Having to phone your family and friends the first time around to tell them about your diagnosis is hard. Having to phone them again 5 years later just when everybody has let their guard down and relaxed, thinking that your breast cancer was at last a thing of the past is heart wrenching. The knowledge that they have been behind you every step of the way and really vouching for you makes it even more so. When I told Karen I heard an intake of breath and silence. The shock was palpable even 8000km away over a telephone line. True to form though, she soon adopted her nurturing take charge attitude and started to make arrangements to come out and support me. My parents in law were also making arrangements to come and visit, willing to help out wherever they could. One of the few things, besides my immediate family of course that was keeping me together, was the love and concern I was feeling from other family members across the miles.
Meanwhile back at the hospital the protocol of my treatment had taken a 360 degree turn. It didn’t resemble in any shape or form, the treatment that I’d been receiving at the private hospital and it was worrying me no end. Instead of having a steady flow of treatment once a week for three weeks, I was forced to opt for a heavy dose of chemo once every three weeks, because of the long distance we had to travel just to get there. This meant an increased chance of nausea as well as other worsening side effects. Each visit to the hospital was a waiting game…waiting to go in and see the doctor whilst being surrounded by masses of sick people sitting around also waiting their turn. To tell you that this was a depressing scenario would be the understatement of the century. I was in utter despair. With every single visit I would find myself asking exactly the same question, ‘How on earth did it all come to this?’
I was busy drowning in the system…I had forgotten who I was, where I came from and what I stood for. I wasn’t Sarah anymore, I was a stage 4 breast cancer patient fighting for her life. Luckily to my great relief, I was tolerating the treatments much better than I thought I would, but I was blowing up like a balloon from all the cortisone that they were assaulting me with. Copious amounts of it and to my dismay I would be fitting into a piece of clothing one day and then finding it was too small for me the next. My self image and self esteem plummeted to nothing. It was in a very deep, dark ditch somewhere and was impossible to retrieve. I would move about the hospital robotically…Jaco guiding me along down the hallways to wherever I had to go. This time around I was much sicker than before. I had dark rings under my eyes and they were sunken. I remained stoic as I was lead each time to the chemotherapy suites. They might as well have been taking me to the gallows. At that point to be perfectly honest, it wouldn’t have made any difference to me. In the end I chose to detach myself from the situation and became totally numb and emotionless. It was a matter of self preservation on every possible level and it was just my way of getting through the arduous and exhausting weeks and months that followed. This time around, I had refused to have another porto-cath inserted after the hideous scar that they had left me with the previous time, and so I endured a cannula being inserted at each treatment. It was a small price to pay after all, I had much bigger things to worry about.