my journey to health and well being via exotic destinations


in which I ponder living with cancer

I had thought about changing the title of this blog since I have decided to hijack it to share my latest excitements. But then I thought, this is a journey, not in the traditional sense, but one that will chart my travelling from illness to health, from fear to confidence, and from anxiety to a state of mental well-being.

This inspiration came thanks to Mark G, who alerted me to a BBC World Service programme on the Rhetoric of Cancer, presented by a prostate survivor (like Ross) Andrew Graystone. In it he questions the use of all this aggressive and belligerent military terminology: after all, our tumours are a part of us – better to embrace them, stop being a victim and learn how to live with it.

So this blog is going to be more about how I come to terms with my cancer, as I did with Louise’s death, the ups and downs, uncertainties and anxieties but, above all, how I will live with it until the journey ends with my physical and mental wholeness.

About to tuck into Black Pepper Crab on Saturday night

About to tuck into Black Pepper Crab on Saturday night

One of the great lessons I learned from Louise’s death is the benefit of sharing grief and troubles. My immediate Facebook entry the day she died produced such a fountain of love and support that it really helped pull us through the most terrible time of our lives.That’s why as soon as I heard the ominous word ‘tumour’ I decided, stranded as I am in Singapore, to share again and with as much honesty as I can bear. It has paid dividends…so many wonderful warm and loving messages (less of the beating and fighting now please!), and offers of help of all kinds. I feel embraced and enfolded in an aura of love and unconditional support. Thank you dear friends.

The other main reason for this blog is to keep all you lovely people updated so I don’t have to endlessly repeat myself.

So here goes:

I have had my dark night of the soul – described in the last blog – where I allocated my prized possessions to my dearest friends; where I made a bucket list of  ‘Things to do and see before I die’. But now I find I have taken back my belongings and converted that list into another trip to Mana Pools next August, a diving holiday on a fabulous boat in Raja Ampat and a three week trip to Burma. Not bad for someone staring death in the face a few days ago! Reflecting my Carpe Diem mentality, I have always believed in having things to look forward to.

We have now decided that I will be treated at the Marsden. By amazing coincidence Dr Fi was at a conference of early diagnosis cancer specialists on the day she got my text, and a quick survey of the assembled docs pointed to the Marsden, the main reason being the Marsden’s multidisciplinary team approach, so it’s a one-stop shop of excellence. Thanks to another extraordinary coincidence, one of the Marsden surgeons Prof Khong has recommended, Meirion Thomas, is not only a soft tissue sarcoma expert but he also specialises in saving legs…and just happens to be a very good friend of chum Pen. So that’s easy then.

The next dilemma has been whether to go NHS or private: you see the same people whichever route you choose. However, new NHS regs mean that every step of the way is dictated by a referral process, which can take up to 2 weeks…even my GP (who nearly fell off her chair when I rang her, the sarcoma is so rare) agreed that to go private has to be the best option. Someone who does not have insurance can benefit from my place in the queue.

Prof Khong has wanted me to stay here for a couple of weeks to decrease the possibility of a DVT on the flight back, and to give the wound a chance to heal. So our flights are all booked back on 10 December, with my Marsden appointment on 11th. The leg is still painful, wrapped in a huge bandage, which I haven’t dared to take off yet. I think the wound isn’t so bad, it’s just the tumour pressing on the nerves again.

My lovely leg, a single stitch and very little bruising, about 4 inches long...

My lovely leg, a single stitch and very little bruising, about 4 inches long…

But in one of those heart-in-your-mouth moments that I suspect is only the first of many, this morning I hear that Prof Thomas would like me to come back asap. Of course, this immediately makes me feel very anxious…I had been reassured that the cancer would not spread in two weeks, so I am left wondering what is so urgent. I know that my sarcoma is very rare but we won’t know exactly what sort it is, and therefore how best to treat it, until Wednesday, when the histology comes in. As someone said, ‘Trust you Vix to have the rarest form of cancer. You always do things in style’.  And another complimented me on being a ‘rare bird’. Indeed.

So trot back to see Prof Khong, who unbandages me and all looks good, albeit the cut rather longer than I had imagined. He agrees that so long as I take the anti-clotting jabs in my tum (self inflicted!) and wear these lovely stockings – see photo – I can go as soon as the results are in and the slides ready. So now booked to leave on Saturday 30, arriving Sunday 1 December. Are you ready London?

My sexy stockings, that I have to wear until I start my treatments...

My sexy stockings that I have to wear until I start my treatments…

He says that many of these sarcomas don’t respond to radiotherapy and there’s a 50% chance that they may operate immediately. Forewarned is forearmed. I’m ready for anything….

Meanwhile, we have a dear friend, JP, from Barbados staying. We have been out to some delicious meals, albeit me on a stick and not able to walk more than a few yards. And tonight I’m cooking one of my famous Thai Green Curries. But what the hell – a girl’s gotta have fun!

Ross and JP at Indochine last night

Ross and JP at Indochine last night