With apologies to Sir Winston Churchill for the title but rather than feeling in a celebratory mood, as folks think I should be, I am actually in rather somber mode. My heart wants to celebrate all six rounds of the Chemothon completed but my body and my mind are most definitely not in that place yet.
First and most important of all, I want to say a massive thank you to the amazing team of chemo nurses at York District Hospital. I won't be able to remember all their names but these ladies are angels and whatever they are paid, it is not enough. So thank you Wei, whose son went to university in Edinburgh on the same day as number 4 child and who is the most gentle of souls. Thank you to Chateau Shirley who told me I absolutely could drink alcohol throughout the whole process. Thanks and congratulations too to Jo, who administered the first round and in the meantime has had a baby; Cheryl who gave me the 'man up' lecture on the phone when I was at my lowest ebb; Laura who is apparently going to Verona to the opera with my beloved (!) and Jenny who gave me my last round on Friday. Thank you with all my heart - you may have saved my life.
Also a massive thank you to Julie Crossman at the Robert Ogden Centre in Harrogate for giving me reflexology (don't understand how it works but it does), kindness and great wisdom. She has made the task seem less daunting - even on days when I was at a very low ebb.
So this has been the end of a number of things. Chemotherapy (unutterably horrid), reflexology (the best hour of my week for some time) and my hair (although I do still have eye brows but I am told they will be gone before Christmas.) On Thursday evening, my beloved and I had one of those intimate moments that I never imagined thirty years ago when we pledged to each other in marriage. "Please will you shave my head?" I had lost most of my hair but still had a few wispy bits and the new hair, when it hopefully makes an appearance next year, will not look like my old hair so what was left had to go. My beloved practised on his armpits and then announced himself ready for the task ahead. He did a good job and I now look like Kojak - or Yul Brynner in The King and I .
Actually on a serious note, I understand now very clearly why, when the powers-that-be want to institutionalise a person, they shave their heads. The essence of myself, which I have fought so hard to retain, is now gone from the mirror. I am still trying to be me on the inside but the sight of myself in the mirror pulls me up short. The children asked me what I wanted for Christmas - definitely nothing to eat (because food tastes of very little) and nothing to wear because I can scarcely bear to look at myself.
On a positive note, the way ahead is clearer and it goes like this: lumpectomy - tick, 6 rounds of chemotherapy - tick, 2 out of 18 intramuscular injections of herceptin - tick, the other 16 will be done at home by a herceptin nurse every three weeks until the end of August. (Cue: filling in the potholes in the lane!). Radiotherapy - appointment at Leeds booked to tattoo me (I thought I could have Newcastle Falcons tattooed under my left armpit but apparently it is three tiny but indelible dots). Then come January, I will be milking my friendships to the limit when I have to go to Leeds every day for three weeks, Monday to Friday for radiotherapy and I will need lifts - pretty please! And once that starts, I will also be taking another drug which will be daily for the next five years. I've read about the side effects and all you need to know is that if I appear to be steaming hotter than a pressure cooker - I am!
And finally, I am so proud that my youngest daughter has chosen nursing as a career. There can be no more honourable profession.
My beautiful number 4, all grown up now.