As I sit here with the final dose of chemo being administered I have so many mixed feelings. Of course my primary thought is one of huge relief!. Its been ‘one hell of a ride’ over the last 14 months and it’s great to now be ‘on the other side’ again. I can now hopefully move on with my life, cancer free!!.
Since the start of 2015 as I began to focus on the ‘finishing line’, I have had many periods of reflection. I have been surprised, but also really pleased, that I can draw on plenty of positives from ‘my cancer journey’. Lots of the ‘anticipations’ that I had around things like dealing with a permanent colostomy, coping with surgery and chemo were so much worse that the actual events themselves. Of course I wouldn’t say any of them were ‘easy’ to deal with, however tackling everyone of them with a ‘I’m going to get through this’ mind set has definitely been the key for me. I don’t know why, but even thinking back to when I took that first chemo tablet back on the 6th January 2014 and whilst being very nervous at the time, there was still a voice in my head telling me that ‘you will get through this’.
Another good thing to come out has been the impact on my children. Maybe an odd thing to say, but I genuinely feel that both Jack and Ollie have benefited in some way having to go through this with their Dad. I have been immensely proud of how they have tackled it and hope that in their future life’s when they experience tough times (not even necessarily health related), they can draw on this experience to get them through it. Jack, in particularly given his age has been a little gem throughout it all. He has wanted to be really involved in the charity fund raising ever since this has been set up and I can see that helping others is something which he really thrives on and loves to do.
Cancer is ultimately a very personal experience, however drawing on the positive energies that I have felt from the numerous people I have met along the way has been such a help for me. The medical staff that have so fantastically looked after me are quite frankly some of the most wonderful people in the world in my eyes!. Their compassion, expertise, and general caring nature has been a privilege to be around. I cannot thank them enough for everything they have done for me and my family!.
Catherine (my wife) has been absolutely fantastic throughout the year. I am mindful that it has been very tough on her in so many ways. Having to cope with the boys…not just during those periods when I was out of action and couldn’t practically help in the weeks post surgery, but also supporting them with all the questions that they would ask about what Daddy was going through. She has been so supportive to me and really allowed me to ‘lead’ when it has come to talking about the cancer treatment – there were times when I wanted to talk about it and others when I really didn’t and she understood that. Whilst it was a bit challenging at the start:-)!, she came to completely accepting my need to run during chemo, understanding how important it was for me. Thank-you Catherine, I couldn’t have done it without you!! X
The rest of the family have also been there for me every step of the way and I really cant think of a time where I was ever on my own. I have been fortunate in that not only where they there for me emotionally, but also on a practical / medical sense as well. Mum, being a retired radiographer, and Hannah (Sister), working for Pfizer, meant that every time I had a question about my treatment I had them to really help me out!. Thank you all so much for absolutely everything!.
My close friends have also been there to offer their support which I am so grateful for. Thank-you all very much…you know who you all are. I am aware that at times it can be very difficult for those looking in from the outside, not knowing often what to say or do. However I can say that looking from the inside out, that all you really need to know is that people are there and care about what you are going through.
I have also learn’t a lot about myself over the year. On many occasions I have literally had to talk to myself during those moments where others may not have been around. Particularly after the surgeries I almost saw my body as somehow ‘separate’. I often now look down at my scar and say to myself….”well done body, you got me through this” – thanks mate, I owe you one. Rather than it being a negative reminder of what I went through, I see it as positive……me and my body went through it together and came out the other side stronger.
I would like to think that I had a clear and concise message to anyone having to go through a similar course of treatment as me. However I’m not sure there is a ‘one size fits all’ message as cancer treatment is a very personal experience which I think you have to find your own way of dealing with. That said, remaining positive I am convinced has to be the one overriding factor. Not easy I know, but once you have taken the time to reflect on whatever bad news you have been told, then try if you can to ‘take stock’ in your own mind and look at from a different, more positive angle. I remember when I was told that realistically I would end up with a permanent colostomy as a result of the surgery. Initially this was devastating news and I really did honestly struggle with the whole idea of it. However after realising that actually I could (and would) continue to run and essentially carry on as normal made all the difference. Speaking to those who had been through the same experience also made a massive difference and made it feel far more real and manageable. I would say that trying to seek those people out through support groups / social media sites was a really good move as well. Dwelling too long on negative thoughts (which will inevitably slip into your mind) simply wont get you or those close to you anywhere.
You will have crap days where you will start to question yourself and wonder whether actually you’ll get through it. Talking to yourself during this (for me at least) was something that really helped. I convinced myself that I would survive and get back to running and living a normal life again. Just accept it knowing that the next day wont be as bad.
Also using humour to get you through the bad times can really help as well. They often say laughter is the best medicine…at times for me this was definitely the case!
Staying as active as you can throughout your treatment can play a key role in your treatment. Even if you weren’t that active before being diagnosed, there is no reason why you cant start during treatment. I was fortunate in that running was a key part of my life before cancer came along, however even if I hadn’t been a runner I would like to think that I would have turned to it.
Whilst I cannot hide the fact that there will probably always be (or at least for a period of time) that nagging feeling that the cancer may come back, I guess this just comes with the territory and is something that I will just have to deal with. Many people I have spoken to have said that finishing a long course of cancer treatment can affect you in some strange ways. Some actually say they miss the regularity of going into hospital – not the treatment itself, but more just the fact that they know that they are being regularly checked and also that a relationship is built up over time with those caring for them.
In my case, I can definitely relate to this….certainly I will miss the familiar faces that have been so kind to me during this 6 months of chemo. They have been there to offer guidance and help in coping with the side effects and almost more importantly been there for a good laugh every fortnight when I have been going in for the chemo infusions.
This is without doubt a period of my life which has taught me a huge amount about myself. It has also been an opportunity for me to see the real good in so many people, whether they be friends / family, but also those who I didn’t know before my diagnosis. I am so glad that I took it on myself to set up this website to get some of my thoughts down (had I tried to do this retrospectively I’m sure it would read very differently as I wouldn’t have been able to draw on the real ‘raw’ feelings at the time, at each step of the journey).
I’m not sure I’m ready yet to completely ‘draw a line’ under this episode in my life as I think for a period of time it will ‘remain open’ with future scans / checks etc, however I hope that the cancer treatment itself is now over. I can now start to get my strength back and focus on being ready for the various running events I have planned (including the Silverstone half marathon next month, followed by the BUPA 10k in May, the Berlin marathon in September and then the London marathon in April 2016…..which I cannot wait for)!.
So next steps for me now are:
– MRI scan (20th February) back at the hospital where I had the liver surgery. This will hopefully be a formality and will come back ‘all clear’ in much the same way as the last CT scan.
– I will then have some surgery on the 17th March. This is as a result of a recent urologist appointment where it was picked up that following the original bowel surgery I have some scar tissue which has built up effecting the old waterworks:-). I am hoping that this surgery will solve that. In between these 2 dates I will also meet with Alice (25th February) to touch base on everything. It will be a chance to discuss when the on-going checks / scans will be over the coming months / years.
As cancer treatment can frequently mean a very long period of time (in my case 14 months), it is worth remembering that your life doesn’t need to ‘go on hold’. It has been so important for me that I have not allowed the treatment to dominate during this period. For me, running, working and ‘doing the family stuff’ have been key aspects of the treatment and recovery process. Without them I know that it would have been so much more difficult for me to both physically and mentally cope.
As a final footnote on this post I am pleased to say that I just about managed to hit the 100 runs and 1,000km since this 6 month chemo started (well nearly at 99 runs and 960km!)……I am planning on going out for run number 100 on Friday when the pump comes off as a final ‘line in the sand’ on the treatment.