My first Christmas affected by cancer was four years ago. I had just been through my fifth cycle of chemotherapy and was discharged on Christmas Eve. I couldn’t face going anywhere other than home, so Chris, my parents and me ate French onion soup and mince pies for our Christmas dinner and I promptly fell asleep on the sofa. I was readmitted to hospital a few days later with febrile neutropaenia and the worst abdominal pain I’ve ever endured.
Christmas 2012 was a much happier affair spent at my parents for lunch, then the in-laws in the evening. However, there was still a large dark cancer cloud hanging over us with that continuing sense of “maybe this is my last”.
Christmas 2013 was in some ways very happy, but was also massively difficult. My cancer had woken up in the preceding October and I was again being poisoned. I made a decision to delay my second cycle, even though I knew it would impact efficacy. This was in order to have Christmas at home, not marred by unpleasant side effects and hospital admissions. I remember escaping from the sarcoma clinic that day with my friend Kay like truanting school girls!
Christmas 2014 was another tricky one. I had a scan for worsening symptoms in mid December and knew that it had shown worsening disease. We decided not to make this common knowledge until after the festivities, in an attempt to make happy memories if it was to be my last. Putting the brave face on was incredibly difficult, then the bad news breaking that followed was even more so.
This Christmas I am for the first time in a long time excited. We are spending the day with my brother, his wife and their two little ones. I’ve bought more presents than an Aunty probably should and am looking forward to trying goose for the first time ever. I can’t wait to get up at some ungodly hour with the kids and see their faces while they open their presents. I don’t know what my cancer is up to right now, nor do I have any inclination to know as I am just settling into my very first Consultant post. I do know however that chemo is becoming less effective and this may well be my last. If it is I’m sure it will be one to remember and I am grateful to be in a physical state to enjoy it.
This time of year often leads us to reflect on the year that has just past. For me: 4 cycles of chemo, a national launch of #hellomynameis, an MBE, an Honorary Doctorate, a UK wide campaign tour, a trip to California, a CCT and a new job. Not a bad year really…
It is also a time to look forwards to the forthcoming year. I don’t know what 2016 has in store for Chris and me. I can’t keep defying the odds forever, but I remain so physically fit in spite of the cancer. Who knows? ‘One day at a time’ has to be the continuing philosophy for now…
I’d just like to wish everyone touched by cancer in any way a happy, peaceful & symptom free Christmas.