Some of the people I have met so far – I am presuming this is only the first instalment of such a post.

I think it goes without saying that all of these people are my friends. Everyone I meet obviously is.

The girl in her mid to late 20s who just had everything cancer and chemo thrown at her and came to ask me about losing my hair and how quickly it happened and what she should do. I told her she would look amazing and to enjoy it. I explained that the head shaving party with your nearest and dearest is fun and liberating and whatever she did, to make sure she had fun and owned it, regardless. She left smiling. I haven’t seen her again since. But I know she’ll be fine. Her attitude was great.

The lady who was having chemo and then stem cells put in a couple of days later. Her chemo went for 30mins on the day we were both in Ambicare, and she had to chain-eat ice lollies which she hated, so she complained and I kept telling her how jealous I was. We became friends after that. I was excited to see her the next day when the fire alarm went off. I liked her. For getting her stem cells in two days later she had to drink loads of water and she came and found me in the Cotton Rooms at breakfast and complained that she didn’t want to drink any more water. But she might not be able to get the stem cells if she didn’t. so I made her promise she would go and drink a whole lot more before she went over. I didn’t get to see her again but I hope she won. Since then I have seen many people have to chain-eat ice lollies in the same way and none of them like it. I did hear one person once had about 12 in one go though so obviously some people don’t mind it.

The lady who must have been about to start chemo because she was about to have her PICC line put in (I later found she was actually re-starting chemo). She had some time to kill before the appointment so she was popping out to grab a coffee and asked if I wanted anything. I said thanks, but I would probably pop out on my own later. I saw her again later, me with coffee in hand, and held it up to her asking if she had enjoyed hers. She said she had, and came and asked me advice for keeping my bald head warm. It is always fun to chat about these things with people and I am always happy to give some advice where I can.

The man I met in the Cotton Cove, the common room at the Cotton Rooms. He was maybe in his 50s, and he was so lovely and a lot of fun. I am glad to have met him and his son. Very good people. It turns out he has myeloma (I think that’s what it was called) – one of those scary blood and bone ones. It’s in his blood and spine. Turns out he’d had it for about a year before anyone knew. He had a sore back and apparently it was due to having multiple spinal fractures, which were pushing down on the same part of his spine. Wow. How do you go about life not knowing you have multiple spinal fractures! He will never be cured, but he will be in remission for any amount of time, maybe many years. But then he will probably need treatment again. His treatment is a lot shorter than mine at least. Of course I am never happy due to someone else’s misfortunes in the slightest, but it’s often quite easy to think how good I’ve got it when I have these people around me who have quite some misfortune. With the exception of my extensive chemo (not many people beat me on that), the majority of people are doing the cancer thing a lot rougher than me. Power to you all. I’m here for you and with you.

The guy who I met in the kitchen/dining room with his mum. She was helping him make some food. He was worrying about the next week when he would be on his own. I said I would be around to help him. I saw him again the next week and he said he had been hoping to see me. We chatted and laughed. It turns out he’d had a really bad motorbike accident and was in for 3 weeks straight having intensive physio. Not everyone in the Cotton Rooms is part of the cancer crew. He was lovely. This is his third week so I hope I see him one more time.

…Heroes!

I’ve been seeing things about ‘carers’ for people with cancer. Like… paid carers are a thing sure, but also partners, parents, probably children in some cases, maybe friends… Still makes me think more of terminal people who are slowly dying and need constant care. Probably mostly what this term is meant to mean. Though to be fair, most people in Ambulatory Care have at least one or even two people with them at all times. I don’t, but I don’t feel like I need someone there with me constantly!

Anyway, then I came across them described as ‘hidden carers’. I don’t think any of this applies to me as much as some people, but Macmillan describes a carer as (and this is a bit abridged on my part):

‘Someone who provides unpaid support to a family member or friend who could not manage without this help. Not everyone identifies with the term carer. You may think of yourself as a partner, family member or friend who is just doing their bit to help. Caring can mean many things including helping with everyday chores, being a good listener, helping with personal care. The person who spends the most time looking after someone with cancer is usually referred to as their main carer.’

Charlie definitely does more than his normal share of washing up dishes these days when I’m not feeling very strong, he does more cooking than usual (though I think he’s just happy to have me out of the kitchen, no longer able telling him what he should do and in what specific way… Control freak? Oh ya).

Our life has definitely needed to turn into nights spent on the couch (binge watching First Dates – cringe but whatever) instead of being out every night, and me whining at him to come home and entertain me because I’m bored. Though we do as much as we can and still get out and do things!

But on top of that, he’s there if I need him to be, even taking a day off work if I have a tricky appointment or something I need him there for. He uproots his life for 3 out of every 5 weeks to live in a hotel with me and live off oven meals and takeaways. Never a complaint from him. He puts up with a lot, but I don’t think he necessarily sees it that way.

He runs out to get things for me from the shop when I’m connected to all my bags of chemo and have something I desperately want (Apple juice! Chocolate milk! Grapes! Potato salad!), and really just does the little things that are difficult for me to do like running downstairs to grab the takeaway (I don’t run anywhere very fast when I have to strap all my chemo bags on to me first!).

Not to mention he likes me bald and hasn’t been deterred by the tubes or anything. Not even by those couple of times he injected me because I couldn’t do it, or when he shaves my head for me every Saturday morning. Also he remains a calming influence when I get bothered by things, like that time my backpack alarm was going off at 10pm at night and I was a bit scared…

I still don’t think the word ‘carer’ is quite right because I don’t really necessarily need him to ‘care’ for me, and I don’t think he thinks he’s ‘caring’ for me, I’m still pretty self sufficient, but he definitely deserves a shout out. A huge one. Or 20. For everything extra he’s taken on, and all the things he’s done to help out. He’s amazing.

Thanks love, you’re my hero.

There, now that’s a more fitting word.