T + 621 Happy Birthday Cancer

Today, the 30th May 2010, is the third anniversary of my diagnosis of Mantle Cell Lymphoma (MCL).

So...Happy Birthday, Cancer.

Of course technically my cancer is older than three years. It had clearly been going on for months and maybe years before I got the diagnosis but let's call that the gestation period and my cancer was given life on the 30th May 2007.

That is actually quite fitting as, on the fallacious premise that ignorance is bliss, prior to my diagnosis, for all practical purposes I didn't have cancer, or rather it had no impact on my life. Aside from a painless lump on my jaw I had no symptoms, it hadn't made me ill. From the 30th May everything changed, from then on there was MCL and me.

I've looked back over the entries I've made in this blog on the last two anniversaries. Two years ago I was in hospital undergoing my initial rounds of chemo. One year ago I was just starting to go back in to the office two days a week and trying to reduce the steroid dose I was on to combat my GVHD.

This anniversary finds me in at the office three days a week, off steroids since January and six weeks into the first reduction or taper in my ciclosporin anti-rejection drug. That's progress right there when you lay it out like that. If I wanted to balance things up I could mention I'm on hydrocortisone because my adrenal glands are still wonky and thyroxine because my thyroid has packed up altogether. Those are two minor downers in relation to the positive progress I've made.

I go the cinema or theatre every few weeks, eat out at restaurants now and again and get to meet up with friends in public places. I've even been on a bus!

I've got something approaching a normal life or if you prefer approaching the sort of life I used to have before I had the diagnosis. The restrictions or differences I still have are having to avoid anyone with a cold, cough or other infection, eating a relatively clean diet (though I push the boundaries now and then with a take away or a couple of lettuce leaves), avoiding crowded places or limiting my exposure to them at least.

Then there are the more medical impositions on my daily life like the 12 or so tablets I take each day, trips to the clinic every four to six weeks and a twice daily routine of applying a heavy moisturiser to most of my body. (Still at least the last will help me maintain my youthful looks. Stop sniggering at the back there.)

Taken as a whole I'd have to say I don't have much to complain about, and yet I still feel like complaining (though to whom I don't really know), so indulge me in a few moments of railing against the wind as it were. The fact that I am so close to not having any restrictions imposed on me by my condition is ironically what makes it so frustrating. I've got it into my head that once I'm off the ciclosporin and as a result most of my other drugs as well then everything will be better.

The reality of course is that it will not make that much difference in what I can do day to day and it won't make any difference to the usual trials and tribulations of work and home and life in general that everyone faces from time to time. I've mentioned before about trying not to let cancer take over my life but this is the first time I've considered the other side of that coin namely trying not to let it take the blame for things either or using it as an excuse for doing or not doing something.

I often use drafts of this blog and occasional long emails to friends to work things out in my head and then usually I delete the bulk of it and, to steal from mathematical exams, just show the problem and the solution or conclusion I have made but not any of my workings. I'm not going to do that this time as I've always said that I want this blog to be as honest as it can be to help anyone going through similar things see the experiences I have had and draw what comfort and lessons they want from it.

If it all sounds a bit whiney well so be it. Sometimes I can whine as well as the next man.

One thing I can't finish without mentioning is the support I get from my family and friends. You know who you are and I hope you know how much I appreciate you.


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