Posts Tagged ‘Death Cafe’

I had some GOOD NEWS yesterday. After waiting nearly two weeks, for the results from my MRI scan, I finally got the call yesterday to say “there’s been no progression of your tumour”. I was hoping for something a little more concrete like “it’s shrunk by 75%” or “we made a mistake”, but apparently “no progression” is classed as a good response, so I’m slightly relieved in a deflated kind of way.

This means I can no longer use the original title for this post, that classic cancer-chemo anthem by The Verve  “The Drugs Don’t work”. I’m rather peeved that I’ve had to scrap it but never say never, there’s always the funeral.

The past two weeks have been pretty awful for me and everyone around me. Call it a mental volcano. I thought the diagnosis was the worst thing I would go through, but this has been a millions times worse. In my mind there has been no reduction in the size of the lump, and this worry, like the cancer has spread. My consultant tried to allay my fears before the MRI scan by reassuring me that it felt smaller, however nothing would convince me until I had the results. Hence the relief when the breast care nurse called yesterday to tell me “there’s been no progression”.  The only thing I can compare it to is the anti-climax you feel on finishing university, only without the p**s up & gap year to look forward to.

Over the last few weeks, I’ve taken out my mental torment on those closest to me. Usually this would be my parents, however they were on holiday, so the unfortunate victim was my lovely friend Lou, who suffered my grouchiness & short temper for a whole 10 days. Luckily Lou understood that my foul mood which culminated in an E-bay tantrum had absolutely nothing to do with my inability to process a refund, which incidentally is really difficult. It was more to do with the simple fact that I don’t want to die.

Next time someone comes to visit I will try to make sure there are no life-altering diagnosis waiting in the wings. One thing I did learn from this little drama is that you can’t send jewellery to Australia, so if anyone wants some dolphin jewellery I’m practically giving it away on E-bay. Apparently dolphins aren’t cool anymore. There’s also a unicorn-necklace up for grabs: don’t ask, it was an impulse buy.

When you’re waiting for the results of a scan that could determine the rest of your life, it’s hard not to let your head go to darker places.  Thoughts of tumours growing and spreading mean I’ve been thinking about death a lot recently. Death is something that healthy people don’t particularly like talking about. We all float along thinking we’re immortal until someone like me goes and gets cancer. The reality I face is that I could die before my time. Hopefully I have another 30+ years in me, however I also have to consider that my future is finite.

Most people’s response when talking about death is ‘don’t be silly’ or ‘don’t talk like that’ or ‘that’s not going to happen to you’. This makes it really difficult to chat about death openly with family and friends. Understandably they don’t want to consider the possibility of my early demise. For this reason the only place I feel I can talk openly about death is at the Maggie’s centre. Most at Maggie’s are patients, survivors, carers or people who have lost someone to cancer, so death and loss are easy topics of conversation. Maggie’s is perfectly situated right next to the Oncology unit at Ninewells hospital and it’s the place people go to either commiserate or celebrate their diagnosis. There’s no holding back there, and there’s always someone to give you a hug if you’re having a bad day.

I’ve recently been reading about Death Cafes, a  movement originating in Switzerland which is now gaining popularity throughout Europe and the US. Death Cafes are places where people can meet and chat openly about death & dying. Let’s face it, we are really rubbish at talking about death in this country and few of us have religion or the death rituals it provides, so Death Cafes are filling a massive void. Bernard Crettaz, who conceived the first Cafe Mortel in Switzerland, said that when death was ‘liberated from the tyranny of silence’, people were ‘born in authenticity’. In other words: talking about and accepting death, enables you to live and gain more meaning from life.

Death is a subject we should all get more comfortable with talking about. You can’t hide from it and it’s something we all have in common: WE ARE ALL GOING TO DIE!

All this talk of death will hopefully be resolved in a few months time when I’ll be given the figures. With breast cancer, oncologists use a tool called the Nottingham Prognostic Indicator (NPI) to determine prognosis following treatment and surgery. They look at the size, stage and spread of the cancer to estimate how long you will live. In a few months time I will be given a magic number which will effectively predict my chances of surviving for the next 5-10 years. I can’t wait.

Anyway enough talk about death. For the first time since my diagnosis I can safely say that ‘the lump’ actually feels smaller. I’ve got four cycles of chemotherapy under my belt now. I used to dread it, but now I know it’s working, I’m looking forward to the next one. Number five is on Friday and only one more to go after that. The end is in sight.

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