Just after eight this morning, I went for a dog walk. It was unzipped jacket with a light scarf sort of weather. Beautiful blue sky. I was keenly aware of the pavement beneath my feet, the dogs’ leads in my hands, and a deep sense of gratitude.
I’ve been aware of a milestone approaching. Day 250.
250 days since I began treatment for breast cancer, which, in my case, was chemotherapy. 250 days since I walked along a corridor at The Beatson West of Scotland Cancer Centre to the Macmillan Day Case Unit. 250 days since my first infusion of Docetaxel.
What I couldn’t have known on that Thursday was that three days later, just after eight in the morning, I would phone the Beatson emergency helpline to say I was spiking a temp. Or that I would be told to go immediately to the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital, be sent home a few hours later, then phone the emergency line the next day to say I was still spiking a temp and felt dreadful.
I couldn’t have known I would spend seven hours that Monday in a busy, noisy Emergency Department waiting to be seen by a doctor, and when I was, and my blood results came back in the wee small hours, that I would be told I had sepsis.
250 days ago, I had no idea those things would happen. I also didn’t know that I would have four further unplanned hospital admissions. Or anything about the ‘bear hugger’ I would be put in at some point during my third emergency admission because my temperature had dropped so low due to a chemo-induced infection.
I think it’s fair to say that back then I was pretty rubbish at chemotherapy. Had it been an exam, I’d have been lucky to scrape a C.
I’m better at it now.
Granted, the treatment I’ve been on since March (TDM1) is very different from the chemo I had pre-surgery, but, even so, I’d like to think I might be edging towards an A.
My body’s ability to cope with TDM1 is just one of the things I was grateful for on my dog walk this morning. I also felt gratitude for every bit of kindness and care I’ve received over the last eight months. From doctors, nurses, pharmacists, medical secretaries, receptionists, folks at the brilliant Beatson charity, from my family, from neighbours, from friends old and new.
In the last 250 days I’ve had eight cycles of pre-surgical chemo, two surgeries, fifteen sessions of radiotherapy and am now in cycle three (of fourteen) of TDM1 treatment.
I lost my hair, my eyebrows, my eyelashes, my sense of safety, my sense of dignity (did I mention the campylobacter infection that accompanied the sepsis…?), but not my terrible sense of humour.
I couldn’t have managed it without each and every person who wrote me an email, sent me a text, posted me a letter, hand-drew me a card, knitted me a hat, gave me a scarf, bought me thick woolly socks, sent me flowers, went for a walk with me, made me banana bread, supplied me with Pan Drops, sent pyjamas across the Atlantic, carefully chose a book for me, dropped off a care package at the door, said a prayer for me, or took a moment to wish me well.
Getting to day 250 takes a village.
I’m very grateful for mine.