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Angela - 1 Bloody Cancer - 0


My treatment has, after over one year, finally ended! I heard the good news whilst in Spain (where I was supporting my son as he competed for Team GB in the Triathlon World Championships!), so no actual bell to ring, but a few glasses of fizz sounded the figurative one! In some ways, I could end this blog post there, as I am so terribly fed up of living, breathing, feeling and dreaming about my #BloodyCancer. However, I began this blog to document the journey and it would be wrong of me to close the chapter so abruptly. So, apart from the obvious relief that I am free of the infusions, dozens of daily drugs, scans and blood tests, I am also still scared. I felt kind of safe during treatment, because I knew that the cancer was reducing, but now that it's stopped, I am fearful as I know it will start coming back, but I just don't know how soon, or how aggressively. I am also anxious about how long the side effects will last. The 'wisdom' is that it can take 2 months to recover from every month of treatment, so that potentially leaves me feeling crappy for up to 2 more years. Living with the pain, fatigue, neuropathy and constant anxiety isn't a very good prospect, but I shall remain as positive as I can and have gratitude for every day with even slightly less pain, a little less fatigue and fewer negative feelings. I feel like I should be elated and excitedly planning all sorts of adventures, but it just doesn't work like that. Of course, I am relieved and looking forward to doing more as my side effects wane, but climbing out of such a dark, deep hole after so long, has left me blinking in the sunlight, not quite sure what to do next, or how I 'should' feel.

Naturally, one cannot isolate this experience from the rest of one's life, so my home situation continues to be very tough. I made a very significant price reduction to my cottage and it resulted in another offer, but as for the second offer, the buyer has not got a purchaser for their house, so I cannot proceed with the reservation on the new home I so desperately want. Being in limbo for over 6 months has taken its toll on me. I wouldn't class myself as a 'control freak', but I am fiercely independent and assertive. Pretty much all of my life, I have been able to make things happen, but this time the state of the housing market, interest rates and the cost of living crisis have created a perfect storm from which I am unable to escape. The inability to accelerate the process causes me sleepless nights and anxious days. Naturally, I do what I can to remain optimistic and am grateful I at least have a property to sell and a loving home with my son, Charlie, but at almost 60 years old, I need my own space - the only problem being that the space I actually own is a 6 hour drive from where I want to be! I am hanging on to the sayings 'third time lucky', 'everything happens for a reason' and 'trust the universe and it will deliver'; however, having faith alone is not as useful as being able to take action! Once I get the call with the green light to proceed with the sale and purchase, believe me, you'll hear my delight and relief echoing throughout the land!

Right, after that oft-repeated tale of woe about my house situation, I will get back to the main topic of this blog: living with blood cancer and the treatment process! You are probably as curious as I am to know what happens next, because the conversation with my consultant left me as clueless as you must be! I will be actively monitored every 12 weeks, with scans and blood tests, so they can track the re-emergence of the lymphocytes and loss of healthy white blood cells and they'll be paying particular attention to my immune system, which has frankly been virtually non-existent for 3 years. This means that I have recently had my vaccinations for flu, shingles and, of course, the dreaded Covid. As the colder weather sweeps in to the UK, I need to be very cautious about where I go and what I do. I have to wear my FFP3 mask whenever I go inside, ensure I sanitise everything (even post) and take a lateral flow test regularly. I had a little light at the end of the tunnel a few days ago, as I got to the final stage of a clinical trial for a Covid protection drug, but sadly the sponsor of the trial declined my participation as I haven't been long enough out of treatment. That was a bitter pill to swallow (or should that be I had no pill at all to swallow?!), as I would love to be carefree again and not have to undertake risk assessments every single day. Luckily, the weather on the South Coast has been wonderful and the Indian Summer we are enjoying means I was recently able to enjoy a lunch at the Ivy restaurant with Charlie. We sat outside, enjoying delicious food, a fabulous bottle of wine and celebrated both the end of my treatment and Charlie's success in the Triathlon World Championships! For the first time in months, I went wigless and hatless - it's not my best hairstyle, to be honest, but after being bald, it's great to have it growing back. It's quite usual for hair lost through chemo to grow back differently and I am no exception - it's a 'minky' colour and very wiry, with a stubborn bald patch on my left temple. I'd love to be blonde again, but have to wait for 6 months post-treatment before I can have it dyed; however my hairdresser, Gary, has said he could do a few bleach foils for me just before Christmas - what a great gift that would be, yet another small step towards feeling more like the 'Ange' I was before all of this.

And that brings me perfectly to the topic I want to end on for this post - finding 'me' again. As I type this, I am acutely aware that there's no going back in life, merely a forward continuation. However, I would like to recapture the essence of my 'old' identity. The interruption of my life, firstly caused by having to shield for 18 months of the Covid pandemic was so swiftly followed by another 12 months plus of treatment. My old life was taken from me so abruptly and I have spent almost 3 years not being able to do what I love, not being able to be with those for whom I care and not feeling well enough to thrive, explore and embrace life. So much of my identity was related to my work, my political campaigning, travelling and being creative - all of these elements of what I felt identified me and shaped my past, present and future are gone. I am desperate to recapture the feeling of adventure, purpose and achievement. The last 14 months have felt like survival; living day-to-day, managing pain and fatigue and holding on to the small victories in the hope that I can go to bed each night with the small achievement of having made it through another day. I have reached out to a coach and a spiritual healer, read several books, watched plenty of YouTube videos and participated in online workshops. I am trying so hard to understand if what I am experiencing is simply to be expected with such enormous enforced change, or if I am not coping with it. I guess it's a combination of both. So, as I end this blog post, I would like to leave you, dear reader, with a question: "Who is Angela (Ange/Angie/Angel) to you?" I have been recommended an exercise to create a word cloud of adjectives which others would use to describe me. The aim of this is to understand the impact I have on others, whether that be through a relationship of many years, or an encounter of a few days. Once I have collated the words, I will create a word cloud and have it printed and framed, ready to hang in the office space I hope to have in my new home some day (sooner rather than later, naturally!). If you could spend just a few minutes to send me even 3 words to describe me, I would be enormously grateful. You can either comment at the end of this post, email me, use the comment form in this blog, or message me; even good old snail mail is welcome! I began this post with the incredibly good news that my treatment has, for now at least, paused, so I want to end on a positive too. I am going to emerge from this 'winter' of my life and embrace the 'spring'. I have so much growth to look forward to, new opportunities to seize and lots of colour with which to dazzle the world! The painting above is one I commissioned from a Welsh contemporary artist, Chris Langley, and it shows his representation of Lake Vyrnwy in the moonlight. I asked Chris to create this for me as a reminder of the 10 wonderful years I spent living in North Wales, I shall hang it in the living room of my new home and, once I have been able to settle down here in Sussex, I shall commission (or even create myself, once I have a studio again!) a sunrise painting of the South Coast to represent my new life, living by the sea, close to my son and with a strong sense of identity once more. New beginnings, folks, exciting times ahead! Chris Langley: https://www.christopherlangley.net/



















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About Me

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Hi, I'm Angela, also known as 'Space Angel ‘, on Twitter and 'Snakey' to my family (both monikers require a long story to explain!). I'm 58 and the proud mum of Charlie, my 26-year-old son. I live alone in my cottage in Llanrhaeadr Ym Mochnant, a beautiful village in the Tanat Valley in North Wales, and the location of the tallest waterfall in Wales.

#BLOODYCANCER

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