08 Feb 2011
Well, I went to the first session this evening. It's actually 2 and a half hours, not 2 as I had originally thought. Long day, straight from work and not long home now. I'm glad I decided to drive there now rather than bus it - would've been about an hour and a half journey by bus(es) and in the mad rush-hour traffic too... and pay-for parking finishes at 5pm around there, so that was a nice surprise too.
We had loads of forms to fill in to begin with, individual questions which will be monitored over the course of the programme and reviewed at the finish. Half an hour of exercise, which I really enjoyed. There are 10 of us on the course, each at different stages, different diagnoses/treatments etc. 2 guys and 8 women. To begin with we all sat around this massive big wooden kitchen table and had a sort of AA Introduction thing. "My name is blah .. and I'm an al .... oh no, sorry ... I've got such-and-such type cancer, diagnosed whenever, had this treatment or that treatment, such and such still ongoing ... type of thing. Everyone's situation there is different and yet many common factors run through - like the fatigue that seems to affect all of us long after the initial treatment, the psychological factors, the spontaneous bouts of depression etc. It was very emotional. Some were angry ... Why me?
Some fearful, some accepting ... as I said all different situations. One of the guys has bowel cancer and not long after surgery and part treatment. The other guy is there to support his wife who has multi secondary cancers affecting many areas - and is very, very emotional and frightened. He also lost his best friend to cancer of the osophoegus. We are all from different areas and treatment has been in different hospitals.
I was surprised to see that most find it difficult to deal with what seems to be the notion from others that just because you're back at work now, you must be OK. It's all over and done with. (I had thought it was just my work that thought that way - at least my boss). No, far from it .. apart from the psychological after effects of your initial diagnosis, there is so much more and as one person tearfully pointed out, especially in the first 5 years after diagnosis there is always the fear that every little ache and pain which before would have been dismissed as say a headache or whatever, the wondering could this be a symptom of a secondary cancer.... Anyway, the interactive discussions went on for a while, during which time everyone has bonded as a group. Then we enjoyed a delicious healthy and nutritious spread which had been laid on for us.
Each of the following 5 sessions will be allocated to a separate theme. Next week is exercise, then will be nutrition, the following week a Consultant is coming in to discuss various aspects with us, as a group and individually (e.g. one woman there is specifically concerned with genetic testing, as she is in a group which is commonly prone to a genetically formed cancer (Jewish something or other?). As it happens, it is anticipated that the consultant will be my own one, who is closely monitoring my own situation. My next appointment with him is on 1st March. Also, one of the weeks we will have a specialist Psychologist coming in as that week will be dedicated to the many psychological effects involved where cancer is concerned.
We each have been given diaries to make our own individual daily record of progress over the 6-week period. We're supposed to write down and describe in detail all that we eat, portions, times, etc - why? (i.e. was it a comfort snack.. that sort of thing) how it made us feel afterwards ... really going into detail. Our exercise routine and generally everything and anything that happens during the course of the week and what effect, good or bad, that might have had on us. Record doc/consultant appointments, their reasons/discussions/results etc. Oh yes, we've all been given one of those stepometer thingies that you strap to your person and records every step(!) I suppose at least that'll be an incentive to get up and cross the room to change the channel on the tv instead of just pressing the remote!
All in all, I think it's an excellent package - and all totally free of any charge, which if anything will serve as a kick-start into developing an appropriate routine and helping to cope and deal with whatever the future may hold in store... and hopefully, we will all continue to keep in touch with each other after the 6 weeks are up.