Thursday, March 7, 2013

So, on a more positive note ...

I started writing an update about my current situation, and then when I read it back, it just came across as really boring. Because really, not that much has been happening in the past few weeks. I have been undergoing treatment, but I have no idea how successful that has been until I get my scan next week. At the moment it is just another waiting game. So I thought, to make this post a little more exciting, I would share something that I have been a little bit shy about putting on here, but a lot of people have been asking me about it so I think it's time.

During my allogeneic stem cell transplant in November I had the pleasure of meeting Royal Melbourne Hospital's music therapist Emma O'Brien. In a welcome disruption to my days of isolation on the ward, Emma would burst into my room brandishing her Cole Clarke guitar and an iPad packed full of song chords, and we would happily whittle away thirty to forty minutes singing classics from some of my favourite artists like Fleetwood Mac and The Cure.

The idea came about to combine our skills and write a song, so during my admission I put pen to paper and scribbled down some poetry that captured some of the loneliness and underlying hope that filled my days on the ward. I didn't see Emma again until following my discharge, but when I turned up to her studio (yes, after much campaigning and fundraising, Emma has her very own recording studio at RMH) I had a handful of notes ready to be put to music. After playing a few chords, shuffling around the verses, adding a line here and there, Emma and I had a song.

You can read the lyrics here:

Time in the sun

Like every drip of saline, the days slowly trickle by
Outside my misty window, the city gently sighs
I'm climbing the four walls of this glass cocoon
Somebody please tell me I'll be out of here soon

The city skyline is spattered with rain

I can't wait to feel the sun again
On my face again

We could turn this glass oasis into a holiday for two

Where there's sun and laughter, and plenty of things to do
I've got to get my head from now to then
I will have my time in the sun again
In the sun again

Every day, as I'm bound to this pole

A bit of sunshine drips into my soul
Drips into my soul

Panadol for pina colada

Skyscrapers for the sea
IV for a sun umbrella
This is where I long to be

Panadol for pina colada

Skyscrapers for the sea
Ocean through a stethoscope
This gives hope to me

So, I'll cap this off with a condensed update:

Radiotherapy is over. There are not many 30-year-old Melburnians who can claim to have a "radiation tan" but I certainly have one. (Forget the solarium, try a radiation machine! And it actually gets rid of cancer, instead of causing it!) And it's in a kind of heart shape, on both my chest and back. Apart from an icky armpit rash, a few flat days and a dull sore throat on some mornings, radiotherapy was ultimately a walk in the park compared to everything else I've been through. But after five weeks of appointments five days a week, you can imagine how relieved I am to tick that treatment off the list. 

But as is typical with my journey, one chapter closes, and another begins. As radiotherapy drew to a close, I began my injections of the drug Interferon. Interferon is a pretty commonly used drug that can be used to treat things like Hep C and MS. For me, the aim is to activate my immune system (or Megan's, should I say) so that it can fight the lymphoma. The plan is to keep upping the dose until I get graft vs host disease (GVHD). The Interferon comes in the form of a pen, similar to the Epi-pen used for allergic reactions. I have to inject myself, to the stomach, three times a week. This hasn't really been a problem - just last year I had to give myself twice-daily injections of Clexane for three months, and the needles for that were far bigger. 

With my next PET scan looming (No. 13, dun dun dun) I would be lying if I said I am not starting to feel some pre-scan anxiety creeping in. Last night in bed, I had a sudden case of the sweats: What if the PET scan isn't clear? What if I run out of options? What if? But I have been here a million times before and I am pretty skilled at pushing these thoughts in the darkest depths of my mind. As they say, "Ignorance is bliss". I don't want to spend my days wracked with stress and anxiety, so I am just focusing on the best thing I can focus on: that right now, I feel good. 

I have hair! Though admittedly not as much as my two-year-old cousin Hakeem
I am hoping more than anything that next week's scan comes back clear. But my ultimate goal goes a step further than that: I'm aiming for TWO clear PET scans in a row, something that has never happened for me. Once I reach that goal of two in a row I will be booking a trip to the US. What better place to celebrate being healthy again than New York City?

If my PET is all good, I will be leaving my North Melbourne apartment, which makes me a little sad because I absolutely love this city and this area, but I am also looking forward to moving onto the next phase. I will have to head back to Gippsland to regroup and work out the next step but I am pretty sure I will end up back in Melbourne. As per usual I am not planning too far ahead. I've been here before; thinking I was on the home stretch and about to get on with my life, only for things to come crashing down. Instead of returning to the comforts of “normal life” I faced more treatments, more anguish, more uncertainty. Now, I feel reasonably optimistic but it’s so hard to let myself even dare to dream that I might be anywhere near the finish line. But that’s what I do, it doesn’t matter how many times life kicks me in the guts, I still look forward with blind, naive optimism. And even though life has been pretty nasty to me lately, I still really do love it. I have to. 

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