Gift Givers and Well Wishers
I think ‘cancer’ must be the most powerful word in the English language. Forget ‘love’; forget the other C-word. Say ‘cancer’ to even the most cold-hearted person and it will no doubt stop them mid-sentence. It’s amazing that a single word can have that much power.
It’s funny that when tragedy strikes, people who seemingly had no interest in your life previously are now phoning frequently, popping round to offer their services and generally couldn’t be nicer or more helpful. I never know how to take this. Part of me is annoyed and thinks ‘well you were never bothered about my life before, so why should you now?’ But to be honest, that’s just the anger, frustration and bloody-mindedness in me talking. If I’m being truthful I am truly touched and humbled by the support both Kerry and I have received during this difficult time. Whether it’s people offering advice, gifts, money or just a friendly ear, we are forever grateful that we are in your thoughts.
We have received cards and gifts aplenty – not least from the people at my work, who I want to take the opportunity to thank in spades for their encouragement, support and thoughtfulness – thank you guys, your support means more than you will ever know .
I am going to fast forward a couple of months from Kerry’s diagnosis in April. After several consultations, blood tests, transfusions, sleepless nights and chemo sessions, Kerry had finished her third cycle of chemotherapy. She started to lose her hair as a result so took the bold decision to shave it off. I realize that this is a huge deal for a woman; hair is like a second skin to them so it must have been really hard for her. But she took it in her stride, as she has with everything so far. And y’know what? It really suits her. You know how Gail Porter looked when she shaved her head? She looks the exact opposite of that.
She’s also been supplied with two wigs through the hospital trusts, which look awesome and would have been very pricey to buy. She has also bought two online, a curly red one and a bright pink one (why not). She loves her wigs and is having a lot of fun chopping and changing between them. We also have a plethora of head scarves in the house now – seriously, she’s got about 30. They are an array of styles, patterns, shapes and designs, and she’s really happy with them which is awesome. I tried to convince her to buy a Superman one, but as of yet I’ve had no success.
Kerry has regular scans, the results of which will tell us what effect, if any, the chemo is having. Preliminary examinations appear to indicate that the tumours on Kerry’s liver have shrunk. When the consultant originally felt her liver it was so swollen that he could feel it at her belly button. However, during one consultation the consultant couldn’t even feel her liver. Now I’m no doctor, but to me this is encouraging. The medical staff can’t/won’t officially commit to giving us an outcome until the results come, but they are suggesting that things look positive.
We’re trying to remain positive, whilst simultaneously not getting our hopes up too much. It’s been a whirlwind few months, but we’re starting to settle into the chemo routine. It consists of a day of intense chemotherapy on drip in the hospital, followed by a discharge and a continuation of the chemo in tablet form for 4 days. I swear we’ve gone through so many drugs since April that we could comfortably put Pablo Escobar out of business, keep an entire police force on our payroll and have enough money left over to buy the entire Beatles back catalogue. But anyway, yeah I’ve learnt a lot about pharmaceuticals this year and am becoming very proficient at organising drug times etc.
Keeping busy in these sorts of times is paramount, though when one is off work this can prove to be more difficult than it seems. I suppose I would prefer to not “keep busy”. I always think “keeping busy” is just a euphemism for ‘get on with it’. It’s easier said than done. I know for a fact that I would much rather do what I’m doing, be off work and be here spending time with Kerry and accompanying her to appointments, blood transfusions and chemotherapy, than staying at work and trying to keep busy. Keeping my mind off something like this would be an exercise in futility. I am lucky that I have been afforded the opportunity to be here and be involved in every element of Kerry’s treatment. Some days have been really good and positive. Some days have been horrible. But I’m glad I’ve been here for all of it.
Kerry is being treated at the Young Persons Unit (YPU), a speciality, new-build cancer ward at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham. I have to say, the YPU have been absolutely phenomenal since Kerry started her treatment. They have really gone all out on the ward, kitting it out to cater for young people, the machines and treatment plans are first class. But what really makes the YPU so great –cliché alert – is the staff. The nurses, consultants and receptionists are professional, kind, understanding, accommodating and friendly. They make you feel like YOU are their only patient, and to me that is the sign of a good doctor/nurse – making you feel comfortable.
As well as providing great bedside services and answering all questions thrown their way, they also have facilities and personnel in place to help tackle every eventuality that we would/will encounter. These eventualities range anything from questions, financial issues and prescriptions, to wig appointments and counselling. There are a team of social workers in place to speak with patients and deal with issues we might have. Our main worry was/is money. Kerry and I have both been off work, and whilst I am on full (sick) pay, Kerry is only on SSP and when her contract runs out she will not have a job. There are potential benefits we are eligible for, including Employment Support Allowance and Disability Living Allowance – though the application process can be pretty overwhelming and was obviously not a priority.
Luckily we had Helen – social worker and all round ball-buster. We told her we had issues applying for these benefits and were told we couldn’t apply for both. She said ‘Leave it with me.’ And within a week it was sorted. She also sorted us out with a Macmillan grant to cover transport costs, which has proven very beneficial. Helen you are my hero.
Overall it’s been a crazy few months, we had highs and lows, but we’ve all tried to stay positive through the whole thing and Kerry has been a trooper. She seems in much better physical condition than she ever was before her treatment started and this can only be a good thing. I guess we just have to cross every digit, offer prayers to a higher power and wait for the results.
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