Anniversary

It is to be a week of celebration.

My brother sent me a party emoji. My mum a congratulatory email. My dad sent a picture of a frog balancing on a unicycle.

One way or another, they wanted to mark what is a celebratory point in my brain tumour journey.

Firstly, it is five years since I was first diagnosed. It was on my daughters’ birthday on 15 April, five years ago, when I had such a severe seizure that I booked a doctors’ appointment. That led to the MRI test where my brain tumour was revealed.

Secondly, it’s my 40th birthday next Sunday.

Thirdly, and more importantly right now, I have begun my sixth cycle of chemotherapy. I started on Tuesday, against the odds because my bloods were still a little low. I’m now well into my 10 days of chemotherapy drugs.

Sure, there will be a lot of recovery to do. I won’t really ‘come up’ for another couple of weeks after that. But the standard treatment for my type of tumour – nearly a year of radiotherapy and chemotherapy – will be complete.

So, what news of my brain tumour?

The outlook, says my oncologist, is good. Or, in their speak, ‘it is what we would have hoped for’, which I take to mean that treatment has generally worked.

The MRI scans show no new development in tumour since my post-radiation scan in September. That September scan actually showed an ‘improvement’ – whatever that imprecise word means – on the scan previous to that: the one that led my doctors to conclude I needed to go into treatment.

All in all, good reason for that celebratory frog.

My oncologist wants to see me in a couple of months, but there is no plan to MRI my head again for six months. That’s unless something significant – seizures, nausea, my language or balance – causes concern.

I know my tumour has not gone away. But there’s every reason to believe now that it will remain dormant for a while, giving us all a break.

When I walked out of the Belfast Cancer Centre on Tuesday after intravenous chemo, I purposely didn’t look back. I don’t want to walk into that place again for very long time. It’s a nice set up they’ve got there, but for nearly 12 months it has consumed my life.

After a year in treatment, and after I’ve completed the new book I’m writing about higher grade brain tumours, I don’t want to talk about, write about, or even think about brain tumours. Hopefully my body will agree with me, and my brain will give me a nice long break.

For a few years, things went quiet on this blog. I posted perhaps five times in one year, leading to people fearing that I had died. It was the opposite. Things had settled with my condition, and there was literally nothing new to say.

I welcome a situation, hopefully very soon, when I’m able to go offline again with nothing to report. Just shutting up for a while would be a very good indication of life getting back as close to normal as it can be.

Today I feel good. The next few days I know I’ll begin to feel pretty awful. Next week will be harder still. But as I lie in bed with fatigue, or struggle with nausea or to down the third cup of warm laxative of the day, I will at least know I’ll soon be finished.

Life begins at 40, the old cards used to say. Assuming I survive until next Sunday, is it too cheesy to write that my a new phase of life might be just about to begin for me?

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