45. Ghosts, illness and being part of a stage 4 cancer community

I’m back in Istanbul again. A glutton for punishment. Today was chemo day and punishing it was. Why does it have to be so hard? I’m back in my hotel and have just come away from the toilet for a break from puking. I hate this part. It’s just after 6pm and if previous experience is anything to go by, I won’t feel like eating until about 2 in the morning. Which is no good to me, I need to fast from this evening for my PET scan tomorrow. I have to be up at 6am to start drinking a sugar solution in preparation. The joys!

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This trip to the clinic was a bit sad. For some reason I’m having a bit of a nostalgic day. I’m here just over a year now and I’m remembering when I first came. Who was here and who is gone now… I’ve made some great friends here. We have been thrown together at the most challenging time of our lives and have been a support to each other. We get each other more than others in our lives can. We understand what it’s like. Our families have met each other and we have grown into a community. The only thing is… when you get here, you’re pretty much at the end of the road, you’ve tried everything else to heal and this is the last chance saloon. Your chances of survival are pretty low and not everyone makes it. Sadly, out of the eight patients that were here last summer, only three have survived. Each loss has been a big knock and a tap on the shoulder to remind the rest of us how vulnerable we are. Forming friendships with stage 4 cancer patients comes with risks. People die, it causes hurt and it happens often. It has made me reassess my willingness to make friends with new patients. It’s too hard to see it happen so often. I’ve had to take a step back which is good and bad. I barely know anyone in the clinic anymore which can make it boring but it’s good in that I’m protecting myself from feeling grief and sadness every time someone dies. We lost the big man last month, the longest attending patient and the gentle soul of the clinic. I really feel the loss returning this time around. The ghosts of the clinic are getting more and more plentiful. But I feel their presence egging the rest of us on. You can do it Mairead. I can hear their voices. I know I can, I’ll be grand… an end in sight would be nice but I’m not sure that’s on the cards any time soon. Myself and my friend Ashley spoke to our doctor today and he joked that we are part of the furniture and we’re going nowhere. His confidence in our survival is encouraging. Let’s see what tomorrow’s scan says. I’m quietly confident too…

Here’s some screen grabs from a video I did yesterday because you do not want to see my puffy, swollen, red face today!

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