End of A Canc-Era

Hope Joy Stringer
Jul 24, 2015 · 8 min read

Since my last update, things went from bad to so much worse. Pain like I have never known. My throat became just a swollen, ulcerated mess where trying to swallow was about as pleasant as sticking pins in my eyes. My tongue, decorated nicely with a pretty border of ulcers going all around the edge of it. Eating became impossible so on top of the pain, I was one moody bitch due to ‘severe’ hunger. The pain killers which i’d been on for a couple of weeks which were just soluble aspirin, paracetamol and a disgusting tasting mouthwash which was supposed to numb my mouth, were no longer effective. Where as before they would offer a couple of hours of relief, they became completely inadequate. I was looking forward to last thursday as its a thursday you see one of the registrar doctors where they see how you’re doing and prescribe you what you may need. Looking distressed and completely miserable he suggested it’s time for something stronger. I was going to suggest maybe a gun to my head to end the suffering but I refrained out of fear of being sectioned!

The next step up on the pain killer scale was morphine. He prescribed me with some and off I went. On my way out, I was asked if I would mind waiting around a little longer as my radiotherapy oncologist would like to see me. So I sat down and waited for her and when I saw her I asked her if it’s ever been known that people don’t finish their whole course of treatment due to being in too much pain, she said yes that it was common but she would strongly advise me against doing that. She also told me that from the day of my last treatment, side effects would continue to get worse for 10–14 days afterwards. This information drained me of any remaining positivity I had left as that time line basically coincides with our family holiday we are going on next week and suggests my pain will be at its peak for the duration of the holiday. She said to have the weekend to rest and that we would catch up on Tuesday to see how I was doing. I spent the whole weekend completely adamant that I was quitting, I would see her on Tuesday and tell her I wasn’t going to finish my last 3 days of treatment. I thought I couldn’t physically let my pain get any worse and also wanted that extra 3 day head start to begin my recovery in time for my holiday….. Then before I knew it, it was Tuesday and I couldn’t bring myself to quit! How could I do 30 sessions and then wimp out on the final 3? I couldn’t look back on my fight against cancer and not proudly say that I did everything I had to do to beat it. Plus, the morphine really helps!

However, all of the above is irrelevant now as I am finished!!

So 8 months later I am actually here! The day I have been dreaming of since the very start of treatment…. It’s the night before my final day of treatment and also my birthday eve! I have a great feeling about tomorrow, it’s going to be a good day… Well for me it is, not so much for you, my readers, as this is my last blog! While hopefully saying goodbye to cancer and all the trials and tribulations which came with it means that I no longer have any reason to keep writing this blog because without the hair loss, hair growth, painful side effects to talk about, my life is pretty dull! Oh god how I cant wait for my ‘dull’ life back!

It is a good time now for me to reflect back on my ‘journey’ as it comes to an end and the first thought that comes to mind is how much it cringes me out how much I have used the term ‘my journey’! Former me would never have used such a term so i’ll be glad to get that cheesy line out of my vocab! However if I am allowed one more day of being cheesy then i’ll share a few more thoughts that could fall into that category. Being a 23 year old diagnosed with cancer, automatically and naturally leads people around you to feel sorry for you, wonder why life could be so cruel and they think you’re really unlucky. Which is generally quite true, but when I look back at the last 8 months I can’t help but feel that all my bad luck and the shit hand of cards that i’ve been dealt has just highlighted to me how unbelievably lucky I am. Lucky to have everything I do have and to be surrounded by the most loving, caring and generous people. Things that I always knew but like lots of us just maybe took for granted or just never really thought too much about it.

My mum and dad for starters, the now household names Trace & Phil. Strongest people I know. Strong because as a couple, they love a good cry. Especially Phil. Whether it’s something on the TV, a book, a nice birthday card, it doesn’t take a lot to set him off. So you can imagine the flood gates wanting to open when the bad news about me came along. Well, we were sitting in my surgeon/consultant’s office and he had just taken the staples out of my wound when we asked whether he had had the results back from the biopsy, when he basically said yes and it looks very much like cancer. As the 3 of us walked out of there, we got outside and we just stopped, looked at each other and honestly, you should’ve seen their lips. Top and bottom, quivering like mad with a few tears rolling out and at the moment, with a very stern face and pointing my finger in both of their faces I said ‘NO, no tears, we are not crying’ and that was it, they didn’t. I said I couldn’t bare to see people crying over this and I never have, except on the odd occasion that I cry, Phil seems to think the rules don’t apply at those times and he has a little cry with me. I of course know that there were lots of tears behind closed doors and in private but for me always their brave happy faces. I have spent more time with them in the last 8 months than any normal 23 year old ever should spend with their parents, which has been another highlighter of just how lucky I am. Lucky to have a mum and dad who double up as my best friends when I needed them. Kept me comforted, smiling, laughing and as a team we have kept each other positive throughout.

Lucky to have had my life long best friend, my sister Nancy by my side at all times meaning I could never possibly feel alone. My cousin Lynsey, who amidst the shit storm of the last 8 months, turned out to be the best friend I could have ever asked for. Then my small group of girlfriends that have been there for me every step of the way and although I can count them on one hand I have learnt the trueness of ‘quality over quantity’, and it is nothing but quality in the hearts of gold of my girl friends.

The girls I couldn’t have done it without ❤

On top of that I have that I have seen nothing but pure love and support from my entire family made up of my amazing grandad, 2 lovely nans, lots of loving, caring & generous aunts an uncles and all my wonderful cousins. So again, to reiterate, I feel very lucky.

I read a quote somewhere before that said ‘An individual doesn’t get cancer, a family does’ and I think that is very true in our case. So sorry guys!

I wont pretend that the experience has changed me, and i’ll change all bad habits and never take things for granted again as I am only 23 (or 24 now) and once this is over I am sure i’ll slip straight back into being exactly who I was before and being a normal girl in her twenties but it has definitely taught me a lot and opened my eyes to things I wouldn’t have necessarily noticed or given a second thought to before. It has taught me a hell of a lot about compassion, after spending lots of time in hospitals, especially on a young persons chemo ward, seeing lots of other people suffering, more than I ever was. The feelings I had for these people were strong and although I already knew cancer affected millions of peoples lives, seeing it first hand on these people around me and their families hit home and I knew the true meaning of compassion.

It has taught me a new level of self-confidence. Although this is something I thought I already had plenty of, I realised it depended on how I looked on the surface. If I looked nice then yes I had my confidence, but take that all away i.e grey skin complexion, no eyelashes, no eyebrows and not a single strand of hair on your head and it is literally impossible to look nice on the surface. But as the weeks and then months went by, every morning sitting at my dressing table hating what I saw, I eventually saw deeper than the skin and found a way to love myself even though I looked like Uncle Fester’s love child, because I was still me, despite the dramatic change in appearance.

So that’s all the cheesy stuff out the way now I think. The next step for me is a well earned holiday with Trace, Phil & Nancy. Back to work once I am back from holiday. An MRI scan somewhere between now and september. September 15th is the date we go in to see Professor Whelan and find out the results of the MRI scan, which will show if it has all worked, but I have little to no doubt on how that appointment will go and that will officially be the end of this chapter!

Thank you to all the amazing people who have continued to read my blog and for all the kind words and encouragement. Everyones kindness and support really was very overwhelming to start with, I am used to it now and worry how I’ll cope without it! How will I know when I am doing a good job if you don’t all tell me?!

The End……



    Hope Joy Stringer

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