Friday, November 21, 2008

No news is good news

Most of the time when I mosey through this new life in Africa, I am very much in blissful denial when it comes to what happened in the twelve months preceding this move to Uganda.

Of course, the vast majority of those reading this know what happened.

But people I meet here for the first time have no idea. They don't look at me and see the stuff that went on little more than a year ago. My hair, whilst I'm still frustrated with it, is longer and looks more intentional than 'chemo patient in recovery'. My scars have healed and look like they could be years old.

So if they have no reason to suspect it, there is no reason it should come up. So I don't talk about cancer much, and for me, I think it helps. While I will no doubt be using this blog as a place to vent some very deep-seated fears come March and my year 2 scans, I will, between now and then, probably not think about it much.

And that is a good thing.

But for two of our customers, who drove in the Red Chilli gates a couple of weeks ago, it's all too front of mind right now. They were on their way round a major tour of Africa, driving their UK registered Discovery with no plans to go back to the UK before February next year.

But the whistle has been blown for S&J. S's mother was diagnosed with early stage breast cancer a couple of weeks ago, and they've been thrown into a whirlwind of skype video calls to find out what's what, when it will all happen, and last but certainly not least, how her mother is and how the rest of the family are coping and responding.

R had got chatting to them about cars, only to discover their news, and he told them about me. The next morning I sought them out to sit down with them for a five minute chat to see how S's mother was and to give her my best wishes and any feelings of confidence I could muster for them about the situation.

Two hours later, three strangers had got to know a lot more about eachother. We talked of her mother's situation, how the lump is small (8mm across) and the fact mine was 15mm across. I think the size thing gave them comfort - at least I hope it did - the fact that my lump was twice the size and I was sitting talking to them in Kampala eighteen months after diagnosis, apparently all okay. We then talked of operations and options, radiotherapy and chemotherapy, and the politics of the situation. The fact that S's father had worked up until recently at the same hospital as her mother would be treated at, but that he was reluctant to accompany her for appointments and treatments as he had been forced to leave due to a personality dispute with several of the staff that would be treating to her. Phew... What to do about that?

The maelstrom of questions, discussions and emotions took me right back to the day I was diagnosed and the increasing stages of fall out and implication as it hit various areas of my life and I announced it to all my friends and family.

S&J were also weighing up their plans versus the urge to go straight home to Mum's bedside. S, in fact,was a physio who helped breast cancer patients recover movement in their arms after doctors had severed muscle and nerves in the course of removing lymph nodes in surgery, so she really wanted to be there to help her mother for that part of the process.

To make matters worse, they were just a few days short of their gorilla permits - they were due for gorilla tracking last Sunday at the cost of $500 each. The timing meant they probably did not have time to re-sell the permits, and S's mother was urging them to stay for at least that part of their trip. They were considering going home for a few months to see her through the surgery and initial treatment, leaving their car with us in the car park, to pick up again on their travels when the worst was over in the Spring of next year. Or the alternative of staying to finish their trip, but missing out on the part of the process that S felt confident about genuinely being able to help with, as well as lot of other key moments she wanted to be there for.

I talked to S a lot about the way I had felt about how people had offered support, and when they did. I received a lot of support, but it is true that like many people going through similarly dramatic problems in their lives (divorce, childbirth, illness, death of a loved one) everyone crowds you and cares for you at a point when you're still in shock and processing information, and it's only the few and the brave who stay it for the long run and know that actually, it's towards the end of the process that you need support the most.

In the course of the last week the two have made some big decisions. They went and saw gorillas, including two 15 week old baby gorillas, but they have decided to cut their trip short for good and they are now en route to Kenya to see about shipping their car home before jumping on a flight at Nairobi.

I feel terrible for them, but hopeful for S's mother's eventual prognosis. I was also plunged into a day of feeling really emotional - all the insecurities came flooding back. At the same time another breast cancer blogger, a few months ahead of me in terms of treatmemt and recovery, got in touch again and I updated myself on her life by reading her blog. She's in and out of consultant waiting rooms still, on various hormone treatments, having all sorts of scans, which have thankfully all led to good news.

Or at least, as is the best we can hope for post breast cancer, the absence of bad news.

Which is all I can ever hope for come March myself. And all we can ever hope for anyway.

So I wish Bette the continued absence of bad news, and S's Mum. Any myself. And everyone else.

Lets all have no more bad news, ever again.


1 comment:

Milly said...

Hey there! I've been very hit and miss with the old blogging malarkey (too busy keeping well and trying to crack on with life! And maybe at times trying to forget the cancer thing tho that of course isnt do-able) so I stopped by to see how you're doing. Your adventures remind me that I can get on with my life properly after this thing. And I came to this post. Is that coincidence, ironic or just one of those things?!! Its also a reality check - that I get my life back - but I guess the effects/ impact of what you go through are never really completely gone.

No more bad news - absolutely amen to that! x