MarySmith’sPlace~Cancer diary#08 Scan results

Monday, October 26: I had a week of feeling really well (yay) alongside a week of worrying about the scan result and meeting with the oncologist today (not so yay).

I won’t keep you in suspense – like the oncologist did me by first asking lots of questions about how I’d been after the cycles of chemo and carrying out an examination before finally telling me. The scan results show the tumour is stable. While it has not shrunk it hasn’t grown any – not one of the many scenarios running through my head last night as I tried to get to sleep. Nothing has spread to any of my other organs.

The oncologist seems quite upbeat about this result although I can’t help feeling disappointed. I’d so hoped the tumour would have started to shrink, even if just a tiny bit. She’s recommending I go ahead with the next two rounds of chemo followed by another scan. If things are as she hopes then four weeks of radiotherapy would follow.

The radiotherapy doesn’t sound fun. I know they have to spell out all the possible side effects and no everyone gets them all or not as severely but – apart from tiredness (she says even more than after chemo) I’ll have a sore throat and may need morphine for the pain – or, worst case scenario, a feeding tube – and the scarring on the lung may leave me breathless on exertion.

This, if all goes well, could give me an extra couple of years (she did say “or longer”, but I’m afraid to be too optimistic) of relatively normal healthy life. Presumably until it all kicks off again as it must if they can’t eliminate the tumour entirely.

I’ve said I’ll keep going. The alternative is a few months and I would like a bit longer – there’s a book to finish writing, Cairn Holy to visit with Sue, and the Callanish Stones, a trip back to Islay where I was born, maybe even a holiday somewhere sunny. Seeing family would be rather nice – this self-isolation business is the pits. Of course, being able to do most of these is dependent on bloody, bloody Covid.

When I went into the first meeting with the oncologist I knew I had a seriously life-shortening illness and suspected I had months rather than years before me. I’d sort of come to terms with that. I was expecting to hear more about palliative care rather than treatment options. Dying doesn’t frighten me (though I’d prefer it to be painless). The oncologist gave me hope I could have more than a few months and I left the meeting feeling optimistic. This time it’s harder to be as optimistic – all because the tumour hasn’t actually got any smaller.

The next cycle is on Friday – if the blood results are all right. I think this constant wondering and worrying, having tests and waiting for results is one of the biggest downers.

Still, looking on the bright side, the oncologist did not say (my main worry) there is no point on carrying on. I can feel a degree of satisfaction the chemo has at least stopped the tumour in its tracks. Two more cycles might finally make it start to shrink.

There, now, I’ve talked myself round from feeling pretty down when I started writing this to edging towards feeling a bit more positive.

127 thoughts on “MarySmith’sPlace~Cancer diary#08 Scan results

  1. Mary, I can imagine the waiting can be anxiety producing. There is good news although I realize not what you had hoped to hear. It is good to hear you feel strong enough to carry on with treatment. You remain in my prayers and I send you nothing but positive wishes as you continue on this difficult journey. Much love to you, Mary.

    Liked by 1 person

    • The waiting really is difficult, Maggie. I can’t even make a phone call directly to the person I want to speak to – I call, leave a message on a machine or with a receptionist and wait for a call back. Tests – wait for an appointment, have the test, wait for an appointment to hear the result. Anyway, as you say, there is good news so I just have to keep going. Thank you for your continued love and support.

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    • Thanks for the positive vibes and yes, it is good that it hasn’t grown. I saw, before I started on chemo, at what a frightening speed it was growing so I’m delighted it has at least been stopped in its tracks. Just have to keep zapping it.

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    • Thanks, Lynn. Maybe I should be more pleased than I am. It was just such a disappointment when she said it hadn’t changed when I so wanted to hear it had started to shrink. I’ll catch those happy thoughts winging my way.

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  2. Well done Mary so far and all the very best for the next stage. The news does seem positive. I love your plans to see special places. Cairn Holy is not far away & it has a very special atmosphere but maybe you’ve been before and know that. Doable even with Covid around. Warmest greetings. x

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    • I visit Cairn Holy quite often, Leonie, but my friend Sue hasn’t seen it. We’ve made plans to visit together but things – like lockdown – conspired against us. Third time lucky, we though as we made a plan again but just as she was about to leave for Scotland she was called back by her doctor and was also diagnosed with cancer. We are on this journey together and it’s important to us both we visit Cairn Holy together.

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  3. It hasn’t grown nor spread so there are two positives together. We are all sending you our love and healing energy. Nature is also there to lend its powerful healing properties to what you see, feel, taste, smell, touch… Embrace it all and allow it to embrace you. xxx

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Lea. I should be looking at the positives – and on Friday we have another go at trying to shrink it. And, while I’m feeling well I do try to get out as much as possible.

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  4. I’ve never had chemo but had 34 doses of radiotherapy to the neck, which I was told keeps on working for a few months after the courses have finished. Perhaps chemo does as well? The extensive radiotherapy treatment cured my cancer after 12 years of other treatments and surgeries that didn’t, and so maybe either the chemo or radiotherapy will have a good effect for you. Yes I had a sore throat and needed painkillers to eat and I’m left with next to no saliva and permanently dry eyes, but I think it was all worth it in the end for a longer life. You eventually adapt to the side-effects. I eat and drink at the same time, and use ointment in my eyes.

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    • Thanks for sharing this, Stevie. In my case they are hoping the combination of chemo followed by radiotherapy will have a good effect. They aren’t looking to cure it (would be wonderful but they’ve made it pretty clear that won’t happen) but to at least get it sufficiently under control to allow me some extra time. I’m delighted the tumour hasn’t grown but it would be nice it it reduced – still I’m only half way through the chemo and then there’s the radiotherapy to continue the work.

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  5. Hard to imagine being inside your head, with your thoughts as you try to sleep. But as everyone has said, including you, it is a lot more positive than negative. If friendship, love, and positive thoughts can do anything to help, you can rest assured you have that in bundles, dear Mary.
    Best wishes, Pete.

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    • I think I’ll sleep tonight, Pete as one, I’m exhausted and two, I don’t have to wonder what’s happening in my lung – at least not yet. I have been overwhelmed by the love and support shown by bloggers from all over the world. It is an amazingly supportive world! Thanks so much for your support.

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  6. It is a big thing that the cancer has not spread, Mary. I can imagine you do feel disappointed but it sounds positive and there is still time for the tumour to start to shrink. Can they no operate to remove the tumour? My friend had one lung removed. She did also have some other treatments first though. I thought with larger tumours they liked to stop the growth before operating.

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  7. Keep on, keeping on! You’ve got so much to look forward to, as you pointed out and why not give it a shot! the KAB crew is right there with you and shall carry you when you are fatigued. If that dang tumor won’t shrink, YOU shall outgrow it! There now.. ❤

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    • I really am trying to hold on to the positives and I know the fact the tumour hasn’t grown at all since the chemo started is a major positive. I’m getting the boots polished and eating, dates, figs, dried apricots and everything high fibre. Oh, the oncologist gave me a prescription for heartburn – Lansoprazole. One a day. Hope it’s not the one which causes stomach cancer!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Don’t worry about the stomach cancer – I think everything according to the media gives you cancer. Plus re the Omeprazole it was long term daily use (ie decades). I’m on that one now and figure ‘life’ will get me before the Omeprazole does! You’re doing a good job with the fibre as well. Wear those boots with attitude on Friday and give it what for! xx

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  8. You’ve not so much talked yourself as written yourself into feeling positive, as have all your friends above. The tumour is stable and plans can be made, with all due respect for good days and bad days. But you’ve come a long way in a few short weeks. I always think of the irrepressible Clive James and his “reports of my death”. They went on for years! Well done (and yah boo sucks to Covid).

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    • I actually meant to say written and was going to say something about the therapeutic value of writing the diary. Think I was running out of steam by then. There are indeed positives and I am only half way through the chemo so it might yet squish that tumour before I’ve finished the course.

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      • It may indeed squish it but whatever happens writing everything down is a good way of processing all the info you’re given/hit with, working out the questions you need to ask and approaching coming to terms with your feelings about it all. A couple of other friends from different circles but both with different cancers needing aggressive treatment (both still around now) despite having no writing background instinctively went for writing out the weeks as they went by, and circulated them as email newsletters. At first it seemed bizarre but both patients and family/friends soon realised how helpful it was, giving clarity for the patient and the support circle not needing to keep asking the same questions. I imagine responding to all the answers could get a bit wearing though so no need to answer this unless you want to! x

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        • I like the idea of an email newsletter. I could send each week’s diary to friends who don’t read the blog but who email asking how things are going. It seems rude to refer them to the blog so this might be a useful way of sending to several at once.

          Someone said they write to find out what they think and for me that’s one of the most important aspects of writing the diary – that and communication.

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          • My friend who had rectal cancer set up an email group. She went into graphic detail and it was sometimes hard to read – but nothing like as hard for us as for her of course. It really helped her (and her carers) understand the complicated diagnosis and treatments. At the bottom of each “episode” she reminded us all that we could unsubscribe if we were finding it difficult, and that she welcomed answers but might not have the energy/wish to respond personally. Once or twice when she was very weak her sister sent an email on her behalf. She had some very intense treatment, but, six years on, she’s back with us all and doing well. Email perhaps seemed more intense in some ways than the blog, and lacks the very clear presentation but as you say it reaches different/more people and clarifies things for all including yourself. Whatever you decide I shouldn’t worry about being rude, or if people think you are that’s their problem!

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  9. As the famous American baseball catcher, Yogi Berra said, “It ain’t over till it’s over.” So glad the tumor has stopped growing. That is a great sign. (I know easy for me to say from the bleachers.) My prayers are still with you, Mary.

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  10. I fervently hope all this grants you the time to do what you need to do Mary. There’s still hope it can shrink it seems, so let’s hope for that. Makes you wonder if Consultants should do things in reverse. Tell you first what you’re waiting to hear, then deal with all else, otherwise you’re listening to all that stuff with a big question on your mind. Hope you recorded again though, and could listen back. Thinking of you. xxx

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, we did record the conversation, Janette. It was so useful last time to be able to play it back and check what was said. Yes, there is still hope and two more rounds of chemo to get to work on the tumour. xxx

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  11. It’s such an awful thing for you to go through. The idea of more treatment must be terrifying, especially when told of all the possible side effects, but as you say, you aren’t likely to experience all of them and they may not be as bad as you think. It’s good news that the tumour hasn’t grown and I hope you continue to feel much better x

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    • I have to say it’s not much fun and I now have the added worry about the radiotherapy side effects. In my naivety I’d thought they were less than the side effects of chemo. The doctor says I’ve tolerated the chemo very well, which is reassuring, as the next one is on Friday and I’ve been dreading it a bit. I just have to accept I’ll have a week or so of feeling tired and ‘meh’ before it gets better. Thanks for your good wishes.

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  12. Your positive reasoning is the right thing. The cancer hasn’t grown so the chemo must be working. I hadn’t realised or thought through the effects of radiotherapy on lung cancer as with breast cancer the main aim is to avoid the lungs. Your clear explanations and plans for the next year certainly help us as your friends so hopefully they help you too. xx

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    • You’re right, Liz, and as someone else said, the first step is to stop it growing – then hopefully shrink it, aided by radiotherapy. They are also going to use radiotherapy on two tiny lymph nodes above my collarbone, even though they aren’t sure if they are cancerous but working on a better safe than sorry theory. Thank you. xx

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  13. I say yay yay yah too! I think that’s pretty positive news – it can shrink by the next scan. Thank you for telling us all the news so quickly – it sure has been a long and worrying wait for everyone although by far the worst for you! Get those magic mushrooms (organic and powdered of course) and hang in there Mary. I so wish I could come to see you or we could have you over here to play. Lots of love and cuddles, Juliet xxx

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    • Thanks, Juliet. Fingers crossed for the next scan. The waiting and worrying and wondering seems endless, though. I do feel optimistic that I’ll be able to come and see you and the llamas early next year – not so far away. Oh, the nurse said the pharmacist said no to the mushroom powder. She didn’t pass on the trial write ups to the oncologist as I’d asked!

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  14. The news sounds more positive than negative, although I can understand your disappointment. But I’ve known a lot of cases where the months have turned into years. As long as your quality of life is decent, small adjustments are possible. Hugs

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  15. Hang in there, Mary. The waiting must be frustrating as well as worrying, and it’s a pest that the tumour hasn’t started to shrink yet – but in the overall scheme of treatment, it’s relatively early days. By the next scan, fingers crossed the wee bugger’s in retreat. Thinking of you xx

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    • Thanks for thinking of me, Fiona and you are right saying it’s early days yet in the treatment. I’m only half way through the chemo cycles and the wee (quite bit actually) bugger’s been stopped in its tracks so maybe the next two will help it on its way to oblivion!

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  16. It sounds like this thing has been stopped in its tracks.. thats a positive.. Next step is to sharpen the toes on your boots and give it a swift kick up the derriere… Big hugs and healing wishes coming your way.. xx

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  17. What I will say Mary is that the chemo and the radiotherapy goes on working long after it is stopped. The tumour may not of shrunk yet but there is plenty of time yet. Attitude is key, being positive is and bloody-minded is also a great boon. Smile even when you don’t want to , be determined and wear those kickarse boots. You are brave and can do this. We all have your back 💜💜

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  18. I should say all of the above and more. With so many in your corner ( and in Sue’s), the good wishes and vibes coming your way should help the positivity. But, if it doesn’t some days, then don’t beat yourself up about it, have a good old swear session. And plan the visit to Cairn Holy for the two of you. Set a date, stick it in the diary, and believe you will both get there. Oh, and keep up with/ or start that book.

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    • Thanks, Judith. I’m really touched by the number of folk fighting in my (and Sue’s) corner. Good idea to put a date in our diaries – or is that tempting fate? I find all this cancer malarkey is making me superstitious! The book is the Goldfish memoir – though I’d like to complete another poetry collection and the biography of the woman engineer … Maybe I should just get on with the Goldfish. I truly appreciate your support.

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      • Oh yes, The Goldfish! And poetry when it comes to you. I used to love writing poetry. It seems ages since I wrote ( and performed) poems – mostly ones that were poor amateur–like crosses between Pam Ayres and Victoria Wood. If you’ve ever seen Victoria Wood perform “‘ave yer seen mi friend?” – that’s my accent. Our daughters used to swear she’d stolen my voice. Just wish I had her talent! Look after yourself on the good days – stay in bed and read on the crappy ones. Forget tempting fate – plan that visit, write what you’ll do together, the photos you’ll take, the food you’ll eat – that drink you’ll celebrate with.

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  19. Most of us say we have plenty of time to do the things we want to do. That might be true, but it might not.

    You have experienced an in-your-face expiration date and I applaud you for wanting to make the most of your life.

    I agree with your sentiment: “Dying doesn’t frighten me (though I’d prefer it to be painless).”

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    • We just don’t know how much time we have left – and I do find myself regretting how much I wasted, thinking I had plenty of it ahead of me. And despite the expiration date being closer than expected I still spend too much time on spider solitaire!!!

      Yep, we all want a ‘good’ death. I’d like a gentle letting go. I do hope I can hold out until Covid has gone and I can have a good send off.

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      • Spider Solitaire rocks! Have you tried Hoyle cards, where you can play Spades with a dinosaur, and alien, and Jack? 🙂

        We never know how long our lives will last.
        An acquaintance just out of high school, someone with a gentle spirit, married a soldier when she was 18. She was in a car with her husband and infant, stopped at a light, when a drunk hit them from behind and killed all 3.

        When I read your posts about Afghanistan, I think about the incredible life you’ve lived and the people you’ve met along the way. You have wasted less time than most of us, and we appreciate the stories you’ve shared.

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        • What a dreadful story about your acquaintance. We hear of things like that and determine we will make the most of every day – but we soon slip back into old ways. I suppose because we don’t think it will happen to us.

          Haven’t tried Hoyle cards – sounds fun but I don’t think I need any further distractions 🙂

          I’m more than ever glad I had those years in Pakistan and Afghanistan and since starting sharing the stories have been contacted by so many of those people I met who have told me I made a difference to their lives. That feels good.

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          • You’re correct — we do slip back into the old ways after a scare.

            You have made a difference in the lives of others through your stories — never forget that truth. On your worst days, remember that you have at least one more story to tell.

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  20. Keep on keeping on!
    Reading everybody’s comments I was humming an old song… you’ve got to accentuate the positives and eliminate the negatives… that’s what gets results.
    You’re doing well.Keep up the good work.
    Hugs from me and smooches from the boys. xxxxx

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    • I had t look that song up. When I read the words they did seem familiar but I wouldn’t have been able to name it or who sang it (quite a few folk it seems). I’ll keep on keeping on! Thanks for the hugs and the smooches – can I give them a pat to say thanks?

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      • I’ve passed on your pat to the big boys. They looked rather proud! The little boys can wait till they understand things a bit better – but they’re doing well.
        I can’t remember the rest of the song, or its title….

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        • Here you, go Jemima – straight from Wikipedia: “Ac-Cent-Tchu-Ate the Positive” is a popular song which was published in 1944. The music was written by Harold Arlen and the lyrics by Johnny Mercer. The song was nominated for the “Academy Award for Best Original Song” at the 18th Academy Awards in 1945 after being used in the film Here Come the Waves. Also recorded by Bing Crosby and The Andrews Sisters.
          Glad to know the little boys are doing well. I’m sure they’ll catch up with the big boys soon. Your comments make me smile – thank you for that.

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  21. Not spreading is good. Not growing is good. Years rather than months is fabulous. Keep going, keep wearing the boots, keep making plans, and I’m thinking perhaps we all should wear similar boots and see if we can kick COVID-19 down and all your plans can come to fruition. Fingers crossed and positive thoughts coming your way and Sue’s, Mary.

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    • Thanks, Olga, there definitely are some positives. I shall have my boots ready for Friday’s chemo. It would be great if we could get rid of Covid-19 and could make plans to do things which involve being with people we care about – so get those boots on. Positive thoughts much appreciated.

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  22. So much to go through, Mary—the emotional ups and downs. Can you join a cancer support group? It might help. In the meantime, the fact that the tumor hasn’t grown is good news. It may indeed shrink after your next rounds of chemo.. I just wish there were more advanced treatments with fewer side effects. Keeping you in my prayers. 🙏🏻❤️

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    • It really is a bit of a rollercoaster, Linda. A cliche, ( I can’t find how to insert accents on WP) I know, but it really is. I feel I have pretty good support – Sue and I are one support group ourselves – and other bloggers who’ve been through the cancer journey have been incredibly supportive. As have so many blogging friends like yourself. I guess they might find more advanced treatments – a friend is currently on a new drug trial, so they are developing new treatments all the time. Thanks so much for your support.

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  23. I guess the sin wave of emotional extremes in this post is a reflection of life right now? I do feel rather voyeuristic reading this series, but you do communicate both the process via an enviable objective view with the intensely personal explication of your own responses in a splendid and hugely accessible way. Thank you for permitting us that. And running through this – a least the way I read it – is that thin shimmering silver lifeline labelled ‘hope’. Hang on to it, Mary – it can look flimsy and somewhat frayed but it is remarkably resilient and self-repairing. Peckers up, team!!

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    • Yes, it is, Geoff – emotions are all over the place. I think it’s made worse by not having any control over the situation. I can say no to treatment or yes to treatment but once I’ve said yes all sorts of things happen to me and I don’t know if they are working. I just have to hang on to that flimsy thread of hope. Maybe the next round of chemo will start the shrinking process and, if not, there still another to hit it and the back up of radiotherapy. And it’s all very surreal.

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    • Well put, Geoff. I think we all feel a little voyeuristic and yet strangely grateful that Mary ( and Sue) are sharing their journeys online with us. Because illness is a lonely business on the whole and they are letting us in, giving us the opportunity to say, “we are all right behind the two of you,” and feel tjhat we can, at least do something – even if it’s only sending hopeful words, love, and good vibes. Having made friends online often gives me a lovely sense of companionship.There are more good people than we realise – and I feel lucky to have met them through my writing.

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  24. That is very positive Mary, considering it had doubled in size in the space of just a few weeks and has not grown since you began your treatment is a excellent news. It is not going to be a walk in the park which you knew, but you only have to read your Afghanistan posts to know you have walked dangerous paths before and came through brilliantly, You have shown this bloody tumour who is boss and now you are going to beat the hell out of it. You have books to write, places to go, and people to see… and we will be over at some point to tour the Highlands again and fully expect to treat you to a slap up lunch…♥♥

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  25. Your posts about Afghanistan have become a highlight of my week, and I am always amazed by the life you have led. You know my opinion of the whole ‘batting’ terminology but, as Sally says, you’re certainly no stranger to difficulties. Hope you have lots and lots of good days this week – will be thinking of you xxxxx

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    • Oh, thank you so much, Alison. I’m delighted you are enjoying the Afghan posts. I’ve really enjoyed sharing them. I’ve regained my equilibrium after yesterday’s wobble – red wine helped – and am back to my more pragmatic self. I’ll try to stay positive, which helps my mental well being but there’s nothing I can do to influence the actions of the chemo on the tumour. I’ll keep on keeping on. Thanks for thinking of me – and enjoying my Afghan posts – that made my day.

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  26. Hi Mary, you reminded me of a couple of sayings. One is (referring to what God says) “I’m not done with you yet.” Another one goes something like, “It’s not finished until I say it’s finished.” I would say, keep going with your chemo. What you’re doing is not wasting time. I reviewed my journal and emails. After the second cycle, I only had 20% energy left (I told my family in the email). The aggressive drugs wiped me out. Of course, the melanoma specialist didn’t give up on me. It was the best thing. I asked for more resting time before the third cycle. The doctor gave it to me.
    A college friend had cancer several years ago. He looks very skinny right now. He is a retired paster. He and his wife continued to travel for mission works in between the chemo treatments. With him, it’s pure faith that sustains him. I couldn’t imagine he has the energy to travel.
    Don’t give up until the doctor tells you that you’re not responding to the chemo. You’ll finish your book, you’ll travel and do things you were going to do.
    I’ll hear from you again for your next update. Praying for you all the time.

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    • It does sound like your chemo drugs were a lot more aggressive than mine, Miriam. After the first week, my energy levels come back, though I realise next time it may take longer. I feel I have to carry on for now, especially as the drugs have stopped the tumour from growing, and there is the hope the next cycles might actually cause it to start shrinking. Thanks for your support.

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    • Hi Kim, yes it’s great the tumour hasn’t grown, though I was a bit disappointed it hadn’t actually got any smaller. I so hope the next cycles will start shrinking process. Thanks for all the positive thoughts.

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  27. Bloody bloody Covid indeed. But amazing, strong Mary is not giving up and is beating the tumor (after all, it didn’t get bigger – you STOPPED it!). So keep on kicking the tumor’s ass and keep on living each day with hope and love. After all, what else do we have? Thank you, always, for giving us this insight into your medical care and worries, your fight against cancer, and your thoughts on dying and on living, After all, we’re all going to get there at some point, and talking about it only opens us up to seeing beyond, and what’s beyond, and realizing what’s important in the hear and now. ❤

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  28. Pingback: Smorgasbord Blog Magazine – Weekly Round Up 25th – 31st October – Inspiration, Legends, Boogie, Ugli Fruit, Books, Reviews, Health and Laughter | Smorgasbord Blog Magazine

  29. “There, now, I’ve talked myself round from feeling pretty down when I started writing this to edging towards feeling a bit more positive.” There you have it, Mary, the key is for you to keep writing 🙂 A roller coaster of emotions for you, but there is this nice positive trends which is uplifting to hear. Take care ~

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    • Yes, for sure I need to keep writing – it is the best way to process thoughts. Also, to remember how I felt – these memories fade quickly. There are so many uncertainties around this cancer journey so it is important (though not always easy) to hang on to the positives. Thanks for your comments.

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  30. The news does seem positive. Mary, and it’s great to read about your plans to all those special places. Your positive reasoning is the right route to go down. I’ve always found that having something special to look forward to has always helped me when I’ve gone through times that have caused me lots of uncertainty.

    I hope the new week ahead is a good one for you. The weather may be bad, but there will always be lots of sunshine here in the blogging world.

    Take care.
    Hugs to you
    xx

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    • Thanks, Hugh. Yep, Sue and I have several things we plan to do together in the spring (Covid allowing, of course!) if things go well for us.

      The weather here is absolutely dreadful – heavy rain and high winds, not what I want to venture out in even though I need fresh air and exercise – should have a dog then I’d have to go out 🙂 but as you say, there is always sunshine in the blogging world and I’m so glad of it and the tremendous support shown by bloggers.

      Hugs back.

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