CANCER isn't going anywhere, just because Covid has turned up.
My cancer has decided to throw me new challenges mid-pandemic – in the shape of radiotherapy.
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When crisis hit, I was left between a rock (cancer) and a hard place (coronavirus).
My medical team and I had to weigh up the risks of carrying on treatment, versus pressing pause on my regular hospital visits.
For the first time in more than three years, cancer wasn't the only thing trying to kill me.
Every cancer patient faced the same dilemmas, carry on with drug treatments and chemo that weaken your immune system and increase the risk if you get Covid, or have a break.
For some, there was no choice – it was life or death, and so treatment had to carry on.
I took a risk
I was lucky, I could afford a break – or so I thought.
Just three weeks of no treatment, and my tumour markers started creeping up.
It's not a full blown cancer scare, but it was enough to scare the sh*t out of me.
Let those tumour markers carry on climbing and there's only one way that goes – more cancer.
And so, with that – and in the middle of lockdown – I had to get my head around treatment again – and new treatment, at that.
It's exactly where I didn't want to be, but I know I have no choice.
I need treatment to make sure I am still alive when we come out the other side of lockdown.
I still count myself lucky, I know lots of people who won't see life after Covid.
New treatment is scary
That's not to say I am finding this easy, I'm writing this in between sticking my head down the toilet due to the side effects.
Aside from the physical side effects, starting any new treatment is an emotional challenge. It's scary.
I wish I didn't have to go through it, but I know the alternative is much worse.
This time, I am having two types of radiotherapy. CyberKnife and IMRT, intensity modulated radiotherapy – the standard radiotherapy in the UK.
CyberKnife has played a part in saving my life twice before, it's highly targeted and was designed to zap inoperable tumours.
This time, it's not new tumours but pesky lymph nodes that it is zapping.
I am really lucky, this treatment is standard across the UK yet. There are only a handful of machines and one is at The Royal Marsden, where I am looked after.
It's not a given though, it's a treatment that doesn't work for lots of people so I have to pray each time that I pass the strict criteria to get zapped again.
It's state-of-the-art, and can deliver larger doses of radiotherapy without damaging as much healthy tissue – hence it's benefits.
The standard radiotherapy is a new one for me.
It works in pretty much the same way, but you need more treatments as it's a lower dose each time.
To be honest, I am really struggling this time.
It's hard not to over think. My brain runs wild as I am lying there – so far, I am five sessions down and I have another week to go.
Every time I lie down, I remember past treatments.
The first time I ever had CyberKnife was just after my good friend Rachael Bland died.
I had treatment one day and had to jump straight on a train to get to her funeral.
It's no wonder that she is the first thing I think of, every time I lie down and look up at the picture on the ceiling.
It's not just Rachael that floods my thoughts, I think of all the other friends I have lost along the way.
I think of all those who won't live to see the lockdown lifted.
It's their faces and their memories that stops me from running away in a fit of panic.
Riding on the wings of angels
It's as though I am riding on the wings of angels through my treatment – their memories spur me on to keep going.
In these unprecedented times, cancer or not, we all need those angels by our side.
There are the NHS angels working tirelessly to keep us all safe – putting their own lives on the line for us.
Then there are the angels in our hearts.
Lockdown means that cancer patients like me can't have someone in the waiting room, someone holding our hands through treatment.
I can't meet up for friends afterwards for a glass of wine to distract me.
I can't escape for a wander around the shops to take my mind off it, or a run to clear my brain.
I can't sit by the river and just breathe, because Covid is hanging over us all like a dark cloud.
And cancer, well cancer is the storm that's threatening to engulf me.
So, in the absence of all that normally gets me through, I am so grateful to have the NHS angels at the Marsden who keep me going.
Covid has forced us all to change our way of life, but with cancer refusing to budge at the same time, these doctors and nurses are doing their best to keep us going.
I couldn't have been looked after better, the radiotherapy team at the Marsden have held my hand this week.
Every time I tell them I am scared, they tell me I can do it.
Together, with my NHS angels and those in my heart, I believe I can.
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