In your best Turkish accent…. “Mc Dermott, I’m sorry” he said, holding my scans in his hand. “I’m very sorry” he said, shaking his head. I lay in disbelief on the the hyperthermia bed in the clinic, sweating. And not just from the heat. Fuck it! I messed up, I didn’t keep up the schedule they wanted, I’ve been cheating on my diet. And now it’s back. I’m an idiot! “I’m sorry, it’s a CLEAR SCAN” he laughed and turned to the other doctor and clinic staff member, all in hysterics and congratulating each other on the joke they had planned. “You bastard” I grinned at him as I jerked up in the bed to see my scan and confirm that it was actually clear. The head nurse came in when she heard all the laughing and he explained to her in Turkish what he had done. He asked me if I liked his joke. I said he had a sick sense of humour. But I do too so I did find it funny, after the tightness had left my chest and I could let my emotions change from panic to joy. Clear scan number two. A fantastic feeling. And the best news to get just before Christmas. Could you imagine if it was the other way around? The clinic staff call me Mc Dermott because they can’t pronounce my first name. It’s hilarious. They greet me every time, ‘Hi Mc Dermott, how are you?’.
So what now? More visits to Istanbul or what is the plan? Well I’m delighted to be in such a good position with having a healthy body now but I am still worried about it coming back. According to the doctors, the first six months have the highest risk of recurrence. So they want me to keep up the same schedule I’ve been on the last three months, which is a three day visit every two to three weeks. It’s been manageable. I am spending more time at home which is important. My clinic/home balance is much easier than the ten days on, ten days off. And I’m enjoying Istanbul more. It has become my second home, somewhere that I will be frequenting for the rest of my life so I had to make friends with it. I’m so glad I did, it is a truly wonderful city. Every time I visit, I stay in a different neighbourhood so I’m really getting to know it now and I don’t feel like a tourist anymore. I have a few Turkish words and I can communicate with taxi drivers and shop owners, both of which tend to speak very little English if any at all. I find myself in a much better headspace than I was almost four months ago. I was coming to the end of my first set of treatment and I couldn’t wait to get away and leave the clinic behind. Little did I know then that it would become a permanent fixture in my life. Maintenance treatment is life long. The long term goal will be to get to a place where I visit a couple of times a year. But for now, the visits stay the same.
I’m here at the moment and had chemo yesterday. I was sick after it again, but not fever sick. Just puking sick and very swollen. It’s so harsh on the body. I’m delighted I was able to sleep so much though, pretty much slept the whole day and night after I got back to my hotel after treatment. The clinic had to ring my room this morning at 10am to get me up to go down there again. I’m well rested if nothing else! Homeward bound tomorrow again and I’m excited about whats coming next! Remember I told you I’m training to be a thermographer? Well I was supposed to do some training in London in December but it turned out to be a very hectic month and I couldn’t go. So I rescheduled for January but it turns out that London isn’t an option to train in as the courses aren’t being held until later in the year so I am going to Florida at the end of this month for a few days to train there instead. Could be worse places to go! I have completed some training in Dublin already and I have the equipment ready to go. My family think I’m mad. And I probably am. But I need to get back to work with something that suits my travel schedule to and from Istanbul and I need to start earning money. Cancer treatment is expensive and at the moment, it’s costing €6000 every visit. If you think about the financial commitment I need to make to my health in the long term, it makes sense that I start earning money again. So off to Florida I go. I’m secretly delighted the London training didn’t work out, I get to go get some real vitamin D that’s not from a bottle and swim in the sea. And when I get back, I’ll be straight back to Istanbul again for another visit. It’s all go!
After the next clear scan in March, we’ll be talking about surgery. I had been avoiding thinking about it but I’m able to now because I’ve had a while for it to sink in. Surgery will be the next step in preventing recurrence. I worried that taking parts of my body away would change the essence of my being. Sounds weird eh? This is the shit you think about when you imagine parts of your body being removed. My therapist Mary reassured me that my essence would stay intact, whatever we’re born with, we contain the energy of when it’s gone. I looked into this. Have you ever come across stories of people who have had organ transplants and develop personality traits which have been linked with the donor? Fascinating stuff! I’ve heard of people who have gone to visit the recipient of their family members donated organ. One lady went to feel her husbands heart beat. The body remembers and the essence will stay intact. This has helped me get over the prospect of surgery. It was something I saw as barbaric and unnecessary but now that I have a healthy body, I’m willing to do whatever it takes to live for a long time and if part of that is removing areas which are at high risk, then that’s what I’ll do. I want to stay around. Haunting Paul in real life is way more fun than haunting him from the grave. Although that might be fun too, but not yet!
Another change I’ll need to make to keep a healthy body is to give up alcohol. My liver has been compromised from having tumours in it. Almost 40% of it has been damaged and I imagine there’s a lot of scar tissue in it, if my breast is anything to go by. It can regenerate and it can function, but it could do without having to process alcohol, something which is completely toxic to a liver. I put chemotherapy into it once every couple of weeks which is also highly toxic so I really need to do myself a favour by being as kind to it as possible. Putting this out there is risky, what if fancy a drink again? It is an addictive substance after all and I am most definitely partial to a few glasses of wine or a couple of creamy pints of Guinness. But putting this out there will help me in two ways. It will make me be accountable for what I have pledged to do and it will keep all you pushers at bay. ‘Ah sure go on, you’ll have one!’ I am weak and with enough pushing and cajoling, I probably would have ‘just the one’. But then I’d have a taste for it and I’d have a few more. It always happens with the best will in the world. Did you every open a bottle of wine just to have one glass? And sure it’ll go off if it’s not drank in a few days so may as well drink the rest. I’ve done that often. And we live in a culture where everything revolves around drink. We celebrate occasions with alcohol. We toast marriages, we wet the baby’s head, we send the dead onto the after world, we turn 18 with the pop of a champagne cork, same for 21, 30, 40, 50….every birthday actually! We meet in the pub to socialise, we have a few after work to wind down, we sit out with a few cans of cider when the sun shines. Any excuse for a drink! It could be hard to give it up considering the culture I live in but I choose my health more. I’m not saying I’ll never have a drink again. I probably will. But I’ll never drink the way I used to. I don’t think I’ll ever ‘go drinking’ again. Sessions are a thing of the past. They have been for a while now although I have had the very odd one in the past year and a half. I had my last drink on Christmas day and I’ve had several opportunities to have one since, a school reunion, new years eve out with friends, a family dinner on little Christmas, friends visiting and having a hot port. I stayed sober each time. On to a new challenge. I can cure cancer, surely I can live an alcohol free life! Watch this space. And if you see me out having ‘the one’, tell me to go home!
Happy new year to one and all! I hope it’s peaceful, healthy and abundant for everybody.