Last Wednesday 20th September marked my annual oncology review at Ipswich Hospital. These appointments consist of blood tests and a check-up and chat with my consultant about how I'm feeling/any worries or concerns I may have. In December I will be 8 years cancer-free which is just amazing news and I truly feel grateful for this every single day. However, these reviews bring it all home to me that actually no matter how far down the line you get - the cancer never quite lets you get away. The week before and days leading up to my appointments are always nail biting, nerve wracking times for me as there's always that little 'what if' niggle in the back of my mind.
Thankfully my blood tests all came back fine and the lymph node examination was all clear, however unfortunately as a direct effect of having radiotherapy to my neck area, one of the long term issues I now suffer from is an underactive thyroid which requires me to take medication every day now for the rest of my life. These levels are monitored every 6-8weeks at the moment and are proving to be difficult to get stabilised so a medication increase has been advised. The main symptom of this that I suffer from is extreme fatigue and exhaustion - which can be very difficult to deal with alongside the 'busyness' of general everyday work and life. Being 8 years cancer-free also means I am now required to have regular mammograms - I have a largely increased risk of developing breast cancer in the future which is another long term effect of having radiotherapy to the tumours in my chest area.
I'm sharing this today to hopefully allow people to understand that when you receive the 'all clear' it doesn't fully mark the end. The ongoing blood tests, scans, consultant reviews and medical issues as a result of treatment are always there to remind you of your journey with cancer.
The services we provide are to support people because we understand how anxious, terrifying and life consuming both the treatments and their side effects can be and sometimes it isn't necessarily when you are in the midst of your treatment programme that you require support, but actually afterwards when you have that bit more time and energy to digest what it is your mind and body have been through. We like to feel that our services are flexible to meet the needs of people affected by cancer - whether that be during or after their treatment.
Here is me pictured with one of my consultant's Dr Andrew Hodson - a gem of a man, always greeting me with a smile and taking the time to explain things to me regarding the medical issues I now suffer with as a result of my treatment and also making me aware of further issues that could arise in the future and what to look out for.
If you or someone you know could benefit from our services, please download the application form featured on this website.