Tomorrow I will have my final radiotherapy treatment. Number 20 of 20. I am almost surprised by this. It has sneaked up and caught me unawares.
I knew the day was coming, of course, but radiotherapy is administered every weekday, unlike the three-weekly chemo cycle, so the four weeks of ‘rads’ as we cool cancerees like to call it, has whizzed by. Five months of chemo seemed like five years; four weeks of rads could have been four days, it was that quick.
This is a good thing. A very good thing. It means the end of my active treatment, after nearly nine months of what can only be described as… really not very nice at all. It is no exaggeration to say the diagnosis and much of my treatment took my mind, body and emotions to the very edge of what I felt I could bear. But bear it I did and now I am emerging out of the tunnel.
After tomorrow’s harsh but ultimately healing beams of radiation are fired at the site of my tumour, my life will no longer be ruled by appointments, more appointments, treatments, the after-effects of treatments, drugs, the side-effects of drugs, thermometers, dressings, lotions, potions and creams. (Actually there will be some drugs, as I have to take a hormone-suppressant called Letrozole for five years, which comes with its own jolly set of side effects. But more of that another time.)
One might think this was a cause for celebration, and in a way it is, but I am not feeling in the mood to party just yet. Truth be told, I am feeling a little low and very emotional. All the stress, fear and worry of the past few months is gradually bubbling to the surface and it feels good to start letting it go and seep out of me.
I am tired too. More tired than I ever imagined was possible. I remember several years ago listening to a doctor on the radio talk about the fatigue that comes after cancer treatments; she said it was like no other fatigue, and could go on for a long time. I was running my magazine publishing company at the time and, like most business owners, I was knackered. So I remember thinking ‘Oh yes, I know all about being tired.’
Wrong. I knew nothing! Post-cancer tiredness defies description. It is not relieved by sleep and you aren’t revived after a nap. Your cells have worked so damn hard for so many months, tackling the disease and recovering from the treatments, that it could take many months before something resembling normal energy levels are restored. But that’s OK. I have time. Life will gradually resume. I must – and will – take it organically, at a pace that feels right. If I have learnt just one thing from this cancer malarky, it is to listen to my body and my mind and act upon what they tell me.
This evening feels like a time for reflection; looking back, reminding myself what I have been through and how far I have come; accepting the changes in my body and my spirit; marvelling at how well I am healing, both inside and out, despite the battering I have taken. Humans are the most amazing creatures, aren’t they?
As well as looking back, I also have much to look forward to; there are some exciting plans afoot for next year and some wonderful opportunities have been presented to me just in the last few days. But I am going to put those thoughts aside. They are for another day.