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Thank you, from people like me

The story of the lady and the dog...

[A note from Guy: if you walked The MoonWalk Scotland you probably came across this lady and her dog. We tracked her down and this is her story. Tissues ready…you have been warned  ]

My dog, Jason the Shetland Sheepdog, and I will be standing at the top of Broughton Street, as we did last year – so when we see you, it will only be about a mile downhill to finish. We want to say a big thank you to everyone, organisers, walkers, cleaners, volounteers and parks department staff, from people like me who have had cancer for 11 years now and would not be here today if it was not for the new medicines that your fund raising is helping to pay for. I am currently taking a new type of chemo that is still allowing energy and not just sending me to bed!!

This means that I will be able to stand upright long enough to see you, without riding poor Jason! But I wish i could walk with you – maybe one day. If like last year, we have to leave before the last group passes, we are sorry to miss you,and wish you well and at least I am able to say thank you to you too albeit through a computer. Anyone wanting a face wash – Jason will be only too happy to oblige!!
Let us hope for no rain.
Fiona, Jason and Jamie (not a sheepdog – my son)
Xxx woof

The story of the lady and the dog

Hi, my name is Fiona and I have had cancer for eleven years now. My son, Jamie, was only five years old when I was initially diagnosed with the breast cancer. Six years into the fight (with a bottle of champagne in the fridge ready to wash the last tamoxifen tablet down) the cancer renewed its assault as bone cancer (and recently into my liver). Every now and then I experience a new pain: I thought I had a trapped nerve in my shoulder; my left hand went to jelly; I couldn’t pick up a paper hanky; I  even dropped the Xmas turkey when I took it out the oven – although only one potato rolled of the tray!! I blamed myself, I thought I had damaged my shoulder, little did I know! Following a somewhat ‘hasty’ attempt to mutilate a hedge with a hedge trimmer – I was only trying not to be late for school pick up!! – the doctor found that the cancer had returned and ‘eaten’ two bones in my neck, changing them into cream cakes– the surgeons’ words not mine!! The ‘cream’ was squishing out on to the spinal cord and radiating down to my hand. There was nothing wrong with my shoulder at all. Images of Nearly Headless Nick from Harry Potter teased me whenever I daydreamed. However the wonderful Doctor performed the most amazing surgery under microscopes. He removed all the ‘cream’ and inserted a plastic ‘spacer’ which he adjusted to my height, then secured it with a titanium cage held in place by four screws! If I get a screw loose, then it has a slightly different, and might I add more worrying, meaning! I woke up from the operation, scared to move my head, lest it fall off! – But I needn’t have bothered; I didn’t even have a neck brace – only a small sticky plaster over a tiny cut in my neck! I could move my hand. I could pick up the bed sheets. I had no pain at all and perfect movement in my neck. Also, I could get up and walk… I felt alive. The operation had removed both the cancer and the fear. I had radiotherapy, after the cut had healed just to make sure the rest of the bones were strong, and my enemy was defeated. I am monitored with frequent scans now.

Cancer means a lot of different things to a lot of different people. The one thing it no longer means is certain death, due to your hard work raising funds for Breast Cancer Research and all the various organisations. Being a veteran in the game of palliative care I have seen such a massive improvement to the treatment, counselling, medication and surgery methods over the years. The vast majority of people caught early have no recurrence. New medicines are being licensed all the time, improving and prolonging our lives. I speak to others like me in the three different hospitals I frequent, and the Maggie’s Centre – we all really appreciate everything you do for people like us. We all want to say thank you.

Cancer is something that affects all areas of life, it is always at the back of the mind, but I have learned to live at peace with the monster within. Some aspects, though, are rather… unusual…

Take for example wash day. Yes the sun does shine in Edinburgh in my back garden! Yes this is my collection of wigs on the line – not slain furry creatures as my son calls them! After four lots of chemo with three of those in the last two years, things are a bit draughty up top. Jamie has a few phrases – A wig a day keeps the baldness away! A wonderful friend and fellow patient, Agnes, tragically died in November, but her legacy continues; the Wig Bank. People donate their wigs and they are washed and sterilised then resold from £10 dependant on hair length. There are a number of kind people hosting wig banks throughout the UK.Check the website. £5 of every sale goes to the Maggie’s Centre. I find if I wear a different wig each day, they do not itch (“any excuse to buy more” – Jamie). The NHS allows only one wig prescription per chemo and to purchase new they are all well over £100!! Yet using the Wig Bank I am lucky; for a lot less than the price of a haircut, I can match my hair colour and style to my clothes! I must make sure I tighten up the wig before next year’s Moonwalk as the red hair I had on Sunday morning was new and kept slipping off with all the hugs!!

Cancer hits the family harder than the cancer victim because while the patient takes the medicine and does something about it, the family can do nothing but sit back and watch, helpless, just holding hands. Sometimes the family is not able to talk about it with the patient, so the person feels alone – that’s when the Maggie’s Centre and the MacMillan Nurses help by providing counselling for all the family and a place for fellow survivors to meet and calm the mind. Just someone to talk to that has already been in  that situation, makes all the difference. This is where some of your hard earned money goes. Thank you from people like me.

Last year 2011, was my first Moon. I went to support the Team 3C’s. This was their second Full Moonwalk. Well done Caroline, Cally and Claire! I started off as if on a long dog walk, just Jason and myself at 4am, wandering up the hill to the top of Broughton St. I had my little bit of cardboard saying “Thank You from People like me”– I expected you would all forget about us by the end of the block! I was so proud of you all and was so happy to say it was all downhill from where I was – exactly 1.2 miles to the finish line!! I spent most of the time crying!! It was so emotional – in a good way – The glowing sensation felt like I was warming myself by the fireplace on a cold winter’s night. I stayed there till my legs grew stiff; after all I had to walk home too!! I received a phone call later from Caroline saying everyone was chatting on Facebook about us!! I just couldn’t believe it. We had made a difference to you!!

This year nothing would have stopped me from supporting again and to try and help with the last mile. Also I had three new friends to cheer on: Louisa, a fellow survivor just finished treatment, and Danielle, one of my fantastic Nurses, walking with her Mum. As well of course Caroline and Cally who were going for Moonwalk number three. Jamie has heard me talk about it all year (“she says talk, I say go on about it non-stop, like a lunatic” – Jamie). So he said he would come too. He had a great job of handing out fun size chocolates (“And resisting the urge to eat them…” – Jamie). We were sorry when the bucket ran out. A few hundred sweets are sadly outnumbered by a few thousand walkers! I am sorry we could not see, encourage and feed everyone.

We took the car this year so I could have a chair, and did not have to carry all the buckets of sweets, because at the moment I am not at full strength as I am in the middle of chemo, but it is a new chemo for secondary patients and I am not sent to bed by it!! I still have a life – it is fantastic. I should have been half dead in bed as I had had a dose only that Wednesday before, but I had plenty of energy. Thank you from people like me.

I wrote a note on the Forum on the Friday to wish everyone good luck and thank those I would not personally see such as the half-moonwalkers. I have never written anything on anything before, so it took about a week to actually do it!! I had so many replies, I could not believe it. You are such a wonderful bunch of people and you have made us so welcome into your family. I am so proud to be able to represent what you are all making such a supreme effort to help.

To get a disease or not to get a disease, that is the question. Looking on the bright side of life from within the silver lining of my cloud whilst drinking a glass which is half-full I think it is a mixed blessing. I have now met so many new friends and now have a disabled badge, so I can park outside the shops on the single yellow line!! (I would actually prefer to be able to walk though (“I wouldn’t…” – Jamie) ) I was so excited when Jo asked me to write this blog, that I jumped in the car on Friday in the rain to take a few photos. My photo below of the banner tied every year to the bridge between two buildings at the Western General Hospital from the Radiotherapy Unit to the Cancer Ward One is a bit sad – the gale force wind we had in the night sent the banner onto the roof – so the photo you see at the start I stole from Facebook – thanks to whoever took it! The Castle from the park, in the rain with only yellow grass to show where the Pink City was, Arthur’s Seat when Jason was a pup and who needs a tree for a happy family Xmas.

I am looking forward to Hugs next year. Have a happy, healthy year.

I would just like to say thank you – from me – 11 years and still going strong.

(“Thank you from me, I still have a Mum.” – Jamie)

Thank you from Jason the Sheltie, he still has a dog walker and food provider.

But most importantly,

Thank you from people like me.

From Guy:

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