Sunday, 8 January 2012

Another good guy gone.....

One of the (many) challenging things I've discovered since my dx is that it is dangerous to compare my own case with others who have similar cancers. Every patient is different - treatments can be more or less effective, the disease itself can be more or less aggressive, treatment plans can vary, side-effects might be different: the list is long. However, it is tempting....when someone with a similar cancer has survived for more than five years and is still doing well, it's something positive to focus on and I think that I could be that person. Then someone has a less positive outcome and I start worrying that I will follow their path. It can lead to a kind of madness and an obsession with symptoms, imagining pains and lumps where none exist. I try to resist playing this "Compare and Contrast" game and generally I succeed.

This past few days, however, I've found myself getting a bit anxious and feeling low because a former colleague, who had head and neck cancer diagnosed almost two years ago, was in remission since early last year but in October discovered that the cancer had returned and was now in his liver, lungs and spleen. I only found out early last week because a mutual friend posted a message on Facebook that alerted me and I visited his blog, which he had stopped updating once he was in remission but started using again one his new dx was confirmed. Sadly, he died in the early hours of Friday morning. He was only a few months older than I am. I feel sad for his family, sad that he wasn't able to enjoy more years of what seems to have been a happy and fulfilling life and, frankly, sad for me, because having known and worked with him, I felt more connected to his illness and progress and it just makes me fearful for myself.

I know, rationally, that my case is different. My cancer is in a different part of my head and neck, my treatment plan was different, he had a lot of very unpleasant side-effects that required more surgery and left him with great difficulty swallowing and speaking - so there are a lot of things that are not the same. But rationality doesn't always work, does it? Sometimes you just feel things. And I'm afraid that what I feel is a niggling worry, a pit of the stomach fear.

Recognising that I was feeling low, I took myself off to the gym today to get some endorphins going. I would say this resulted in limited success. I still feel low level anxiety and worry but I am trying to let my rational side have more influence. The way I am feeling is, I know, perfectly normal and to be expected.

On the plus side, we had a very nice meal out last night at the home of two local friends of ours. There were six of us altogether and it was a lovely evening: good food, good company, lots of laughter. Still no taste for alcohol, though! And then this morning, I discovered a pair of brand new trainers that I had forgotten I had, so I had that hugely enjoyable sniffing of the new shoes moment. For anyone who hasn't experienced this, get yourself a new pair of trainers and inhale deeply - bliss! I gave them an inaugural outing to the gym, but they are far too clean and white for my liking, so I need to take them on a muddy run very soon. It's a badge of honour to have mucky trainers, in my book!


  1. Dear Ali, I've just read this and realised how tough it is for you even when you're in the phase of dusting yourself off and getting on with the next bit (which I have to say you sound like you're doing very well.) I'm struck all over again by how brave you are. Sorry if this sounds a bit clumsy: we all send you lots of love from here, and are looking forward to reading the next instalment, where you get those trainers properly muddy! xx

  2. A tough bit of information to digest there Ali. I hope you work through it and focus on getting those trainers muddy x

  3. Just came here from your mumsnet link. You sound so positive and strong that i just felt you needed to be congratulated. Try not to let it get you down, many people do survive this awful disease and you could definitely be one of those people.

    Stay strong and keep focused. Best of luck
    MiloandAmeliasMummy (I hijack hubby's account to comment)

  4. Thank you. Comments do help, so please feel free to carry on posting. I feel a bit better today and am doing lots of tasks that keep me busy and occupied so I don't dwell too much on things.

  5. And why the cuff shouldn't you feel sad? That is REALLY sad and as you say you are an ordinary woman who has had braveness thrust upon her. Glad you had a "genteel" cry the next day - obviously had it been a snot fest I would have stopped rading ;)