FiMunro

love, light and mermaid tails

Chemo 6 – The Last One

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So the day has finally arrived. Tomorrow is my last chemo. Just six months since my diagnosis with stage four ovarian cancer.

I should feel elated. I should feel relief. I should be buzzing.

I should…

But instead I find myself faced with mixed emotions.

On the one hand I’m, of course, relived that I won’t have to go through chemotherapy any more. No more side affects. No more hours of sitting connected to a drip. No more chemo related hospital admission. Instead my body will finally be able to start recovering from months of treatment including extensive surgery.

On the other hand, however, I feel afraid. Chemo has been ‘attacking’ my cancer (and me!) for the past 6 months. It’s been doing its job to shrink my tumours and make me ‘well’. What will happen when chemo stops? Will what I’ve received be enough? Will I hear the magical word ‘remission’ following my final scan? What if I don’t? What if the chemo hasn’t been enough? What if cancer still occupies my body?

And…what if my cancer is in remission? Will I spend my life worrying about its return? Does cancer ever, truly, leave your life? Or does it remain a dark shadow from which you peer at over your shoulder as you try to live as a ‘normal’ human being?

So many questions are running around my head as I write this but don’t worry, I don’t feel sad or depressed I just feel inquisitive and a little frustrated (more on that later). Ending chemotherapy treatment opens me up to the next phase in my journey. It is an unknown phase and, as a result, it’s only natural (and healthy) to enter into it with questions.

I’m not alone in these thoughts either. Every ‘cancer book’ I’ve read which has been written by a fellow warrior shows evidence of these shared thoughts. Every fellow ‘warrior’ I’ve spoken to about this phase also shares some, if not all, of these thoughts and questions.

I take comfort in this.

What is hard, however, is the dialogue with people without cancer and the misconception that the end of chemotherapy automatically means that everything is ‘ok’, that everything is ‘all fixed’, that I am ‘better’. It’s a misconception I had myself before my diagnosis and of which now I feel very sad…and a little guilty.

Unfortunately, in particular with a stage four diagnosis, that just isn’t the case. Instead, the end of chemotherapy just marks the end of what the NHS is able to provide. Fingers crossed its worked and I’m in remission, but, unfortunately, not everyone is that lucky.

That’s another thing – Remission. The magical word everyone with cancer wants to hear. But remission doesn’t mean ‘cured’ it just means that your disease has stopped growing…for now. However, the word ‘remission’ is all too often followed by the word ‘relapse’.

I used to think that when someone was in remission that they were all better, that their cancer was gone and things could ‘return to normal’. Now I know the frustration that this misconception can cause a cancer patient. The end of chemotherapy (and even remission) can be a scary time for a patient. Perhaps even scarier than the cancer diagnosis itself. After months of support and treatment that we know is prescribed solely to ‘treat’ our cancer, we are suddenly going it alone. Yes of course there is the emotional support of wonderful organisations like that which I receive through my local Maggie’s Centre and Macmillan nurse (without whom I would be so lost!) but that ‘medical’ lifeline, the chemotherapy that we hate but that we also know is a necessary evil, is now gone.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve dreamt of this day for months. With each chemotherapy treatment I have counted down the number of sessions left before I can say I am free of chemo. I’ve seen the happy photos of people marking their last day of chemo – and tomorrow I’ll even take my own, knowing that one day I will want to look back on the monumentus achievement of completing my chemotherapy because, let’s be honest, it’s bloody tough! But, deep inside, I feel like my security blanket has been pulled away from me.

The issue isn’t about prognosis or fear or uncertainty. These are aspects I’ve been dealing with since being diagnosised with stage four cancer.

The issue is the frustration of having to explain that the end of chemotherapy doesn’t mean ‘all better’, that maybe I’ll never be ‘all better’, that maybe I’ll be living with cancer for the rest of my days…however many there may be. And that’s ok. I’m still grateful for my cancer – whatever the outcome.

So, amongst my ramblings and deep thoughts that I so desperately want to express because no one ever really wants to talk about this phase of their journey, I guess what I want to do is provide some dos and don’ts for supporting someone with cancer when they are finishing treatment.

Do

  • ask them how they are feeling about this stage in their journey.
  • ask what support they need – they may want to celebrate or they may want to cry. Whatever they want, be there.
  • Understand that this can be one of the scariest times in a cancer journey and the most likely time for social support to cease – be the one to stand by them.
  • If they chose to open up to you, listen. Really listen. They may want to talk about outcomes you don’t want to hear about but they need to say those thoughts out loud so that they are no longer as frightening as they seem in their head or even, sometimes, just so they can laugh at how ridiculous they are being!
  • Ask if they need you at any follow up appointments.
  • Respect their decisions regarding their treatment, even (maybe especially) when you don’t agree with them.
  • Respect that they may not want to talk about cancer anymore. They may wish to cease being labelled as ‘your friend with cancer’ and just return to being ‘your friend’.

Don’t

  • Presume that they feel the same way as you do about this stage in their journey.
  • Compare them to other cancer patients – everyone is different, even those with the same diagnosis.
  • Tell them everything will be ok. You don’t know that and it can stop them from feeling that they can open up to you.
  • Only talk to them about cancer. They are still interested in all the same things that they were prior to their diagnosis. They are still the same person.

If you’ve had a similar experience at this stage in your journey, or want to add to these dos and don’ts please get in touch. I’d love to hear from you!

Love and light, Fi xxx

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Author: Fi Munro

I am a 31 year old woman diagnosed with stage four ovarian cancer. I blog about my cancer journey and the importance of maintaining holistic physical, emotional and spiritual health. I also talk about the importance of eating the right food...a lot! Get in touch on twitter: @fkmunro

15 thoughts on “Chemo 6 – The Last One

  1. I’ll be on my fifth chemo round in a few days and since the beginning of chemo I have had those same questions and thoughts as you do.
    I understand your state of mind. You remain an inspiration and I know that you’ll continue to face any fears with strength!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Hi Fi. I came to know your blog through my sister Dawn. First off. Awesome job on being super open and honest. I’ve a couple of friends going through treatment for cancer and it’s very apparent their approach/feelings, emotions etc to the diagnosis and coping mechanisms are very different. One is very private preferring to deal with things on the down low the other is very much out in the ‘open’ doing charity work/campaigning. I respect both their approaches. My point is…(finally, you say!) both have had chemo and have voiced the same concerns you’ve mentioned. I think it’s awesome you’ve put it out there as I don’t think many people understand the sheer amount of time dealing with the treatment, side effects and amount of doctor time fills your days until you near end of treatment, initial or further. They both have to go through final tests but have the same thought of ‘I will have been a cancer sufferer’, the one club you don’t want to join. I cannot know how any of you feel having never been a cancer patient, the mental aspect is another on a long list of the difficult things that you have to come to terms with. For my friends just try and be the person they can scream at or be entirely inappropriate to make them laugh..
    Anyway as I’ve said everyone is different but I honestly believe blogs like yours help!
    I wish you all the best in the world. I think you’re just a lovely, lovely person. I have fingers, toes, eyes – everything crossed for you. X

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Clare – thank you so much for your message. I love to hear stories like these and really love to hear that my blogging helps, not just me to process and navigate this journey, but fellow patients too. I wish both your friends so much love and light in their journeys. You are spot on with how to support a friend – I’m all for inappropriate humour! ๐Ÿ’•Thank you so much for commenting. Love xxx
    Ps. You have a beautiful writing style xxx

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  4. Thank you ๐Ÿ’• how many chemo doses will you receive?xxx

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  5. Sending you best wishes!!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Sorry…meant to say thank you xxx

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Very well written and I have no idea what it is like to be you! I was stage three breast cancer in 2005 and so I’ve had it easy, but I am thinking about you! https://wordpress.com/post/ailsawishes.wordpress.com/40

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  8. Hi Fi, I have the same emotions as u, but we have to be positive and strong. My partner is my rock, as your’ s is. There are so many sickness’s where there is no cure, we must remember that !! its not just the C word. LOVE AND HUGS.
    LXXX

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Hi Fi,

    My name is Allie, I work for Yummy Pub Co. as their Head of Random Acts of Kindness (yes, it’s a real title). I read about what you did for those two diners and I was really touched by it. It’s my job to find people who perform random acts of kindness such as yours and to reward them for being so incredibly kind to others for no reason other than to make them smile. Having said this, I would like to offer you a weekend away for you and a guest at one of our country pubs – free of charge and whenever suits you.

    I can’t imagine what having cancer must be like, so I do of course understand if you’re not able or don’t wish to come by but I wanted to extend the invite. Doing something for someone else, especially when you have so much going on in your own life, it’s inspiring and although this is likely a small reward (and you didn’t expect one), I do hope that you’ll take me up on it.

    If I don’t hear from you, I wish you all the best.

    Allie x

    P.S We have a company website and post random acts of kindness most days, you can read more here: http://www.yummypubco.com

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Wow Allie – thank you for your message! Completely unexpected! I have to say I LOVE your job title! ๐Ÿ’– I’ve checked out your website and love what you guys do! Are you for real with the offer?xxx

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  11. Hi Fi,

    Haha, I am absolutely for real with it! Drop me a line with your contact details on allie@yummypubs.co.uk or ring me on 07580 330 385 and we can talk more, as well as book you in ๐Ÿ™‚

    xxx

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Allie…I’m sos sorry I just realised I hadn’t emailed you! I have done so now. Thanks xxx

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  13. Just dropped you a line Fi! Sorry about the delay, had problems with my emails ๐Ÿ™‚ xxx

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Sorry for the late reply!
    I received 6 total and done already!:)

    Liked by 1 person

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