Monday, 11 July 2016

6 years on.

12th July is a significant day for me – 6 years ago today I had my last radiotherapy treatment at The Beatson in Glasgow. I remember walking out of the oncology unit into the bright sunshine and suddenly bursting into tears.  I spent the journey all the way back home to Isle of Bute crying in the back of the patient transport ambulance.

I should have felt at least happy, although maybe not elated, that it was all over. Having been diagnosed with womb cancer on 23rd Dec 2009 and then starting 2010 with a hysterectomy followed by chemotherapy and then radiotherapy, I should have felt some sense of relief that it was all over.
Instead I felt scared and afraid for the future. My safety net had been pulled from under me and I had no idea what would happen next.
My treatment had ended just 5 days before my 47th Birthday, yet even then I didn’t feel like celebrating. 

Cancer does this to you – it changes your life forever, especially if you are unlucky enough to be left with long term side effects and health issues. There is no returning to normal – or anything resembling normality!
I hadn’t realised until the other day that 12th July also marks another anniversary – 14 years this year since we moved to Isle of Bute. A small island on the west coast of Scotland.

I’d always wanted to live by the water. I’m a Cancerian after all so it was bound to happen sooner or later. It’s the first place I’d truly felt I could call home after leaving home at 19 to get married.
Our flat is tiny, on the first floor, and we have no garden but the view every morning when I open the curtains is worth it.

The first 7 years were great – long walks around the island or along the beaches. It didn’t matter that the flat was tiny because we were hardly ever in it. Then my health started to deteriorate  and one thing lead to another and eventually I got my cancer diagnosis.
Since then, life has been an uphill struggle, for myself and my husband. His health has also suffered as he became my carer. Far from spending most of the time out of the flat I am now virtually housebound, rarely venturing out. My health has suffered dramatically as a result of the cancer treatment and my quality of health is very low.  My GP has told me to just accept it because things are “as good as they are going to get”.

Knowing what I know now, I would not have had the chemotherapy or the radiotherapy. I felt pressured into agreeing to it and the full side effects and long term consequences were never explained to me.
Part of what I try to in my work running Womb Cancer Support UK is to empower women to ask questions – and keep asking if they don’t get the answers they want or understand the answers they are given.  We have a right to know the full extent of any possible side effects – we can only give our informed consent if we are given all the facts.

I feel cheated out of the past 6 years of my life.  6 years that I could have spent walking along the beaches, or going camping or walking in the hills – enjoying my life. Instead I have been left with a load of health issues that are all interrelated and with me for the rest of my life.
I’m upset, bitter and angry. I also want to do what I can to make sure that other women don’t have to go through what I’ve gone through.  Empowerment is the key and by sharing my story I hope that other women will feel able to stand up for themselves and get all the information they need to make the right decisions for them.

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