Tag Archives: remission

Nothing is Forever – except a cancer diagnosis

Once you have been diagnosed with cancer, life changes forever. For you and for your family, it is unlikely that you will ever look on life in the same way. Sometimes that can be amazingly positive, and sometimes, sadly, it is soul destroyingly awful. Whether you get through treatment and survive, whether you get through treatment and relapse, one thing is true….a cancer diagnosis is one of the few things that is forever.

I think I would be right in saying that in general, Nick and I have been massively positive in how we have lived our lives since I was first diagnosed with myeloma in 2009. It was obviously a massive upheaval to our lives in the early days, and hugely scary to think that our children might not get many years with me. But, as we went through the treatment regime, we got stronger and stronger together. I think we learnt to accept the myeloma as part of our lives, and for me, I did my fundraising as a means of controlling it. And in the main, my myeloma is NOT my life….it is just that unfortunately it has a nasty way of getting away of my life when I don’t want it to.

I will always remember a strange part of the journey where I just wanted the treatment to start – I wanted an end to the ‘unknown’ and I thought that once I had my chemo and transplant and had recovered, that life would go back to normal. Little did I realise, that the ‘unknown’ never really disappears with myeloma, you never quite get to sit back and totally relax, especially when you are at hospital on a monthly basis for your maintenance therapy. But even without that, I would imagine us mm patients aren’t unique in the fact that the word cancer is always there, hidden, in the back of your mind and in the way you make decisions.

In fact, you end up living with a kind of guilt and frustration that are hard to put into words but I am going to try to.

I know, from the bottom of my heart, that I am REALLY lucky to still be here today to write this. I know, that when I was diagnosed 8 years ago, that I thought I would have gone by now. I know that I have said goodbye to too many myeloma friends that I have met on my journey, who have not had the positive response to their treatments, that I have had. I know that my life is pretty good when I take that all into account.

But I sit here writing this feeling nearly as sad as I have done in a long, long time. Why? I am ill again. Not badly ill, but ill enough to lay me up at home for a number of days (expected to be at least a week) and to make me dependent on Nick and the kids for everything. This comes on the back of looking after my son having the same thing for two weeks and at the same approximate time, breaking a bone in my foot for the 3rd time in 2 years.

The reason for these things? Well, my immunity is permanently low due to my maintenance therapy and my myeloma so I pick things up pretty easily. Whilst I am much more relaxed about being around people these days, I still rely on people to make sensible decisions about seeing me when they or their kids are ill…otherwise it can lay me up – and that isn’t fair on me or the family. And my breaks? Well, I still that they are due to the bisphosponates I was on for so many years….but I’m no expert.

The reason I thought I’d write is because I want to help people to understand how hard it is to live with cancer ‘under the surface’. To everyone around us, I am now pretty healthy…and I am in comparison. I look well. I smile (most of the time!). If people ask how I am, I rarely talk about the myeloma anymore. But behind it all, Nick, the kids and I, have to deal with so much more on an ongoing basis.

16dcde62b35e556376c2a254cedc1ebf

I am lucky to have the most supportive husband I could ask for. He drops everything when I am ill or hurt and makes sure he is there for me. But this time, I think it has hit us both emotionally and we are both exhausted from what this life means for us at times. I think we want to think life is normal again, but the reality is that ‘normal’ isn’t what it once used to be….and I don’t like the new normal that much. I’m someone who is active and on the go all the time, but if I do that now, it makes me ill and the family suffers. I’m not sure how it impacts the kids…..they don’t really talk about it, but I see them so concerned when I am laid up in bed with a temperature, again. I think they’re ok. I dearly hope they are.

Even with work I find it so frustrating. Given how much I have been ill/ injured in the last couple of years, I can’t think of many companies who would take on someone who worked like that. And if I take on a role that is too stressful, it makes me ill. So I’m trying to set up my own business doing social media and admin pieces for small businesses who don’t want to do their own….fingers crossed that doesn’t lead to more stress than is good for me. The reality is there is no ‘standard’ job out there for me that works though, so it is this or nothing….and that feels hard in itself.

And all of this is with the knowledge that my paraproteins are very slowly creeping upwards. They are so slow it will probably be a couple of years before anything needs looking at, but unless you are living with that, it is unlikely that you can begin to understand how that plays around in your head with every decision that you make. One minute I’m talking about us in our retirement together and the next we’re having a reality check and discussing the alternative if we knew we only had another ten years together……..an eye opening discussion I can promise you…which limits Nick massively, as well as me.

But if you ask me next week how things are, I’ll likely tell you it’s good, smile and carry on….

5 Comments

Filed under general, illness, Myeloma, Uncategorized

Happy 5th Anniversary

Every year I write this post…..and I make no apologies. This is an amazing day for me to remember as it is the 5 year anniversary of when I had my Stem Cell Transplant…the point at which my myeloma was put into remission, and, thank god, has pretty much stayed there ever since.

This year, it has felt even more emotional and even more special, as this week, our oldest is leaving primary school and will be off to ‘Big School’ in September. I am so excited for her and all that it will bring. We have a raft of special events lined up for her in the run up to her leaving her primary school and it included her ‘Leavers Performance’ last week. Now Rebecca and Sam only joined the school last September due to us relocating up to the Midlands. So when she told me there was a song in it that would make the parents cry, I warned her that I wouldn’t be ‘that parent’ as she hadn’t been there long enough for me to feel emotional about it. Her friendships, whilst really good, aren’t the ones she has had for 7 years and basically it just wasn’t going to happen.

Yes, you’ve guessed it….before the song even started, I had tears rolling as I realised that we had made it….we had got her to secondary school and I was here to see it. Not only that but I will see Sam go next year. And I also strongly believe now that I will get to wave them both off to University in 7 years times.

It has been a rollercoaster of a 7 years. Some of it has been incredibly difficult for all four of us but I am so proud of how the children, Nick, and I, have coped. We have got through my diagnosis, survived my treatment programme, and dealt with the awful reality of saying goodbye to many ‘myeloma’ friends who have not had the luck of the draw that I have had. Even now, as we watch my figures, month after month, we manage to keep living our life fairly normally, and I hope most of our family and friends would agree, fairly positively.

As we go into this next year, Nick is looking at a new role with new responsibilities, we have just had an offer accepted on a run down house in our local area, and Rebecca starts her new adventure…. who knows what I’ll be writing about this time next year!

 

2 Comments

Filed under general, Myeloma, Uncategorized

Post 22 – Happy Anniversary (No.1 & No.2)

Five years ago today our life was totally transformed. I clearly remember sitting in the Consultant’s room in Wycombe Hospital with him telling me that unfortunately the Bone Marrow Biopsy that he had been so sure would come back clear, had nearly 10% myeloma in it. It was all a bit of a blur really. I had ‘Smouldering’ or ‘Asymptomatic myeloma’

We came home with this diagnosis being told that it could stay like that for years. Smouldering myeloma (how sexy does that sound for a cancer!) meant that I had no real symptoms. No bone damage, no sever anaemia (just minor), low calcium levels and no kidney damage. We were still pretty shocked at that time. I told friends and family but kept hoping that I was being my usual ‘drama queen’ self and that it wouldn’t come to anything and that I would be watched for many years. Everyone kept telling me that I could be fine for many years without treatment. 

The first few months were really scary. I read too much online. Figures saying that I only had 2-5 years to live. Stories of how myeloma negatively affected people’s lives. Nick would regularly walk in the room in the early days with me sobbing over the laptop as I read about what my life might possibly look like, or heard about another myeloma patient who had passed away. And then I started fundraising. It gave me a bit of a focus with it all and I truly believe that it helps me to stay positive about what I am now living with.

As I did all of this my paraprotein levels (the blood measurement they use to look at disease progression) kept rising slowly. But I still had no real symptoms. And then they started to get concerned at how high these levels were rising, at the fact I was becoming more anaemic and that I had some pain in my back that they were concerned could be the start of bone pain. I transferred to the Marsden in Surrey to ensure I got the best care, and in November 2011, my treatment started. 6 months of various chemotherapy to try to reduce my paraprotein levels so that I could have a Stem Cell Transplant (SCT).

Tomorrow is Anniversary No.2….3 years since I had my SCT. And with that I feel amazingly lucky. So many people that I know haven’t had 3 years of remission. With it comes the knowledge that when I relapse at some stage, that another transplant is possible, and that with that comes potentially half the length of time again that I get from this current remission. That is assuming that they haven’t moved away from the use of transplants (and that IS likely to happen at some stage.

A Stem Cell Transplant is REALLY invasive. I felt like I’d been run over by a bus. It was probably the worst thing I have ever been through in my life and ideally I will never have to go through it again. But I know I quite probably will. It is a really lonely experience. You are just so ill that you (well I at any rate) don’t want to see anyone for 3 weeks. Even the visits from Nick were hard as I was too tired to talk to him or do anything. I didn’t even get out of my room for about two weeks. But it did the job for me….it has given me another 3 years of a relatively healthy lifestyle. I think I do more than lots of people who are healthy…something I couldn’t contemplate when I walked out of hospital nearly 3 years ago. 

Being diagnosed with cancer is bizarre. It seems surreal and like it can’t really be happening to you. And like someone must have got it wrong. I still sometimes find the whole thing very surreal. Whilst once in a blue moon, I worry about dying early etc, I’m don’t think I really believe that it will happen. Fingers crossed the research will continue to progress so that this ‘head in the clouds’ mentality is a truth! I’m back now to the stage I was when I was smouldering. Believing that things will stay good. And that is great.

I will spend today reflecting a little on the past 5 years and how far I have come on my journey with myeloma. And I will also be remembering my lovely friends, and their families, who have not been as lucky as me. Pamela, Amanda, Sharon, Penny, Isabelle, Sean, Bridget and Paul….just a few names of people who were my online and ‘in person’ friends. It really brings a lump into my throat. 

And I will also be grateful to all of you who have supported Nick, me and the family through everything. We are so lucky to have you all. xxxx

40th-birthday

If you would like to sponsor me with my #40ChallengesB440, please either

go to http://www.justgiving.com/Deb-Gascoyne

or

text ‘DEBG99 £X’ to 70070

e.g ‘DEBG99 £40′ if you want to donate £40

3 Comments

Filed under illness, Myeloma