Survivor Chemo

This week is all about survival. For authenticity I’ve thrown in a tribal council, an immunity challenge and a reward. I wake early and ready for work at around 5 a.m. At five in Qatar it’s still dark, the house is quiet and there’s work to be done in Melbourne where it’s midday. Work is by far the best distraction I’ve found, a boss who makes me giggle and a team who share the weekend’s activities. Slowly but surely as the morning goes by the wheels start to fall off and I make my way back to bed for intermittent recovery sessions.

Chemo and I have an understanding. A good night’s sleep means a good morning. A few hours work means a couple of hours rest. It only lasts for a few days but the rules must be adhered to. The bath is the place to get rid of the aches and pains, it is there that season 28, episode seven can be played in the background. Jeff Probst shows the rewards: the basics of food and water,  flint and some rice, and the much coveted immunity necklace. I sit with my own supplies I’ve researched over the net. Claritin will dull the joint pain, ginger biscuits ease the nausea, and drugs with names which sound like poison. While I watch survivors merge tribes, attempt puzzles and outlast each other in the rain I shuffle through cold sweats, vague nausea and the dullest of headaches.

“I can’t do this again” I was breaking the news to G as he gently rubbed my back.

“Yes you can, and next time you’ll be at the beach and it will be the last one and we’ll be done. You can do this.”

There is nothing he can do to make it any better and I can hear the pain that it’s causing him in his voice.

Only a couple of days earlier I’d taken him to a place he hadn’t considered. It was my own little trip to the dark side and I’d thrown him in the car for the ride. It began with a note on the screen. A time to reflect and say thank you to the woman who’d started a Facebook page for young breast cancer survivors. It was the anniversary of her death. I had no idea she’d passed, I’d assumed she’d got better. One click had me somewhere I really shouldn’t have been. We shared the same type of cancer – triple negative. The bastard type that’s more likely to make a reappearance. Off I went. The stats for triple negative aren’t good. The recurrence, the spread, the metastatic nature. I found more and more evidence to back up that I was eventually to be riddled with cancer. The pain in my rib definitely meant it was in my bones. The fuzziness of vision attributed to the chemo drugs was surely an undiagnosed brain cancer. It was bound to be in my ovaries, surely it was under my skin. Why wouldn’t it be? In my own personal game of survivor I’d banished myself to the doldrums of exile island – and shamefully taken hostages.

“You don’t really think it’ll come back?” G said meekly from the couch.

I said nothing. The truth was that I didn’t know. Yes, my odds were good, nine out of ten were alive in five years, ten years, but there had to be that one, right? Was that me?

I fell asleep last night with a child on either side of me – it was 7pm and they were starting a new series. This time Jeff was in Nicaragua. I incorporated the actions on the screen into my dream. I swam, built a fire and fought for immunity.

This morning when I woke it was that little bit better. The fog somehow lifting. While it’s still a struggle to get up and down the stairs I can see that it’s going to be better tomorrow and then even better the next day. I’ve somehow found that little piece of strength that pulls you through. I’ve gained positivity, the pity party is coming to a close.

I will get this last chemo done. I will get better. I will be alive in ten years. There is no doubt, today. Outwit, outlast, outplay. Survive. My odds are good.

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