that) and have met some interesting and amazing characters along the way and am extremely grateful for all the opportunities I’ve been able to take advantage of and are still to come, but still, I think I would have been fairly happy to do the usual and spend a boring summer contemplating what an earth I was going to do post-uni and looking forward to an undetermined amount of time on the dole (or similar). Cancer is a fight and everyone’s fight is different – the way I see it, every time you flick on the TV to watch yet another hour of Homes Under The Hammer because you’re too exhausted to do anything else, every time you open up Netflix and binge-watch another box set, every time you settle into your Spotify playlist as you sit tight to let your radioactive tracer absorb before your PET scan and in particular every time you grit your teeth as the (fabulous) nurses say ‘Sharp scratch’ as they attempt to cannulate you for the ? th time … Yeah, I think that is what I’d call fighting cancer! And, I’m incredibly lucky that (fingers crossed) I can call my brush with blood cancer, a minor blip on my NHS CV. Passionate mini rant over. And just some closing points and questions I know you’ve been waiting to get answers for:
- Am I an inspiration? Yes, but I was already one long before I got cancer
- Will I do something incredible with my life as a cancer survivor? Most probably, though at which leading supermarket I shall be found stacking shelves remains anyone’s guess!
- Has cancer changed me? Yes, goes without saying. I have a much shorter haircut now than I would normally sport and I also get to carry around a bright red medical alert card which I’m hoping should double as a student discount in times of need
- I am still no further forward with what makes the ‘Haematology-Oncology’ department a Suite – my only thoughts are that it must be to do with the soft furnishings and reclining chairs!
There we go, I think I’ll stop there as I sincerely hope I have achieved my principal aim of stepping through the Haem-Onc doors so you don’t have to. And, as I see it, having completed one of the toughest and most competitive graduate schemes out there – a 6 month contract with ABVD. I fear that this will probably be my final attempt at blog-posting. I know, I know … but otherwise I’d really need to do a title change as Neither ABVD, Nor the Hodge, Just Me really doesn’t have the same ring to it!
And we’re off – With an All Clear, My ‘independence’ coat and Neutrophils of, I suspect, at least 3. something, the world is my oyster … Now, how about those chicken dippers and a spot of daytime TV!
So, I thank you for your loyal reading/Facebook liking/Thoughts/Prayers/General well-wishing and let this be not an Au Revoir but more an A Plus dans le Bus …