Finish Line

It’s taken me a week to sit down and write this post. Partly due to how busy life is at the moment and also because the news is still sinking in. I’m all clear. No evidence of disease. Five years cancer free. Last Monday I travelled over to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham to meet with my specialist kidney cancer nurse to find out my scan results. I hadn’t been expecting good news. Over the past few weeks I’ve been feeling unwell. I’d had a suspected water infection and then after routine cervical cancer screening had been referred for another scan due to bleeding. My five year renal scan and chest x-ray came first and then a couple of weeks later a lower scan including bladder and ovaries. During this time I began to suffer from dizzy spells and was prescribed antibiotics. All in all I wasn’t on form but had thankfully completed my marathon run. I travelled to the QE by train having planned to meet my husband there. This gave me plenty of time to gather my thoughts which over the previous week or so had been far from positive. During the past five years I’d never felt as low and certainly hadn’t worried as much about results. In fact I’ve been extremely optimistic for the most part. However, the combination of feeling unwell and the symptoms had me fearing the worst. Add to this not having received a letter of all clear and my mind was in turmoil. I couldn’t get this far and not cross the finish line. The five year milestone had become my focus since training for the marathon, this story had to have a happy ending. The train took me straight to the University station which is a short walk from the QE. As I was early I sat a while people watching in the large open foyer, like so many others there I suspected this could be a life changing day. The traffic had been horrendous and parking wasn’t easy which meant that Johnny met me with only five minutes to spare. We made out way down to the outpatients waiting area where we had only a short wait before being called through to another waiting room. Before long my name was called and the nurse, Susan greeted me with a hug. When we last met – which was only our second time due to me having switched hospitals and our first without the consultant, I found out we had a lot in common. We were born on the same day a year apart and Susan was also a runner. I’d emailed in advance about my marathon and brought along both the half and full marathon medals to show her. We got chatting about running and Susan gave me a donation for the kidney cancer support network fundraising. I was so pleased John was there to meet her too and we talked about marathon training and how busy I was making wedding dresses. It then transpired that Susan had also been a dressmaker making holy communion dresses. The similarities kept on coming. It was time to get down to business and most important, results. It was then that Susan read from the scan report which told me that everything was normal. My remaining kidney was a good size and the left side renal bed showed no evidence of metastasis. The relief that flooded me was immense, my tears were falling before she’d finished reading. I had held so much worry and tension inside and it began draining away as the news sunk in. As I mentioned at the start, I’m still registering it, I feel as though I’ve cheated somehow and I’ll be caught out. Better still, I was then told that I could be signed off from consultant care and go back to visiting my GP. This isn’t to say that if I had any concerns I couldn’t contact Susan in future but I wouldn’t have to make the journey back and forth for scans and clinics. I confirmed that this was exactly what I wanted and it was time for me to say goodbye. First though I had to have some blood tests as my kidney function hadn’t been checked for twelve months. Susan walked us out to the waiting room and we hugged once more. It had taken nearly four years for me to see a specialist nurse. Heartlands didn’t have one and I wasn’t at Burton long enough to know. It had been worth the wait to meet such a dedicated and sincere professional, thank you Susan you made a dreadful experience so much better. The blood test was straightforward and we were soon on our way home. I kept repeating the same thing, it’s over. I am still saying those words to myself, I really am one of the lucky ones. I couldn’t wait to phone our girls with the good news and my Mom and family. Johnny took me for a meal to celebrate and later I went through my contacts texting everyone my wonderful results. The rest of the week was pretty normal. I’ve told a few more people and had plenty of hugs and well wishes but I haven’t felt the closure I expected. It’s like the cancer has left a scar that I can’t seem to cover up. Maybe it’s early days and kidney cancer is still part of my life – I’m writing about it now. Or maybe this is how it is, like grief. It leaves you but takes a little part away and that small piece leaves you questioning what might have been. In my case I had a successful fashion business, would it have grown? Is it time to revisit that now? Did cancer take my confidence as well as my kidney or is that just my age? So many questions still remain. Was it something I ate? Did I drink too much? Is it hereditary? Oh and the big one, will it come back? Who knows? What I do know is that I’ve ticked off the marathon and crossed that ultimate hurdle of five years cancer free. I’ve set myself a task of putting this blog into book form, a job which has taken a back seat lately due to the small matter of a wedding dress and four bridesmaids to complete in the next four weeks for our youngest daughter. Add to that the wonderful addition to our family of a first grandchild, Rudy Francis who has of course needed a lot of cuddles. When I started this blog I’d had a Rude Awakening. One day changed my life for ever. Not everything that kidney cancer has brought about has been for the worse though and if it’s possible to make the best of a bad experience I dont think I’ve done too bad. I’m most proud of the marathon which, to date has raised £1535 for Kidney Cancer Support Network and Facing up 2 Kidney Cancer. Thanks to everyone who’s supported me throughout. I’d like to think my kidney cancer experience can offer a little hope.

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