On Sunday I will celebrate another milestone – 18 months of life since I was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. After all I have been through over the past 18 months it feels like a significant event as 75 – 80% of us don’t make it past the first year. I have been busy over the past few weeks preparing for the shift of the AWHC office from my home and helping the new co-ordinator of the Auckland Women’s Health Council take over the role. We have attended District Health Board meetings and ethics committee meetings together, and she is about to be welcomed into the Cartwright Collective as we continue to make our concerns about the proposed changes to New Zealand’s cervical screening programme known to health authorities and consider organising another seminar to mark the 30th anniversary of the Cartwright Inquiry.
Last week the AWHC committee treated me to a wonderful lunch at Ostro’s which was much appreciated. Of course, I couldn’t resist the seafood entrée which came with raw oysters, my favourite food. I so enjoyed being there with these amazing women who have been so supportive during the past two to three decades and who have been there for me in so many ways since I learned I had cancer.
So here I am in what feels like my first week of retirement contemplating my future and constantly wondering how long I have got. I managed to refrain from asking Dr S. how long he thought I had left when I saw turned up for my oncology clinic appointment last week, but it is an ever present question that is part of my post chemo life. I asked him what he thought about the continued downward trend of the blood test result for CA19-9, the pancreatic cancer biomarker. He thinks this is probably the ongoing effect of the seven weeks of paclitaxel I had in late November and December last year. I also discussed one of the other effects of that toxic drug – peripheral neuropathy or numbness in my toes and in the soles of my feet. It is extremely disconcerting. As I have had several falls and many near misses I continue to have to be very mindful of my feet when I am walking. As it is now over three months since my last dose of paclitaxel it is unlikely that the damage done to the nerves in my feet will heal before I die.
I still have much to do as part of decluttering my home and preparing for my impending death, but I am actually taking my time over this and plan to make the most of the extra hours I now have, to go to movies and read some of the unread books lying around that I have not had the time to read. Such a luxury!