I woke up with my head full of all the changes I had planned, feeling optimistic, feeling a bit nervous too. But I love Mondays. They always feels like a fresh slate, a brand new week to get started on new projects and plans. Then I reached for my iPhone to snuggle back under the duvet for awhile with Morcilla, and began scrolling through Instagram pics… and I read the news. It floored me, it made me catch my breath, it made me so so sad. Just 69, fucking cancer. An amazing life ended. I don’t know why it felt so personal, though I know thousands of people felt the same. Anyhow, I also felt somehow moved to make sure those changes I’ve been planning happen. Because, dammit, life’s too short.
This photo was taken in May 2009 showing off my brand new chemo port. I remember how happy I was that they fit me in for this procedure before I had to resume chemo. Memories of collapsed veins and painful arms and hands…
Today I went for my monthly port cleaning and, while nothing wrong with that, I’d hoped that by now they’d have taken the darn thing out already. When I joined the five year club in November it felt like onwards and upwards. But I’m still waiting to have this thing removed, and I also need to have a colonoscopy this month (the 23rd) before the oncologist decides on what my future monitoring will be. PET scans every year? Every 8 months? We shall see.
Anyhow, I got a taxi over to the hospital this morning (a luxury I allow myself as I really HATE going to the hospital, so at least I can go in style and hang the expense). I was running a bit late today, though I got there at 12.40 (port cleaning hour is between 12 and 1 o’clock) and suddenly there was Manolo standing in the doorway when I skidded to a stop, arms crossed, tapping one foot, giving me The Look. So I said “WHAT? I still have 20 minutes!!” and then Manolo broke into a huge smile and led me to The Chair.
The procedure only takes about five minutes, but sometimes the port doesn’t cooperate and then I worry about blood clots or the nurse pushing air into my veins (I do, seriously). My favourite nurses are Manolo and Macarena. The latter because she is totally no-nonsense and the former because he always makes me laugh. Plus they are skilled at doing this – trust me, when I get a newbie I am a nervous wreck. Anyhow, there was Manolo scolding me for coming at the last minute, and I told him he was going to miss me after they take the port out. “Who else is always going to remind you to take care of the air bubbles??” I asked him. At which point Manolo burst into song, apparently something from his native Córdoba about a difficult “niña” (who, me?) …. and then it was done.
Then another nurse poked her head around the corner and said “another port cleaning!”. And I said to Manolo – “HA! I was not the last one and I expect you to scold this other latecomer as much as you scolded me!” I even made sure. As I was walking out and the other woman was walking in, I turned to Manolo and gave him the hand slicing gesture, winked at the woman, and Manolo went into full Manolo mode saying “what do you mean showing up at this time? you always get here LATE!” and we were all laughing. So I ended up leaving and really hoping it was going to be my last port cleaning, but also knowing I was going to miss Manolo.
You know that crumbling teeth anxiety dream? Well, it happened again – except I wasn’t asleep. There I was eating something totally innocuous (greek yoghurt) and suddenly half a molar fell out. Well, a filling that had previously been filling half a molar fell out. This makes the fourth one in the past 2-3 years, which is kind of getting ridiculous, as well as harder to ignore. Why ignore them you ask? Well, at the risk of sounding morbid, I just didn’t think that repairing teeth at great expense was a priority if I was going to end up back on chemo and/or dead in the next year or so. But with my (hopefully) final “six-month” PET scan coming up in September/October, I may have to start taking action. The deal is, if I get the all-clear next scan and they move me to annual PET scans – and remove that pesky chemo port – then I will finally feel less like I’m on death row and living between six-month reprieves, and more like, well, I don’t know anymore. But I will definitely get my teeth fixed! Or pulled. Whatever.
It suddenly occurred to me around 9 pm last night that I am ON HOLIDAY!
This doesn’t mean that I’m not working as much as always, just that there are fewer tapas tours this month and that I have also made plans to travel here and there in Andalucía doing research for my new trip planning biz. So how does this qualify as being ON HOLIDAY you ask? Well, the main difference is not feeling any pressure to have to be anywhere or do anything at any particular moment. So I can just get up in the morning and deal with new things as they come up, go to the gym or takes walks whenever I want, and also comfortably get on with updating website stuff… at my leisure. Just writing this makes me want to stretch like a cat.
H – O – L – I – D – A – Y – S
I don’t know why yesterday’s PET scan felt more – what? – meaningful, stressful, TERRIFYING. I mean, since I was first diagnosed with Stage IV colon cancer in May 2008 I’ve had more than a dozen of the fuckers, so why did this one feel so important? Maybe it’s because I’m nearing the all-important 5-YEAR mark, when I will “graduate” to having the scans less frequently and may also get the pesky chemo port removed. Or perhaps it’s because I’ve not actually been feeling very well lately, especially with abdominal issues. In any case, I was really feeling like this time I was about to get Bad News.
And then I didn’t.
I had arrived at the hospital bright and early yesterday, having opted to go on my own mostly because I don’t know anyone here who would really be of help if the worst thing happened. The best people I know for this are the friends who are actually working at the hospital. And with my trusty iPhone I can be in touch with all of you guys via Twitter. Believe me when I say that this is the biggest comfort I have when going through these tests. Knowing you’re all there. It means everything to me.
In a way it’s become quite routine, though things have changed a bit since Ricardo retired and Pilar has only been working part time. But at least Isabel is still there and, as always, she took care of me very well. This also means that I get my test results before leaving the hospital and don’t have to wait until whenever my next appointment with oncology happens. Anyhow, the routine is that I get injected with the radioactive isotope and have to wait awhile for it to be circulating before I get put into the machine. Then I have to lie still for about half an hour (which is ALWAYS the time I get an itchy nose or something similar). After that I am sent off to have some much needed coffee and some brekky while they have a look at the images. When I get back I either have to go through the machine a second time or else am told I can go. But not before I get my results.
After Isabel gave me the good news yesterday (all clear but I still have inflammation around the scar tissue) I walked home in the sunshine with happy tears streaming down my cheeks. Why on earth have I been so lucky? And why do I feel like this time is so different? Why do I still feel different since yesterday (and in a good way)? I really don’t know why or even how to explain this difference. All I know is that I’m Happy. With a capital H.
I want this lily chair. Just like I want the dragonfly. And I mean, I really really want them!
So what, you say? Well, it just surprises me that I am suddenly coveting THINGS. For those who don’t know my cancer story it may sound silly, but ever since I was diagnosed back in 2008 I haven’t really been into buying things. Well, other than gadgets – computers, iPhones, etc – things that are useful and fun NOW (carpe diem). And more recently I’ve been into buying experiences, mostly travel related. Even after moving house three years ago I kept “decorating” to a minimum. New curtains, some kitchen stuff, a chair or two… mostly because I tend to live from PET scan to PET scan. What’s the point of spending money on STUFF when my next scan might show I’ve only got a short time left to live? With that in mind, I know I was a bit reckless not only getting one young cat (Loki) to keep my beloved Azar company after his best mate Sunny died…. but then I took on two more rescue kittens! Duh. Then again, when it comes to cats I’ve never been what you’d call sensible.
But to get back to coveting. I honestly don’t understand it. According to the docs I will finally be released from needing PET scans every six months if the next two turn out clean – next August will mark five years since I finished my last chemo. And then I will only (only!) need PET scans once a year. It’s a curious thing, living in six-month stints of time. Of course I make plans, and work towards a future. But always bearing in mind that, for example, all those plans I’ve made for beyond April this year (next scan) may never come to pass. And before you say “oh well, Shawn, none of us has any guarantee that we’ll be alive six months from now”… well, you are not me. You (probably) weren’t diagnosed with stage IV cancer and you (most likely) haven’t been told by your doctors that they can’t understand why you’re still alive. In any case, I don’t go around thinking I’m about to die, which is why I keep making plans and hoping for the best. But you know, all things considered, I’m cautious about what I hope for. And so it just seems silly to spend money on THINGS.
Except suddenly I’ve found myself not only wanting things, but quite outrageous things. Like the dragonfly sculpture. I don’t know why but as soon as I saw it I felt like it belonged to me. That I absolutely had to have it. Then today after attending a press luncheon at five-star hotel Gran Meliá Colón I passed through the lobby on my way out, and instead of walking by their fabulous bright red rose and lily chairs (as I’ve done many times in the past) I decided to try them out. And as soon as I sat down in the lily chair… it felt like mine! It’s absolutely the most comfortable chair ever. Perfectly designed for reading, watching tv, whatever. And I want it!
So what’s going on? Why am I suddenly wanting to buy not just STUFF but crazy expensive stuff that I don’t even need? Is my body trying to tell me that it is cancer-free for good now, so I should feel free to buy what I like? Or is it telling me that I may as well blow whatever money I have on crazy stuff that’ll cheer me up because I won’t be here this time next year? Or what?
Continuing the “tradition of hope” started on January 3rd 2009 when I posted my first ever Photohunt entry. The theme that week was “hope” and I put up a photo of my daybook turned to January 3rd 2010 with the words “STILL HERE!” written on it. Since then I have posted a similar photo on this date and hope with all my heart that I’ll be here to do the same next year.
This photo also serves as this week’s Friday Foto Finder challenge “beginning”… if all goes well this year it will indeed be a new beginning. I will get the chemo port removed, and PET scans will only be once a year. Fingers crossed my friends.
Check out what other Friday Foto Finders are posting over here!
Day after hols and back into Reality big time. First I hit the gym this morning (was really missing that) and ran into a guy I know there who told me that a favourite Pilates instructor is back next week, so I’m going to insert two classes a week into my gym schedule. Don’t get enough around to doing enough stretch and strength stuff on my own.
And now I’m back home getting ready for a “two-fer” hospital visit, to get my chemo port cleaned and also see Dr Ana the oncologist. I had my blood work done before I left for Málaga and so she’ll check that and then set up my next PET scan. Already scanxiety is starting to set in and I’m hoping to not have the scan until at least the third week of September as there is just so much booked already (tours and special events). Plus I am still working on the new projects and have to devote some time to serious study so I can get the sherry tours going. I missed out on taking a Sherry Master course this month and can probably get in for the one next winter, which will be great, but I’d like to get the sherry tours started in October. And so, you see, I really can’t be sick again – I’m way too busy! *fingers crossed*