i’m a mixed media, chalkboard and mural artist, based in north cornwall.
(Portfolio available to view HERE…)
I am also the author of Straight talking blog ‘Life after lymphoma – an irreverent look at remission and commissions.’
For more about Lady Sketch, have a read of my other posts HERE.
How It All Kicked Off…
Christmas 2011, and we were sitting for a family photo, our youngest child a matter of days old in my arms. Within a few days I was crammed into an MRI machine, awaiting staging for Non Hodgkin’s Lymphoma and facing up to the prospect of a pretty hairy trip down Shit Creek.
Non Hodgkin’s Lymphoma
It was stage 4B Non Hodgkins Lymphoma. Whilst there is no stage 5, we were told it was eminently curable and treatable, but to expect a rough ride. Hmmm. This turned out to be the biggest understatement since Sir Cosmo Duff Gordon described the sinking of the RMS Titanic as ‘rather a serious evening, you know…’ but for now I’m hanging on to my gory stories of chemo horror & unimaginable beastliness for another day 👌
After six months of intensive chemotherapy and in grateful remission, I bounced back quickly and cracked on with life. We consigned the Lymphoma to the shitty annals of history and it didn’t enter my head that it might come back. So when my left arm went numb another six months later I visited my doctor fully expecting it to be a trapped nerve.
Get Your Ducks In A Row
This time the news was fairly horrific with Lymphoma growing and metastasising all over the shop and a twenty percent chance of survival. This swiftly plummeted to ten percent once we knew exactly what we were up against. I was told ‘There is great potential for catastrophe, you need to get your ducks in a row.’
Evidently someone had forgotten to tell 2013 that it was going to be our year… This time it was much worse because Lymphoma were growing inside my spinal column amongst other places and causing havoc within the central nervous system. In short, the walking gear was packing up and I was in shit order.
This time we started with Radiotherapy. It seems like the kinder alternative (much less vomit and you get to sleep in your own bed) – it’s not! Being strapped face down to a table, in a mask moulded to your skull, is not fun for the claustrophobic.
Within forty eight hours my walking gear really did pack up, with bladder reliability shortly behind it. The lowest point of that period was being pushed everywhere in a wheelchair with rustling tenna-lady knickers and steroid moon-face. It would have been around this time that Mister Sketch and I invented a rather non PC game, ‘Who is worse off than you right now,’ which diffused many tense moments and made us laugh in the midst of misery.
It Gets Worse…
Three weeks of radiotherapy was followed by more chemo and the few ups and numerous downs this entails. Chemo-puke-chemo-puke-home-puke-infection-hospital-recover-chemo-puke… and so the cycle continued.
Then came the news that treatment wasn’t working and they believed my Lymphoma to be chemo resistant.
It was a devastating blow to say the least. There had been talk of getting me into remission just for long enough to have a stem cell transplant. My own previously harvested stem cells were ready and waiting to be defrosted, but now I wasn’t a suitable candidate. So I went home on the Friday and planned my funeral. I wrote letters to my boys for the future, tried to put my affairs in order and cried a lot. I believe there was also swearing.
Come Monday, my consultant had returned from an overseas course, with news of a new, experimental treatment. It involved using conventional oncology within haematology (basically using Cancer drugs to treat Lymphoma, which is actually a blood cancer). Did I want to give it a try?
Obviously I said yes and embarked upon what may well have been the oddest few weeks of my life. The drugs made me feel like the top of my head was melting. Any social activity was abandoned while my brain checked out and I wandered the house dazed and confused…
LYmphoma to Stem Cell Transplant
But it did the trick. Come September, Mr Sketch and I were headed over the bridge to Derriford Hospital in Plymouth for my Stem Cell Transplant, with strict instructions to return me to the correct side of the bridge should all go tits up. There was a high chance I wouldn’t survive treatment and I wanted to make bloody sure I was back in Cornwall if the worst happened.
It didn’t however, and within seven days I was transferred back to the Royal Cornwall Hospital Treliske for six weeks in isolation. Again we were warned to expect the worst. It certainly wasn’t pleasant, but I beat another set of odds and was discharged early, home in time for Halloween with my kids ❤
As I write, I am pleased to say that October 2017 marks my fourth year in remission. I’m left with mobility & mental health issues and, not gonna lie, life really is hard. BUT, it’s my life, I fought bloody hard for it and it’s pretty sweet.
I’m still making sense of it all and adjusting my compass so I can navigate this new and unforseen bend in the road. Because that is all it is really.
Life has a habit of flinging us around sharp corners and down steep drops, but like my dad says, once you’ve slipped down as many snakes as I have, sooner or later life will provide you with a ladder.
You can read more about life after Lymphoma HERE.
Why not give me a cheeky follow for an irreverent look at life in remission… there may be swearing…