• Austin Birks

The Strange World Of The (Cancer) Inbetweeners

Hello my dear chums,


You might be justifiably baffled at the rather strange nod of the head to the classic teenage comedy series, the immortal Inbetweeners, and how that might possibly have anything whatsoever to do with my ongoing battle with cancer.


Well, fair play, on the surface it has nothing at all to do with anything cancer related. However, in my strange world, it ironically does. The reason being that I very recently finished my third round of chemotherapy and actually, as it was on both previous occasions, it was a very strange, dare I say, anti climax. The thing is that when you are a cancer patient, you have a routine over the two week cycle of treatment. It is like you have a defined role and a structure.


Let me elaborate if I may. When I was working in a proper job, it was all fine and dandy. I had a job of work to do, commute to the office, do your 9 till 5, or whatever it was, then go home. That was it, "simples" as the advert says. However, when illness hits you, then you need to change your perspective, as in my case, my working life was superseded by the immediate need to either have life-saving and urgent surgery (twice) or alternatively, you embark on the chemo journey, which is a strange “job” in its own right, in that it basically defines who you are. In my case, all my chemo journeys have been two week cycles. So week one has blood tests on Monday, and if the bloods were low (as was often the case with me due to my bone marrow being weak and not producing enough white blood cells, so delaying the chemo as the immune system was too weak), then a further blood test was required to see if the levels were actually high enough to allow you have the treatment in the first place.


If all was tickety boo then it was back to hospital on Wednesday for the proper chemotherapy treatment. This has varied considerably from my first round which was about 5 hours long, to my second round which was 9 hours long, to my most recent round which was 3 and a half hours long.


Ironically, as an old hand after 2 and a half years of this malarkey, you soon kind of settle into the role and the routine. You know what to expect, you know all the great nurses and support staff, and you just get on with it. No heroics, nothing special, just take the injections, and deal with it. That’s all you have to do. Then on a Friday, you go back to hospital and they remove the 48-hour chemo bag that they attach to you. It takes 5 minutes if the bag has emptied on time, if not then you just need to wait for it to empty.


So that is week one. Week two,the first 2 days it’s 2 lots of medicines taken religiously at 10am then 2pm. These are quite hardcore steroids that have side effects like insomnia.

Then you get 2 days off before the 5 consecutive days of stomach injections take place. These I chose to do myself, rather than have a nurse come round every day to do it for you. Frankly, they have better things to do with their time, and you soon get used to self administering.


So, that like the classic Craig David song used to say, was it... took her for a drink on Monday etc, I’m sure you get my drift... It was a proper, daily routine and it defined me as a person. I was a cancer patient and my weekly routine was clear, just like having a job.

And then literally overnight it stops, I got told: "Well this is your last treatment." Which is odd, because you think that you have a defined number of treatments, but in my case sometimes they were extended, and at others they were cut short.


Now, I know what you are thinking, why are you complaining that you have finished your chemotherapy, after all it’s not a nice or fun experience which is true, but it’s what you have become, and then suddenly overnight, it has gone. Hence the Inbetweeners reference, as I don’t know if the cancer has gone, or spread, and until I get a CT scan in middle September, I will not know.


Of course I hope and pray that it has gone, but if not then I’m back in the system and I have a routine again, but either way, I will deal with it. I’ve already been through the euphoria, of "oh great, against all the odds in July 2019, the cancer has gone" to be told in 3 months time, that the cancer is back and you have a limited time left on this earth. But, so far, thank the Lord, I have defied the odds and am still here fighting fit and staying alive.


So, I appreciate that the good Lord has given me more time, that I intend to use to the utmost, but, I suppose like those young men who are half adult, and half teenager, like them I’m waiting to define my next steps, either way dear chums I will keep you posted.


Keep safe and well,


Austin


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