Cancer. The most controlling relationship I have ever experienced. Your life is heading in a direction you think you have control of, youth, freedom, energy, then BAM. Cancer comes into your life and things change. Some obvious big things change, other less obvious smaller things, all reminding me that my relationship with cancer can be suffocating.
As with most relationships, they start with hope and the positivity. Get yourself on chemo and that could shrink those tumours and give yourself more time – it will only be more time though, never a cure. However, the small print reads, if you’re lucky it brings more time, if not, it gives you 3 months of horrible sickness and horrendous side effects until the first scan. Here, you will find out if the drugs have been killing the tumours or the tumours have been growing and continuing to slowly kill you. Its like a really horrible game of Russian roulette do you get more time or do you get closer to your death.
In relationships, things crop up, so along comes immunotherapy. Sold as the sort of saving grace and new way of treating cancer, filled with a lot of hope that it has positive effect on certain tumours. So again you push through life until the next scan having biweekly chemo, not knowing wether your being killed from the inside or wether your killing the horrible tumours that are in there. As the relationship develops, it not only controls your time and physical wellbeing, it begins to change what you look like, what you can eat and whether you can even put your hand in the fridge to have that Pepsi max you used to enjoy. Small things, reminders that you are not in control.
With this, outwardly looking positive treatment, comes strict NHS guidelines, just to keep you on your toes. You must not have more than 4 weeks break off the immunotherapy. More restrictions and less control over my own life. 4 weeks is just two rounds. For some that’s a bout of flu or a nasty sickness bug that prevents immunotherapy from being delivered. Or, to keep it available, it means being sick through Christmas, just so you can carry on with a drug that your not even sure if it’s working or not.
There are highs in relationships, when you find out the drug is working and everything appears all great and you’re in your routine, managing the time schedule, side affects and controlling whatever parts of your life you can whilst you share it with Cancer. Then there are lows, when treatment is no longer killing those tumours and stops you in your tracks once again. You’ve been strung along, thinking you know what’s happening, then it hits you like a punch in the face, you are out of control.
You weigh up your options, but realistically you have to give chemotherapy a second chance. You start a second line treatment, repeating the entire cycle again, biweekly schedules, more side affects and waiting for results – will it work or won’t it. Mentally Cancer is constantly messing with your brain. Providing you with a long list of possible side effects, but not letting you know when or if you will experience them like a constant threat in the background. Low and behold you experience most of them destroying you physically. It decides then to mess with you socially, preventing you from experiencing things you had planned and distancing you further from the things that have become huge parts of your life. You want to play Football? not this week sorry love. Work? Nope, not while you’re feeling like this, stay in the house and rest.
With its power, Cancer can decide to disrupt your sleep, just because it can. Let’s see how you cope with that. Filling your head with dread and anxiety surrounding treatment, what if thoughts crossing your mind, about hope and then taking it away. Self esteem? No, you must constantly be reminded of what you have lost, your hair, your weight loss progress, the energy you once had, see it and feel it every day. That’s the level of control it has over you.
Time goes on, you’re stuck. Second line of treatment finishes, second chance up but you have no choice but to be told what to do next by Cancer as you know it potentially is the only thing keeping you alive. So it gives you an element of choice, but really it’s like a horrible advent calendar you don’t know what awaits for you behind each door. SIRT? What the hell is that? Or another punt at a third, and most likely last, line of treatment.
SIRT, the hope that it will provide you with an out, an escape route and a chance to be you again, even just for a while. Again, it’s not really a choice, you have to take the opportunity presented to you, make some tough decisions so you are not seen as the one that stopped fighting or lost the battle. This isn’t a fight I want to be a part of and its an unfair fight. All my cards are layed on the table, I don’t know what you have up your sleeve, keeping your cards close to your chest.
Following the SIRT ‘decision’ some positive time comes, I’m back on my cycle of chemo, although controlled by Cancer, I have been here before and feel some sort of comfort and ownership over the year. Tumors shrink slightly, more time. Well done me, it is worth it. Keep going. Keep doing what it says.
3 monthly scans keep you in check though, and the one you always know is coming arrives and treatment stops working again. You’re third and potentially last line of treatment looks to be your pathway. Then wholy crap a whole new side of Cancer opens up to me following a second opinion to a surgeon. Operation? What the hell? Where has this come from Cancer? I will do what I can to make this happen, appointments and phone calls take over your life. Mentally you are swamped with what you should do, where you should be, who does this affect, am I going to survive? Cancer was on my side after all.
Nope. Again, hopes dashed and future unknown, Cancer laughs at me. Rock bottom. It has taken everything from me. What do I do now? Let’s try the same chemo that worked before while we wait for some trial to appear. I hate this. I want to break up with Cancer once and for all. I can’t. Carry on with chemo it tells me, wait for the next scan and see what you have to deal with then. The torturing wait, so familiar, but so damaging continues…