The first chemotherapy session was booked in to start at lunchtime on Friday 8th November 2013. The day before, after I’d had my hair cut short, Harriet came to the flat to take a blood test and to give me some tablets to take before the first session. It was called Emend, an industrial-strength anti-emetic, and it came in a pack of three. I had to take one tablet 1 hour before my appointment, a second the day after and the third on Sunday. Harriet explained that this was so that I wouldn’t feel so sick, but that they would still give me more anti-emetics before and after the first session. I remember thinking, Jesus, they’re really laying it on thick here…but believe me, I needed everything I could get.
After the appointment with Dr Shah, whereby he had told me I would lose my hair, I became determined to lose it on my own terms. The thought of losing my hair became hurtful, like a stab in the heart; since I had always had long hair and had been working so hard to grow it for the wedding, it felt like I was taking a kicking whilst I was down. Still, it wasn’t going to be a permanent thing and I had to focus on preparing for the task at hand – evicting my squatter. So, the day after meeting Dr Shah for the first time, I made a decision. I was going to cut my hair short so that when it did fall out, losing it wasn’t as hard to come to terms with. Better still, someone could make use of my hair, so why not donate it?
All Systems Go
Little did I know that this was probably going to be the busiest week I had ever known – there was so much to do. When we got back from the doctors that evening we were full of positivity; this was going to get sorted out. They knew what to do with it and it hadn’t spread.
Dr Shah and Lady Stark
Sitting in the waiting room at Pinehill that evening I tried to remain calm. I’d been given the name of a Dr Shah; at the time I had no idea he was an oncologist; I’d had to ask the receptionist and when she answered me, she looked surprised that I’d not even looked him up. It was me, Mum and Andy sat there; we’d been in silence for most of the wait. It wasn’t long before a lady came out of the office with her husband, wearing a headscarf, looking a bit worse for wear. I tried not to look because I knew that was shortly going to be me and I was too angry to look.
CT Scan, Board Games and Cancer Face
The next morning I think I woke up with a sense of disbelief. I had my appointment at 11am to have my CT scan and I had a number of things I had to do to prepare for it.
The results took a good week or so to come back. Again I tried to put it out of my mind; tried to relax and focus on the future and this awesome new opportunity that was coming my way. I handed in my notice at Capgemini and spoke to the HR director at the new place to ask them a few questions about the private healthcare benefit; Dr Raza had said I’d probably need surgery so it was reasonable to expect that I would probably have to use the health benefit to pay for the surgery. My old boss was understanding; he asked me if I would be willing to take time off in lieu of notice, seeing as I wasn’t working on any projects, so I gratefully accepted a few weeks’ gardening leave before I started the Big New Job.
Tests, Doctors and Realisation
The night we got home from Turkey I couldn’t sleep; I just wanted 8:30am to arrive so that I could get Molls off to nursery, ring the GP and get this thing sorted out. I am never good at waiting; if there is something on my mind, I just want it sorted out there and then otherwise I have a tendency to sit there and brood. Fortunately some good news distracted me – I had a job offer! They were just in the process of putting the details together when I got home but I was really happy to be going to work for this company.
You Can’t Ignore it Forever
Back to reality, a sense of relief set in that the wedding was over, we were married and I didn’t have to worry about it any more. We were on a high from it; despite a few cockups on the part of the venue we were generally satisfied. As our families dissipated back to their homes i Yorkshire, Hertfordshire and Scotland; friends went back to Rugby, Bedford, Swindon and to London, it was all systems go once more as we got everything into the car, dumped it off at home and sped off for Stansted airport ready for our 2pm flight.
So how did all this cancer nonsense begin? Well, in typical Gemma style, it wasn’t as simple as all that, since everything else in my life got going at around the same time.
World Cancer Day – Setting the Scene
I feel compelled today, since it’s been on my mind recently, to actually start to put into words the story of what happened to me a few years back. My own words, not words smartly arranged into how I wish the experience had been – pretty lies told by skilled journalists. It started when I saw people posting the thing on Facebook for World Cancer Day and I got so annoyed I started to write a Facebook post about it. Then thought actually, no, it’s time to actually use more than just a few characters and start writing something personal that makes sense to me. I don’t even care if none of my friends read it; I’m not writing this for them. I’m writing this for me and any other person who’s had to endure this nonsense at a young age and found the internet mostly full of death stories. When I found out I had cancer, I wanted to see something positive; that people CAN survive, that it doesn’t always spread. The internet is full of blogs and stories about people whose cancer has spread. Mine started to but we headed it off; that’s the story I wanted to read. But I also went fishing for details, the stuff they don’t tell you about survival, and that’s where I also found a lot of stuff missing.