As I write this, there's snow on the ground. Not a lot of snow, but enough to disrupt the transport system, it would seem. I don't remember my school closing because of snow when I was growing up (in a place much colder and with harsher winters than the South-East of England) - am I viewing the past through the rosy lenses of nostalgia? Were the summers endlessly long, always sunny and full of laughter? Maybe not, but perhaps my old school friends might remember if our school stayed open whatever the weather - I seem to recall the only days the school was closed was when the teachers went on strike!!
The snow started falling on Friday, as I was driving to the Marsden for my three-monthly check-up. Anxious enough about the check-up, as always, the anticipation of poor weather and difficult driving conditions heightened my nerves. The hospital car park was pretty empty and I did wonder if my check-up would go ahead or whether the doctors would have struggled to get in and I might be told to return another day - not a prospect I relished, as I still have to psyche myself up before the appointment and I would have to go through that process all over again. Luckily for me, however, the Head and Neck clinic doctors had managed to get in, although a lot of patients were phoning in to say they couldn't travel to hospital and the waiting room was much emptier than usual!
Of course, the important thing is how the check-up went, not whether the waiting room was empty. After the usual physical examination of my head and neck and a look inside my mouth, the registrar pronounced that everything is fine - phew! All it means is that I remain in remission and there is no sign of the cancer returning in that area, but to be honest, that's as good as I can expect and hope for at this stage. It doesn't mean the medics are prepared to give me an all clear and state categorically that I am free of cancer, but it means that I am now a year in remission - pretty bloody good when I think of how I felt for most of 2011 and the thought of being alive in 2013 seemed like an impossible dream. I can't stop cancer by willpower - if we could, how wonderful would that be? - but I can give myself the best possible chance of remaining healthy by taking responsibility for my health and eating sensibly, exercising, resting and avoiding risk factors. That doesn't mean I don't enjoy life - quite the reverse. It just means I am giving myself the best chance of being able to deal with any health problems that come my way.
The other side of my cancer coin is the facial palsy. On January 3rd, I went to the Queen Victoria Hospital in East Grinstead to have my gold weight (aka "eyelid bling") repositioned and my eyelid lift. I had to be there for half seven in the moring, which meant waking my lovely children in time to drive me there (neither of them was working that day, so they volunteered to take me - good children!). The surgeon came to talk to me before the operation and - to my pleasure - he said he thought I didn't need the gold weight any more and was going to remove it. Yay! He also thought I was a bit allergic to the gold (oh, I am so precious!) so it made sense to remove it. The important thing was whether I would be able to close my eye fully after the weight was removed and if I couldn't, then the next stage would be a platimun chain inserted into the eyelid - rising up the precious metal scale!
Now, nearly three weeks after the surgery, my eye looks much more like it used to BC. While it's not exactly as it was, and not exactly like my unaffected eye, it is far less noticeably different. This is progress. This helps me feel that I look more like everyone else and a bit more like I used to look. It also reminds me that it doesn't have to be all about oncology. A part of me also thinks that the NHS wouldn't be investing all this time and money in addressing my facial palsy if they thought that I was going to be ill again - perhaps this is naive, but it makes me feel better anyway :-) In a flurry of January medical appointment, I also had some Botox around my mouth, so I am all procedured-up.
Part of me feels a bit sad that my year has started with so many medical appointments, all of them necessary because of having had cancer. What a nasty, far-reaching disease it is! But another part of me rejoices that I am still here and enjoying life, that I have so many wonderful, supportive friends around me, that my family continues to be a constant joy to me and that the world contunues to turn. There's much to be thankful for. I am thankful.