a new chapter …...

I really hoped that I would not have to write anymore about my cancer, that I would be able to close the cover on that book and yet here I am adding a new chapter to the story.  The words don't seem to be so easy to find and write down in coherent sentences today … it's been a long time since I wrote anything here.  In 2016 I went back to full time work, which was both a joy to be 'back to normal', but also exhausting.  A full day at work, a long commute and time spent looking after my horse used up all the energy I had available, leaving very little energy for creating things and writing here and so I stopped.  And now ….. well now I find myself recuperating in bed and with time on my hands after under going another two major surgeries as my cancer has made it's presence known again.  

I'm not sure where to start with this chapter of the story ….. I guess the beginning is as good as any! Throughout 2016 I had a few niggling symptoms and some pain, some of this was probably due to scar tissue formation and the consequences of the abdominal surgery I had when I was initially diagnosed with ovarian cancer.  So I had more scans and tests, but nothing concerning was found and I started to get on with the process of living again.  We were able to go on a holiday to Italy and visited Milan and Bologna, both such beautiful but contrasting cities.

In Milan we stayed in a wonderful Airbnb called 'The turquoise door', a quirky apartment in a crumbling courtyard hidden away from the hustle and bustle of the city.  We spent a couple of days walking along the canals of Milan, taking in the city, eating great food and making friends with the local cats.

Then we caught the train to Bologna, and Bologna stole our hearts! From the colour of the buildings, and the layout of the streets, to the people and the ice-cream, oh my the ice cream was so good!

We had a fantastic meal at the Drogheria della Rosa, Via Cartoleria 10, if you ever find yourself in Bologna I'd recommend trying to get a reservation there.  We had a table on the pavement, there wasn't really a menu but the most wonderful food kept arriving at our table and the wine kept flowing.  It was almost like theatre watching the owner interact and entertain his guests and that's what we were made to feel like, guests dining in his home.

And then life came to a standstill again …… one morning in October as I was in the shower I felt a lump, about the size of an egg, just above my hip sitting within the muscles of the iliac fosa; the pace of my heart quickened and that cold as ice feeling of fear spread from my head to my toes.  And so it was back to the doctors, first to my GP to ask was it normal to have a lump just above my hip? Apparently no it wasn't normal… cue a worried look from my GP and an emergency referral to the hospital.  Two weeks later my lump was being examined by gynaecological oncologist (try saying that quickly); who was slightly perplexed about where the lump was and what it could be, it was superficial (i.e. just under the skin and in the muscle) which was seen as good thing, but to be sure it was nothing to be worried about I was sent for an MRI scan.

Over the last few years I've had a number of MRI and CT scans and have become familiar with the routine of how they unfold.  From the reassuring voice that asks you to lie still and hold your breath to the comforting smile as they undo the straps that hold you onto the scanner bed once the procedure is over.  This time though it was different …. after the initial scan they decided to add a contrast dye into my veins; they brought me out of the scanner to set this up and that's when the radiographer spoke  to me asking 'how long ago did you find the lump?'  I guess it was not just the words that were said but there was something in the tone of his voice, that made my heart beat faster as my fight or flight response kicked in, and then and there I knew that this lump of mine was going to be trouble. Things happened quickly after this, there were many phone calls and hastily arranged appointments, my lump had nodules (apparently that's not a good sign) and was sitting very close to the peritoneum (the membrane that covers the internal organs of the stomach cavity); there was a possibility that the lump has grown through the peritoneum and into the ceacum (part of the large intestine). And so by the second week of December I found myself again in a backless NHS gown waiting to go down to theatre for surgery.  I cannot give enough praise for the NHS and the people who I encountered during this time; I feel so fortunate to have been in the care of one of the most considerate, patient, kind, articulate and skilled surgeons I have ever met.  I woke up from this surgery to find my surgeon waiting to speak with me; the lump had been contained within it's own packaging or membrane, so although he had made a large hole in my stomach muscles to remove it and had patched me back together with mesh my intestines were still intact as the lump had not grown past my peritoneum … happy days!  After three days I was back home with another scar (only a mere 15 cm this time) and beginning the process of recovery yet again.

Two days before Christmas the phone rang … even though the ring of the phone was just the same as it always is I had an ominous feeling about answering that call, though maybe in retrospect because of what I now know as I recall this I could put that ominous feeling down to prior knowledge!  The pathology results were back and what I feared most came true, the lump was ovarian cancer (clear cell carcinoma) again.  For a while I didn't want to name it, to say the word cancer out loud and own it so we kept this news to ourselves. It seemed wrong to bring our friends and family to this place of desolation we found ourselves in again over Christmas time.

Well the introduction to this new chapter has been rather along one, and there is more of this story to tell, but for now I feel like I should join the ends of the circle …. my last post was about a new years walk along the beach so I want to finish by sharing some pictures of an end of year beach walk for 2016.  I say walk it was more like a shuffle for me! Though I got to share it with some of my favourite people and we had an impromptu mitten photo session too!

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