Out with the old..

The nurse just left. She won’t be back. As I hugged her goodbye, I half jokingly said “Hopefully, I’ll never see you again!” This was my last Herceptin injection. The last of 18 five minute long injections. The last time the drug burns its way through my tissue, causing a sharp intake of breath for the first 30 seconds. The last time it has the potential to stop my heart.

But it’s also the final batch of the wonder drug circulating in my body, restricting the growth of any cancer cells still in me. It’s the final withdrawal of medical services that have structured and shaped my life for the past year. I may never see those wonderful, kind, interesting and caring nurses that have sat with me and chatted for two hours on every visit.

So it’s with mixed feelings that I approach today. There is some evidence that only 9 cycles of Herceptin are actually necessary and as effective. I feel reassured by that. Even if I carried on having the drug every week. Even if my heart could take it, it wouldn’t make any difference to what the future brings. This is what my confusion is all about: the future.

Cancer has a dual nature. It is in one sense a chance set of 5/6 mutations that leads to a perfect storm of change to the cells. It takes 15-20 years to accumulate those mutations and cooperation from surrounding cells to produce a cancer. It’s a genetic disease. Something sporadic yet seemingly irrepressible. Something I can’t really influence. At the same time there are ‘risk factors’ for each type of cancer. So outside things can make the conditions just right for a mutation to be more likely. The biological Goldilocks moment but with less friendly bears.

Not everyone who is exposed to those risks gets cancer though. So at that point there is some level of unluckiness. The Herceptin injections represent to me the chance factor. The drug is working on what’s already there, what I can’t do much about. Lightning has already struck. So it makes me nervous that it’s gone.

On the other side, I went to weigh myself and then off to circuit training this morning. I’ve lost another 1.3 kilos and I felt so strong during the exercise class. This is the risk factor stuff. My cancer is oestrogen positive and fat produces oestrogen so, the fat has to go.

Today was about the two sides of the cancer coin. I will have to learn to live with the randomness. The lack of control. At least there is something I can do though. At least I can do the things I need to do to get myself in or out of the cancer lottery in the first place.

For now, I say thank you and goodbye to the incredible nurses who have supported me for the last year. I wanted to bake them cakes but I’ve become too much of a health nut to ethically thrust love-laden sugary treats on them. Instead I made them funky tablet covers. Another sign of a new life and a shiny new skill to keep me happy and reduce another risk factor: the devil of stress. So it seems those lovely nurses continue to help me, even when they’re not around.


6 thoughts on “Out with the old..

  1. Letty

    Oh Heidi congratulations on everything. It’s been so good to be able to follow your journey on here. You are such an inspiring person. You’ve done so well! Thinking of you so much.

    I’m no longer on FB and I lost all my numbers plus we’ve moved to Shoreham – my email’s [email protected] would love to hook up, have a cuddle, eat some kale that sort of thing, when we can 🙂 xxxxx

    1. Heidi

      Hey dearie. Thanks for your lovely, lovely comment. It’s so reassuring to know you’re out there in cybery land. Probably a good healthy plan to be off fb. It is a mixed business. I shall drop you an email and I’d love to meet up and munch on all things kale-like 🙂

  2. Roberta

    I loved reading this post Heidi! Well done you and what a lovely gifts to give to the nurses. Onwards and updards! Lots of love from Amsterdam. xxx

  3. Karen

    What a lovely post, Heidi. And I love what you did for the nurses too. I love that you’re constantly creating beautiful things – be it your lovely writing or your linocut or your amazing sewing. You are in a very creative state. What a lot you have been getting your head around, and coming out even more amazing than ever. Learning to live with the randomness seems like an important lesson in life in general. We all need to think about that. Thank you for this lovely post. xxxxxxxx

  4. Lisa

    “I will have to live with the randomness. The lack of control.” It’s the randomness and lack of certainty that is hardest for me. No one can give me an absolute answer, and The Great Unknown has always been intimidating for me. This, probably more than anything else, is the lesson for me to learn (I’ve given up trying to be better about needles). Your goals to exercise more and eat more mindfully are mine as well: each day at work I tie up my sneakers and go for an hour-long walk. How awesome is it that walking is a weight-bearing exercise?! The food is another matter but I’m working on that and perhaps that’s the most important: working toward goals.

    Cheers! <3

    1. Heidi

      Thanks Roberta and Karen! Yeh it felt good to work a little bit hard for them. The least I could do and all that.

      Lisa, that’s fricking fantastic that you’re getting out walking! I still need to buy a decent pair of trainers. Switching up my identity through footwear and swapping silly urban shoes for ankle supporting trainers 😉 Yep the uncertainty is definitely a tricky one to get to grips with. Something that’s still a work in progress. I kinda cope with this by scouring science news and reading about protein receptors. We all have different and various wonderful coping mechanisms. I’m positive you’ll find yours. <3

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