" /> Cancer Journey Archives - Naomi Foyle
A wildflower

Driven by a giddy need to make up for lost time, my first full year post-cancer treatment was full tilt with travel, art galleries, books, family and friends. I also finally learned how to use my iPhone camera – you touch the screen to focus, doh!  Fizzing with this epiphany, I even signed up for a iPhone photography course, way back in February, but what with my madcap work pace haven’t had time to start it yet.  I also remain confused by Instagram – it seems you can’t use the app on a computer, only your phone, and I like curating albums, which Facebook, for all its multitude of sins, is pretty good at. Still, I did migrate from the insanely perplexing iPhotos (I spent an hour at a festival with an award-winning filmaker trying to clear storage space without deleting all my photos, and she gave up too), to…

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A glass bell

What a year. When it comes to traumas we’re spoiled for choice, but as Amnesty International and Greenpeace remind us, 2016 also brought many victories for humanity and the planet. Here at home, I’ve been celebrating the official All Clear, which clear as a bell, arrived with impeccable timing on Dec 23rd. I’ve still got follow-treatments to come, but to bid farewell to cancer, I’m looking back on ten books that have enriched my journey thus far through the ‘kingdom of the sick’. What should you read during chemotherapy? I like to laugh, sure, but in my frail state I also wanted to see my suffering and that of the world reflected with compassion and insight. Thus the themes of illness, migration and climate change flow through this list of poetry, essays and fiction. Of Mutability by Jo Shapcott (Faber and Faber, 2011). Spending five months on the strongest drugs…

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From Schrodinger’s Cat to Salisbury Cathedral, Prague castle to the Princess Royal Hospital, my cancer journey has come full circle, back to a strangely euphoric, possibly disease-free state. As I wrote in June, in the days just prior to my diagnosis, I felt both terminally ill and joyously alive; now, having just had an operation to remove four lymph nodes and a sphere of breast tissue at the site of the vanished tumour, but not yet the results, I will spend the weeks until Dec 23rd in a state of far gentler uncertainty. The best case scenario, as my oncologist put it, is that yesterday cancer and I parted company – I left the hospital by the front door, and any cancer cells remaining in my body after the chemo were sent on their way to the lab. The worst case scenario is that all four nodes will be found…

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I’m home from a weekend in London where, with the help of wonderful friends and a small wheelie suitcase I celebrated the end of chemo by taking a few baby steps back into the world beyond Brighton hospital clinics – and a big breath of freedom before my operation on Dec 6th. Thanks to the success of my chemotherapy cycles, during which my tumour disappeared, this will be minor day surgery on my lymph nodes, but still, my first time under the knife: I will be spending the next couple of weeks mentally and physically building calm strength. The weekend was a great start in that direction. Saturday night I saw the musical ‘A Pacifist’s Guide to the War on Cancer’ at the National Theatre. A musical about cancer, featuring dance numbers with people dressed up as tumours in weird glitzy knitted costumes . . . what an outlandish idea,…

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First, a blockbuster blossom: last Monday I got the results of an MRI scan taken after my fourth chemo session, and it showed NO CANCER in my breast. Why hasn’t she mentioned this before, you may ask? Well, like Bob Dylan after his Nobel Prize announcement, I was speechless. Even though my surgeon had been confident my tumour would shrink rapidly under Herceptin, its disappearance, two thirds of the way through my chemo treatment, was an extraordinary result. The news was so incredible, in fact, that I couldn’t quite believe it. Maybe, I thought, cancer sort of comes and goes during chemo . . . Certainly, as the oncologist said, it wasn’t an official all clear – to verify what is known as a ‘complete response’, leaving not a trace of disease, the tissue has to be examined in the lab, which can only be done after the surgery to…

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  Last week marked a major turning point in my cancer journey, and not just because I am now a) bald and b) receiving a so-called ‘wonder drug’ that will most likely save my life. It was also a week which brought great news about the progress of my treatment so far, and a welcome second opinion on my upcoming operation. In addition, I received my first Housing Benefit payment, and although it plus my sick pay does not cover my monthly outgoings, I also completed two applications for grants to help me cope financially during my illness. I’ve still got a long way to go before full recovery, but after four months of uncertainty, fact-finding, and fighting for physical survival, I finally feel able to move into a calmer and more internal healing relationship with my illness. For although I have been meeting the challenge of my disease head-on…

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Trapped in a box with a radioactive particle that would inevitably at some point decay, triggering the release of a fatal poison, until the lid was lifted, Shrödinger’s cat was infamously (and ridiculously in Shrödinger’s mind – his thought experiment was designed to critique a branch of quantum physics) both dead and alive. The indeterminate feline was much on my mind earlier this summer, when I spent two weeks wandering the ravishing streets of Prague, in full view and undeniably alive, but psychologically in a state of impossible simultaneity: feeling both gloriously healthy and terminally ill. In May I had discovered a lump in my left breast. My GP said it was mobile – a good sign – but also large and hard: worrying. An ultrasound revealed the lump was definitely not a cyst, and also discovered swelling in a lymph node. On the verge of a teaching job in…

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