This morning I was looking back at photos from the last couple of years and thinking about all that has transpired in that time. This one, taken at the beginning of September 2010 seems in some ways a life time away.
I made a conscious decision this year not to post the anniversary of my cancer diagnosis, not because it has lost significance in my personal calendar, I don't think that will ever happen, but because two years on, it is really rather boring for other people, especially those who see me racing around almost as madly as I used to in the 'BC' (Before Cancer) days.
My journey metaphor, with Mount Chemo and the dark forest of surgery, continues its path through the Land of NED, a place that looked sunny and lush as I approached it across the River of Radiation. Just over a year since I stepped into it, I have seen that the terrain is far from smooth, that there are trip hazards along the way, and thorns to snag the unwary traveller. On the whole life is really good - I am well and happy, my energy is for the most part good, and I love my work. But the long term side effects remain.
My concentration is still poor. Reading anything more complex than an undergraduate text is nigh on impossible (so very unlikely I'll ever get that elusive PhD) and my memory is embarrassingly bad, with whole items falling into a big abyss as though they'd never been! Sometimes the memory loss does bring pleasant surprises as I discover I have, after all, done something that needed to be done!
Learning to live with chronic, low grade pain (small joint arthralgia) has been an eye-opener. Weakness in my hands and feet, turning into a 99 year-old rusty tin-person overnight, quaffing a whole cocktail of supplements and drugs... it's a world I had never imagined. And I'm lucky: the joint pain is not bad (I only take pain killers because the doctor tells me to!) and barely affects my enjoyment of life. It just means that rather than flat, my path onwards is definitely upwards, requiring more effort than it would have done BC.
At my recent, six monthly, check-up the doctor insisted on prescribng yet more drugs, this time for the hot flushes that are one more side effect of the anti-cancer drugs. Two weeks in I am finally gaining some benefit, perversely now have cold flushes sometimes!
Naively, I had assumed that, like 'normal' injuries and minor illnesses, once I had recovered I would be back to where I was BC. That's not the case. Life AD (After Diagnosis) is different, and harder work. Aside from the physical scars, and the long term side effects of life-saving drugs, there are the intellectual and emotional effects. To be fair, the greater the distance I am from the start of this path, the less emotioanl impact it has, but it never goes away entirely; every now and then the evil 'what if' fairy appears on my shoulder to whisper in my ear.
Recently a few people have asked me if I'll grow my hair long again. The answer, at least for the time being, is 'no'. After eighteen months it is still trying to revert to curls, and the top layers would still need at least a year to reach the level of the bottom, to give a 'one length' rather than layered appearance. Although I loved my long hair, and occasionally still miss it, I also love my short hair, which looks less severe than the scraped-back-for-work look. Part of the journey onwards is embracing the new me, physically, emotionally, intellectually and spiritually.
Beginning 'year three' since diagnosis has a good feel to it (even if there's still six months until I officially reach two years of NED, as dates count from surgery) as the first two years are most 'risky' in terms of recurrence. As the road rises gently but steadily into the future, the clouds are fewer and less grey. Onwards and upwards, then, is no mere fatalism, but a sense of moving forward accepting that the transition from BC to AD is as real for me as the hinge point of human history.
This photo was taken on the SS Waverly a week or so ago. Different hair, different glasses, but the same smile as ever!!