Thank you NHS

Letter to NHS for GWH


My 5th cancerversary

The 5th cancerversary is a big milestone for survivors. And 5 is a big number, definitely. Sadly it doesn’t mean that it will never come back. Cancer can hide in your cells, even spread to many parts of your body, even decades after treatment for the primary cancer has finished. But, of course I am grateful to be well now, and happy to have been around for those extra years with my family.

This year, the whole world decided to join in with the chemo feelings of social isolation; loneliness; possible loss of income or job; fear of being really sick and dying; lack of control; and general inconvenience. Doesn’t feel great does it?

Strangely, this isolation caused by covid 19 has helped me to feel less isolated. Because we are all in this situation together, my family has not been singled out for a change. That feels much more manageable. We’ve got it a lot easier in fact, than many people do. We are not NHS or key workers. All we have to do is stay home. Thankfully, so far none of my friends or family has caught the virus.

When I received the unexpected shielding letter from my hospital last week, I was not as relaxed about it. I have had a few random health problems over the last few years, including an awful cough and breathing problems caused by a chest infection that didn’t heal for 6 months. But I suppose that it’s the chemo that got me on the list.

So, once again, the shadow of cancer hangs over me, meaning that I am again seen as a vulnerable person. I have been put into the ‘poorly person’ box  again, and I don’t like it at all. I think that the biggest problem is one of identity. I am Alex. I am not a cancer victim. I am not my illness. I needed to remind myself that the letter doesn’t change this. They are, in fact, looking out for me. That’s a good thing, that the NHS cares about little old me.

The other issue is one of control. I have been in uncontrollable  situations many times, so have learned this lesson before. But I guess it’s a lesson that needs to be learned again. Strangely, there is so much strength from admitting weakness, by realising that there are very few situations where you are actually fully in control. Nobody is always strong.

That’s the advantage of having faith in a God so much stronger and wiser than me. I don’t need to pretend to myself and others that I am god of my own life. Because I’m not. I didn’t choose when or how I was born, and I won’t choose when or how I die. I have found a peace in that.

For now, I am enjoying my lovely house; garden full of new life; and family who I get to spend more time with.

I will never be grateful that I had cancer, but I am here, I got through it. And if that isn’t a good reason to eat chocolate cake, I don’t know what is.





Thank you cards

I am having my (hopefully) last chemo on Wednesday. A Picc line in my right arm was put in in early May. The chemo drugs are put into the Picc line to save my veins from being damaged from too many needles. For the past few months I have been to a local doctors’ surgery every week to have my Picc flushed, and to have bloods taken to check that my white blood cell count is high enough before chemo.

The IV nurses who clean my Picc are so friendly and I have enjoyed chatting to them every week. They have made the process so much more pleasant than what it could have been. I actually looked forward to having my Picc cleaned rather than seeing it as just another appointment. Yes they are doing their job, but some people are just made to be nurses because of their caring natures, and these ladies certainly fit the bill.

Today was probably the last time that I will see them as I should be having my Picc taken out on Weds. Yay! I will not miss having to be very careful around water; having to wear a plastic sleeve to shower or bath; and not being able to swim. But I will miss the lovely IV nurses. I got them a thank you card, chocolates and biscuits, but it doesn’t seem enough.

I also saw my oncologist today, possibly for the last time; although I might see him again after surgery, if I need to have radiotherapy. He is a fantastic doctor and I am grateful to have had a nice person who I feel able to ask questions of and be comfortable with.

At my last appt he said that there was a (new) small pea-sized lump, but that has now gone. There is just some thickening now, like you may have after an operation. I take it as a sign of ongoing healing. I had been disappointed about the new lump, but it’s just a reminder to trust God no matter what; with the bad news and the good. He’s got this. He hasn’t forgotten me.

The next medic I will be seeing is my surgeon. I have met him twice already, as he is the one who gave me my initial suspected and then confirmed diagnosis. I  told by other breast cancer patients that he is the best doctor, which is reassuring.

It moochas graciasannoys me when people moan about the NHS without a very good reason: we are so fortunate in the UK to have world-class care for free at point of use. If you think it’s that bad, go private and research how much Americans pay for health care, on top of their regular health insurance premiums. And if you still feel like moaning, don’t do it in front of me.