365 days ago today I’d been in hospital for a three night emergency stint with febrile neutropenia (low neutrophils, which are the white blood cells that fight infection and high temp), but managed to persuade my oncologist to let me go to Ladies’ Day at Glorious Goodwood.
I’m not quite sure how I persuaded him, my family were a bit sceptical, the nurses were dead set against it, but he saw the person not the disease and its risks. He understood that the mental attitude and determination of a patient was a key part in getting through the cancer treatment. He didn’t want to thwart that. I loved him for that. So off I went with a large copy of my file, a thermometer, blood pressure machine, my wig and my hat. And an equally ‘up for it’ sister.
It was so liberating. I’d done three cycles of FEC chemo and I had another three cycles of Docetaxel (Taxotere) to go. It gave me the energy and verve to get through the remaining nine weeks. Boy did I need it.
This year I planned a repeat – of the racing not the emergency or the chemo.
As you know I was in the purple chemo chair late last night, but I managed to put my determined hat on, one foot in front of the other and catch the train to the coast for the sunset. A far cry from cytotoxic IV drugs. Today I was back on the racecourse again enjoying the beautiful south downs, lunch, bubbles (shh don’t tell the new oncologist) and afternoon tea. All in the company of one of my wonderful siblings.
We didn’t have much luck with the racing – in fact I think it is the first time I haven’t had any winners or places – but my previous scans are showing that I’m coming up neck and neck with my disease, so I’ll take that racing form instead.
Some people think I’m crazy cramming stuff around treatment, others a ‘legend’. I’m not sure either are right. I simply believe that in order to get through very difficult, uncertain physically and emotionally draining times you need to have something to look forward to. Little things and bigger things.
I seek experiences and events that shift your head from dreading another round of chemo to working out how to carry a case and a hat box to hospital and then the coast on a commuter train! It could be seen as displacement activity, but I’d far rather be chatting to fellow patients about horse racing and the beach than the damaging effects of chemo or prognosis. I like to choose my own narrative and walk my own path.
As I have said before, the last 14 months have seen me face into some of the scariest fears and actual experiences. The thought of leaving my children, possibly before they finish primary school, the thought of my parents having to attend my funeral. Triple Negative is an aggressive breast cancer with no targeted treatments (yet), so making the most of everyday and planning milestones of genuine quality time with the special people in my life is an essential part of surviving the gruelling and seemingly never ending journey of cancer treatment.
I look back at the last year or so with fond, special, treasured memories. These give colour and brightness to the dark days and the uncertain grey ones. We all need a few glorious, splendid days and today was one of them. Full of striking beauty and colour.
Whatever you are facing in life, pockets of good simple times should be scheduled into the short and long term plan.