If you have been TOLD YOU HAVE CANCER and are SCARED & CONFUSED, then I AM SPEAKING TO YOU. I want you to know that you, like me, can come through the experience – maybe not as a better person but as you.
I really didn’t realise that I was ill. Every headache has a feasible source and so too had the enduring fatigue: working too much, the stress of a new job and the relocation; not getting enough rest, no fresh air or natural light during the day. So,when they found a ‘problem’ during a scan I was surprised and, if I’m honest, a little bit relieved. At least this means I’m not a hypochondriac, I thought. At least this means I’m not supposed to feel like this (this bad).
Before I knew it I was admitted to hospital (3 nights in Mullingar) before being moved by ambulance (fully dressed and chatting to the paramedic in the back) to Beaumount. After a sleepless night I went to theatre for surgery in the morning.
Throughout my treatment, it didn’t help that I was virtually phobic about hospitals (particularly about needles) as a result of a traumatic childhood experience. But, over time, I was somehow able to deal with events as they unfolded. I learned to stop looking too far ahead and, as my dad said ‘meeting trouble half-way’. My concerns often were for my family (particularly my husband) rather than for myself. I regretted causing them such anguish and turning their lives upside-down. I cursed myself for having recently left a job with private healthcare and gone out on my own to work freelance. Listening to the news of problems in the health service, I was terrified about the impact this would have on me. I need not have worried: I got world-class treatment paid for by the state.
Over a period of 1 year and 7 months, I progressed from one treatment to the next: I had surgery twice (within the first 11 months); 30 sessions of radiotherapy and several months of chemotherapy and finally a session of stereotactic radiation therapy. They threw the kitchen sink at me! With the exception of the two surgeries, I received treatment as an out-patient. During that time I continued to do some work on a part-time basis.
During my first visit to St. Luke’s, I had noticed a tag-line on a poster in a waiting area that read ‘For the care, treatment and cure of cancer’ and my heart soared at the sight of ‘cure’. I focused on that word – that was for me. And, you know, they did cure me. Somehow I always believed that I would come through it and I think that helped. This too will pass. Looking back I can see now that it really wasn’t as bad as I feared.
Today, eleven and a half years after diagnosis, I continue to be well. In 2 weeks I will attend my (hopefully) final appointment for a routine MRI scan. Then I will be trusted to flag up any issues or concerns I might have in the future and no longer need to attend for routine check-ups. I will be eternally grateful to the staff who helped me and to my family and friends who were there for me. I wish you well.