So it's Autumn. The air was a little cooler this morning when I walked across the Green to take some books back to the library. Brown leaves now crunch under my tyres as I cycle into work. Everyone is back from their summer holidays and have their "back to work" faces on as they clutch lattes walking down the street.
My consultant is also back from his Summer break. Sitting in his consultation room he calmly went through the results of my PET CT scan and killed any optimism I had over the last few months that this 2 year nightmare may be over. The radiotherapy was only a partial success, reducing the site in my left abdomen, but not in my right lung. There is still cancer activity shown up by my AFP markers, which after an initial low of 5 post zapping are now up to 31 as of yesterday. So I sat there putting my best brave face on as we discussed the need of more surgery and more chemotherapy before hand. I felt the blood drain from my face, along with my hope.
The only thing I could muster up to say was a stupid "Damn I'm going to lose my hair again" This will be the fourth time since October 2014. At some point my scalp is going to turn around and go "Mate, you are taking the piss now!" At least I have bought my own clippers, so I don't have to pay 15 quid for the Turkish bloke on Northchurch Street to cut it for me when it starts falling out.
I'm not going to rant about how grim this all is, because I think you'll be perfectly aware that it is. To me it feels like the time when I went to a pals house and watched the Lord of The Rings Trilogy back to back. I fell asleep at some point during the first one and woke up in the middle of the third. Elijah Wood was *still* walking through a forest with a grim look on his face. My Cancer just feels like that, an endless walk through a wood which never ends, but without the chance of meeting Sean Bean at the end of it.
So instead of that i'm going to say how much I've enjoyed this Summer. I think having the possibility of yet more treatment really focused my mind and made me want to make the most of the time I had. so here's a few things I learnt.
1) Travelling to new places is always great - I got to go to the west coast of Ireland and the Colorado Rockies. Two places that have been on my list for a long time. Being able and well enough to get on a plane was a joy. Walking and biking in the mountains is a ton of fun. Even if I didn't get to see any Bears (yes I'm still annoyed by this)
2) Meeting online friends offline is worth it - The chances are if you get on well with someone on Twitter / FB / Instagram they'll be great company in real life too. There's always a chance that they might be a 50yr old accountant called Geoff, but unlikely. I've met some great people and had some excellent times.
3) Supporting / helping other people out is one of the best Mental Health tips I've found - I'm sure your social feeds are full of positive aphorisms about "Smiling through the day" or "Banish negativity" against the background of a tranquil lake or a young women in yoga clothes eating a yoghurt. These don't particularly work when you've got a rare strain of cancer which is hanging around longer than Taylor Swift album in the charts. Some days I've woken up with anxiety and self doubt so acute that the mere thought of going down stairs to make a cup of tea is too horrible to contemplate. So my technique these last few months has not to been to deny it but work with it. Going to a friends gig, buying someone a book they might like or just cheering on a latest achievement. Taking yourself out of yourself even for a moment is a useful act, even if you know the daemons are still lurking.
Anyhoo, this is probably my last weekend of freedom so I'm off to explore the Jurrasic Coast in Dorset, go to a birthday party in Bristol and then back to London for the Great Fire 350 celebrations.
More as we get it folks.