• Austin Birks

Once More Into The Breach Dear Friends (Back to Chemo After a 2-week Break)

It was good while it lasted, I have to say, but it did not last long. My wonderful oncologist, Doctor Peter, had agreed to give me a break from the tough chemo that had lasted for 8 months consistently. If the truth be told, it had started to really take is toll. Without doubt, this fourth cycle had been way tougher than anything else that I had experienced previously. The thing is that treatments vary depending on where you are on the cancer spectrum; this third return had resulted in a process of treatments that week by week had slowly eroded my immune system, if not my spirit.


It is a subtle process of not realising at the time, but as each cycle happens, I started to notice that my fatigue levels got worse, a strange lack of energy that slides around you like a blanket, so bit by bit you spend more time in bed or laying on the sofa watching the telly.


In addition, I noticed that I was starting to be physically sick more and more, from an occasional incident it went to two, three, four times a day, and at different times. The worst thing about it is the predictability of it. A bit like buses, you know its going to turn up, but you never quite know when. Even worse, when it does appear it is very sudden, noisy, and violent (completely unlike catching buses, by the way). To be blunt, I got used to it, and while very unpleasant, it is over swiftly and you can move on. What I did not realise was just how knackered it makes you feel, so there is the double whammy effect: more tired, more sick, equals even more tired, with the duration sneaking up from one day, to two, to three, to four.


Ironically enough, as soon as it ended, I got all my strength, vitality, and energy back almost immediately which was great because it meant I could teach Karate on a Thursday and a Sunday, although I noticed my physicality was reduced as was my flexibility.


So, when Doctor Peter told me that he was going to give me a 2-week break, it was happy news that I embraced fully, but, it was always going to be just that, a break. As Dr Peter said, there is no “golden number “of treatments when you have chemo. You keep the battle going, especially, when it is containing and even shrinking the two tumours. Thing is, this is a war made of battles which you need to win, so far after almost three years that have included two major surgeries and to date a total of 47 chemo treatments, the good Lord has allowed me to live a good and full life within the context of being a cancer patient, and I for one am very grateful to all those wonderful folk in the NHS and elsewhere that have given me the luxury of living life as best I can.


So, no matter how bad life may seem there is always hope, my dad used to say “Hope beats eternal in the human heart”. How very true that is in my experience, I have said it before for all the awfulness of cancer, it has taught me the beauty and power of goodness and the wealth of kindness, love, and support that I have received from so many good people, so into battle I go, onwards and upwards.


Austin

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