The media attention in June and July resulted in some real gems. One of them is a fellow pancreatic cancer patient I am now in email contact with. He is in late 60s and like me was diagnosed with exocrine pancreatic cancer in October last year. His early experience of his cancer was very different to mine, but knowing he is out there, on the same path, and dealing with similar issues is a great comfort to me. We are travelling the same route at the same time which will have the same outcome. I no longer feel alone and disconnected from the “real” world, the world which is now for me divided into those who have a diagnosis of terminal cancer (or some other unsurvivable disease) and those who do not.
He referred me to a wonderful BBC series of three programmes called “The Big C & Me.” It shows shows how “there is no right way to cope with cancer – you just do.” All the people featured in the three episodes are ordinary people who respond to their cancer diagnosis and deal with their options in their own way. It is an honest, gutsy, heart-warming, and informative series that doesn’t gloss over the difficult bits. It even features several people with pancreatic cancer. I saw many of my own reactions and experiences echoed in the brave patients who agreed to be interviewed. I have started watching it for the second time because, having not had the chance to meet with anyone else with terminal cancer, this is the next best thing.
I have also just finished reading Jenny Diski’s book “In Gratitude.” My favourite part was section 2 – “Chemo and Me” – which is the second of the three sections of this fascinating book. It is a very witty and brutally honest account of her life and “patient journey” (how I hate that term – and so does Jenny – but she still uses it) written in the aftermath of her diagnosis in August 2014 with inoperable lung cancer. She was told she had two or three years to live. Again I found some of my own thoughts reflected in her irreverent descriptions of her chemotherapy and radiotherapy palliative treatment, The description of the final stages of her disease and how it affected the control – or lack of control – over her body, are very confronting.
The next recently published book on my bedside table is Cory Taylor’s “Dying: a memoir.” Cory Taylor is an Australian novelist dying of melanoma-related brain cancer. She spent several years going through all the available treatment options, but has now come to the end of her life.
I am also keeping a close watch on the inimitable Helen Kelly’s experience of terminal cancer –
These shared experiences offer me valuable insights and the sense of not being alone as I travel “90 miles an hour down a dead end street.” (Apologies to Bob Dylan).