Today, is, hopefully, the last day of my allowing the cancer to develop as it will because tomorrow the counter-attack is expected to start with my first chemotherapy treatment. That’s how it feels somehow, as though myself, my wife, family, friends and medical team are about to wage war on the lymphomas. It’s been very strange living through these past couple of months knowing that this thing is growing, perhaps even multiplying, within my body, that my body is actually nourishing it, or rather that it is feeding on my body as it will, and I was put in mind of the so-called “phoney war” of 1939, but having done a little bit of research on the phoney war I find I much prefer Churchill’s phrase, “the twilight war“. To my wife I’m sure it feels much more like the “sitzkreig” or “sitting war”, as she’s railed against the delays in the system and the fact that we’ve, as yet, done nothing to check the growth of these lymphomas.
Another phrase which comes to mind is that, tomorrow, I “go over the top”. I realise that what I’m experiencing is nothing like the experiences of the men to whom that phrase really applied, and who really didn’t know whether or not they would be alive a few minutes after they went over, let alone whether they would be alive the day after. In another sense the phrase seems absolutely appropriate. Tomorrow I embark upon a journey which I’ve never made before. The journey is intended to result in a victory over this foul abomination which is currently trying to take over my body. Once I’ve gone over the top then there is the probability that my body will suffer harm, we know that, it’s how chemo works. There is a possibility that the damage to my body will be long term, there is even, as the side-effects headings of the various chemicals state, a possibility of some serious side effects (possibly death). Yes, death is a fairly serious side effect isn’t it!! To this extent the phrase “waiting to go over the top” does seem absolutely appropriate. Like those now long dead Tommies of the 14-18 war, “the first lot” as my dad used to refer to it, I’m sitting here and writing as a way of dealing with the stress and the fear that something might go wrong, that I might have a really serious effect of death, or that maybe I will be comparatively lucky and only get the equivalent of a blighty wound. Perhaps I’ll be one of the very few who come out of the whole process unimpaired, though I suspect it will be impossible to come through without being unchanged.
Another comparison with the PBI’s of the First World War also comes to mind. Many of the soldiers experiencing life in the trenches were gassed and returned home with impaired lung function. There is a probability that I too will have an impaired lung function as a result of receiving bleomycin.
So here I am, the day before “the big counter-attack”, hearing the clock counting down the minutes, feeling the tension rise in my body, anxious to make a start and find out just what I am in for. The big difference between me and those young men of the 14-18 war is that I expect to win. Not only do I expect to win but I expect the war to be over in about six months, after which I will be able to pick up a normal life without being troubled by the traumas of what was then termed “shell shock“. That’s a phrase from a long time ago, but I’m sure I remember hearing it applied to people by my dad when I was only a young lad. The understanding and treatment of psychological conditions has advanced a long way since that phrase was coined almost 100 years ago and so too has treatment for cancer. Cancer is no longer the death sentence it once was and that’s the thought I hang on to. If I don’t beat cancer I will be one of the few and not one of the many – I expect to survive the counter-offensive which starts tomorrow!!