The ‘Times’ today (Feb 23 2017) published an article on the rise in the number of cancers diagnosed in England. For many years, it has been a hidden killer (it claimed the lives of both my mother and father) but our diagnostics are better than ever and the ‘cure’ rate is now more than 50%. This hides the trauma and pain suffered not just by those with cancer but by those who support them – their partners, their children and other family.
I had another check up this morning. This the annual diabetic check. Slightly apologetic, nurse explained that they would continue to show me as pre-diabetic as that ensured I was checked out annually. “However,” she went on, “all the signs are that you are not pre-diabetic as everything continues to improve”. My previous blood test showed high cholesterol, but this is down now and is normal to low. My kidney function continues to improve in the remaining kidney and my blood sugars are also low side of normal. Blood pressure is satisfactory, so all looks good.
The diet I have maintained for the last six years has reversed my Type 2 Diabetes, originally diagnosed in 2011. Not only has the diet improved my health generally, but it continues to improve it (described in Old Town New War). Shame then about the cancer really. “Any sign of results from the scan and the biopsies yet” I asked? Nothing on the computer system, so I must wait until the appointment with the consultant in three weeks. Waiting is worse than coming to terms with passing my 70th birthday a month ago. I had the same drive and ambition on passing 40, 50 and 60 as I did at 30. Passing 70 caught me out, and I am struggling to get the same positivity. This cancer fear is not helping.
“Fear” said the nurse “is natural when waiting for results”. In a recent post (‘Aftershocks Continue’ ) I wrote about the trauma of being called by the hospital over a missed appointment. One of my contemporaries from college, composer John Kerr (see http://www.johnkerr.nl/) contacted me after reading it as he too was expecting to be called for a scan by his hospital in the Netherlands. His results came faster than mine. Yesterday John said:
“Back from the AMC (hospital). Sadly, the results of my last scan are not so good. I have several lymph nodes (lymfklieren in Dutch) that are swollen (thanks to the NET cancer) and they have increased between 2 and 3 mm in size since my last scan 6 months ago. Not drastic, but not good. Also a new one between my lungs has been identified in the recent scan.”
I went in to have my biopsies take under general anaesthetic. “Ha” said the anaesthetist, “you’re the artist aren’t you, we’ve seen you before”. I said “that’s right – I’ve had four operations recently, I get a fifth free…” Mirth all around. I’m still laughing…
I keep retreating into the studio, but it is very difficult to stay creative with the fear of what my results will be when they come back. John’s cancer showed up in his scan. My biopsy samples must be grown in petri dishes before they can tell whether the redness in my bladder is new cancer or something else, and I won’t know that for another couple of weeks. Whilst the BCG treatment (see Cancer and Honeysuckle) was stunningly successful, bladder cancer is a pernicious little bugger with apparently a high rate of recurrence. Doh!
In one sense the operation was a relief, as I wasn’t sure when admitted whether it reflected problems with my remaining kidney or was an exploration of the bladder again, but no, the kidney continues to improve its performance so no worries there. So I came out of hospital with a bit of a bounce. The after effects of the general anaesthetic still haunt me slightly, and I sadly cannot join my partner in flying to South Africa on Monday. She wraps her love around me, and for a month whilst I wait to hear I will only have the builders for company, as we have programmed the new kitchen installation for whilst she is away.
My battle remains mental more than physical. My body will do what it will do if I nurture it properly. I am tired of treatments though. My veins rebel at needles. My nerves are shredded, but all I can do is endure and try to focus on my painting.
John too seeks solace in his music. As he says of his latest CD
“I’m a great believer in letting the music speak for itself and with my latest CD that’s no exception. But nevertheless, maybe you’re asking yourself what the music of “Embracing the Inevitable” is all about. Suffice it to say that it’s about turning around those negative situations that life sometimes deals us and focusing on the positive ones. It’s possible. I have personally proved it! “Embracing the Inevitable” is maybe my most personal, maybe my most emotional and maybe my last…”
I am working on another in the ‘Andreas Daisies’ series. The first is now in Seattle (my 4th work sold into the USA), and this is a larger and more complex third daisy image. It is strangely jittery working, not because of anything to do with the image, but entirely to do with the tests and operations of the last four months. The studio is my way of doing what John says, ‘turning around those negative situations that life sometimes deals us and focusing on the positive ones’.
I have written several pieces now about my relationship with cancer and our NHS. I hope there won’t be many more, but fear that there will be. I too must embrace the inevitable.
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Previous posts from the last four years detailing my experience with diabetes, cancer and treatments whilst struggling to get a work flow going in the studio include