Low, low, low

I have thought long and hard about writing this post. I have avoided writing it for a long time. At times, I thought maybe I just wouldn’t write it. But deep down inside, I knew I simply had to write it. In fact, I knew I had to write it since the evening of Friday 14th December 2012.

After a slight delay caused by the UTI episode, I resumed chemotherapy treatment. This was exactly the combination of toxic poisons I had been given a year ago but this time, the purpose was a post-surgical sweep to eradicate any residual microscopic cancer cells.

Before we even started chemo, there was a problem. My portacath had been removed during the urosepsis incident. No problem – I had another one inserted on the right side this time.

Chemo started but instead of cruising through it, this time was different. I felt tired, I felt lethargic, I felt listless. I felt fed up.

My 50th birthday came and went in November. My plans to hire a function room in a pub and get ‘I Am Not Left Handed’ to play under a banner ‘Emerging Victorious’ didn’t come to fruition.

December came with all the forced jollity of Christmas. Chemo sessions came and went every fortnight. I had to carry that damned baby bottle around for 48 hours after each session.

I felt shit. I felt low. I would wake up and think ‘Only 14 hours until bed-time’. I used to resent my children (both students) slothing around, getting up an 12 noon when I felt compelled to get up normally at 8 o’clock – just to appear ‘normal’.

Christmas approached. A rendezvous with my mates also loomed large. A year ago, I had opted out of a similar Xmas drink-up. This year, I had been determined to make it; after all, they were all travelling across London to a pub 200 yards from my house just to accommodate me. I felt shit. I didn’t feel like going out – even with my closest mates who I’d known for over 20 years and had been supporting me in recent times.

I was about to send the email to make my excuses and wuss out. Cancer’s great – you don’t need to justify anything like that anymore. No piss taking, no jokes – it’s universally and instantly accepted without question.

Before I could hit ‘Send’, a mate from Manchester said he was on a course in Oxford and would love to come down to London for the Friday night meet-up. Bollocks. I couldn’t cancel now – the decision had been made for me. Still, maybe that was for the best.

Friday 14th December arrived and I felt OK. In fact, I was quite looking forward to it. Steve came and parked his bags. We had a chat, he made the kids laugh and then we responded to the inevitable ‘WTF are you ?’ text message by trudging down to my local at 7.45pm.

It was fantastic to see them all. It was the best thing I could have done. I hadn’t see some of them since the start of my minor health issue. It didn’t matter – there was no awkwardness, no spontaneous tears, no stilted silences – just ‘What are you having, you old git ?’ and discussion about life, football and Hook Norton. Just like old times, in fact.

Maybe this was it – the turning point. Onwards and upwards from here.

I went to the toilet – I checked the condition of my modified waterworks. Fuck me – this bag was leaking. But I’d only changed it just prior to coming out, specifically to avoid this. I could always change the bag here and now in  cramped toilet like a Coke head sniffing white powder off the toilet cistern.

Fuck it – this was too much. I made my excuses and left ‘Sorry lads but I’ll have to call it a night. I’m a bit tired’.

Again, no challenges, no ‘Fuck off – it’s your bloody round, Get ’em in now’. Nothing. Just a slight look of surprise and some hurried good byes and Christmas greetings.

So that was it. 2012 was supposed to be the year of emerging victorious. Instead, I found myself in a pub, with my tracksuit bottoms streaked in piss, wishing my mates ‘Happy Fucking Christmas’.

I walked back home on the cold December night. I wouldn’t be going for a curry. I scurried home, made my excuses and immediately went up to bed. Half past 9 on a Friday night.

Suddenly and inexplicably, I just felt quite overwhelmed. I was in pieces.

16 months since my diagnosis, after all the chemotherapy, after all the radiotherapy, after all the consultations, after all the pills, after 14 hours of surgery, after cyberknife, after all the infections and after yet more chemotherapy, I was supposed to ’emerge victorious’. I had done it. I had beaten ‘Locally advanced, stage 4 colorectal cancer’. I could take my place in the survivor’s lounge. I could go on sponsored walks and give talks to my local Bowel Cancer Support group.

So that was it – a rather irritating 16 months out of my life but it was now over. Back to normal, back to work. Everything is now over. Finished. Well done, Andy.

Quite the contrary for me though – I felt very low during that final 12 weeks of chemotherapy and everything seemed to finally snowball and engulf me on the evening of Friday 14 December. Undoubtedly, my body didn’t cope with the chemo as well post-surgery as it had before but it just seemed that, emotionally, everything caught up with me.

All that pent up emotion, all those scans, the -ostomies, the minor procedures, the major surgery, the district nurses visits, the outpatients appointments, the ‘Get Well’ cards, the survivor guilt – all those emotions just seemed to overcome me.

It was as if 16 months ago, I couldn’t believe I had bowel cancer, now I couldn’t believe I’d beaten it.

Paradoxically, when I should have felt triumphant, I felt lower than I’d ever felt before.

But at least, I’d bought bacon, eggs and sausages for Steve’s breakfast.

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