Yesterday, Jan 2nd, marked five years since I was admitted to hospital with kidney failure. At the time I was blissfully ignorant that I had a life threatening cancer called Multiple Myeloma, but it wasn't long before I was told on 10.1.2007 - that was the day my life changed forever.
Marking five years is amazing on the one hand, but going over the five year threshold also scares me to death because while I wanted to reach the five year milestone and keep going, I am also aware that the further I move away from my original diagnosis, the closer I may be moving towards a return of my Myeloma.
Sorry here's the sciency bit: Multiple Myeloma is a cancer of the plasma cells in the bone marrow. Only 2% of people under 40 are diagnosed with it so when I was diagnosed at 38 it was a shock statistically and in every other way imaginable.
There is currently no cure for Myeloma but the aim is to keep people like me alive as long as possible in the hope that someday a cure will be found. I was treated with thalidomide and with oral chemo, followed by the good stuff - the liquid chemo. I had my stem cells harvested and frozen. Then I was given high doses of liquid chemo and then had something called a stem cell transplant.
Another sciency bit here: A stem cell transplant is where they harvest the stem cells from your own bone marrow and donate them back to you to rescue you from the effects of the chemo. The hope is that the stem cells will grow into healthy cells - white cells, red cells etc and repopulate your bone marrow and make you healthy again. [Loads more sciency stuff on www.mymyeloma.ie]
I have been in remission since September 2007 and I am so lucky to have been given all this time here with my husband and children. There were times during my transplant when I was so ill, I thought I would not get through another day.
The last five years have been the most amazing ones because I have cherished the time and relished the time in a way that I didn't before. Don't get me wrong, it hasn't been all sunshine and roses, there have been setbacks. I was very lucky to survive a blood clot in my lung on the first day of my Summer holidays in August 2009, but I have improved since then and in November 2010 I was taken off all treatment. I am injection free, infusion free, tablet free for the first time in 4 years and it has been incredible.
When I was first diagnosed I made a deal with God - I asked him to keep me here so as I could see my little boy start school - Cathal was 2 when I was diagnosed and my daughter Emma was 9. I asked God to let me see her making her Confirmation, starting secondary school, maybe meeting her first love. As the years passed by I started to revise my deals [luckily I put none of them in writing and God this blog doesn't count].
- Why shouldn't I be here for exams and boyfriends and girlfriends and for graduation from secondary school?
- Why shouldn't I be here to see Emma walk down the aisle?
- Why shouldn't I get to be a grandmother.
- Why shouldn't my kids have their Mum as they grow up?
It's thinking about this that sometimes can be very overwhelming.
But I am a very positive person and I do believe in miracles - it's a miracle that I am here. That is why I want to spend my time doing things that make me smile, making memories with my kids, doing miraculous things and making each day count.
The list of things I have done over the past five years sometimes makes me dizzy but it has been wonderous and I am not sure if I would have done a lot of these BC [Before Cancer]
Sang on stage with Brian Kennedy
Welcomed the Mooney Show into the house for a concert
Climbed Croagh Patrick
Became a Scout Leader and camped for 9 days and nights at a Jamboree
Started my own radio show in my spare time
Spoke on live tv and radio about my illness despite the fact that I had to sit on my hands because I was shaking so much
Published an audio anthology of writing
Kayaked 10km up a river in Germany as part of a scout trip
Camped in all sorts of places and hostelled
Started a young adult creative writing group
Started a dedicated website and awareness week for myeloma
Gone back to work...
Started to write again and this month I am sending out a submission about the book I have written about my cancer journey....
Most recently the #TwitterXmasSingle .........
The list keeps growing and I am making new memories every day. I am very lucky in a way to have been given a second chance, to have been given time out to reflect on the important things in life, to cherish the ordinary everyday miracles that are all around us in our lives, whether we realise it or not!
So as you start a new year remember that your health is the only wealth you will ever need........and do take time to notice and cherish your own everyday miracles....
"Health is a crown, worn by those who are well and seen only by those who are sick".
I hope to hang onto my crown of health for as long as I can.
Happy New Year