Tears of relief & a photogenic heart

WORDS: Corrine Barraclough PHOTOGRAPHY Corrine Barraclough

CB’s BC Journal

I’ve cried tears of relief this week. I know I’m peaking too soon and need to calm the farm, but I can’t quite believe I finish chemo next Friday.

Of course, because I’m human and fear runs through my veins, I’ve had to be strict with myself when thoughts have been creeping in of how awful it must be if cancer comes back and you have to start this chemo journey all over again.

But that’s not where I’m at today – and for that I am so grateful.

I have three fingernails that are just hanging on now. The one that was first infected is still struggling, still squirting rancid pus and I’m keeping it hidden under a band aid when I’m not soaking it in salt water or letting it get some secret fresh air. The other two are starting to get wiggly and loose, coming off the nail bed.

If that’s the worst side effect that I have to live through until the finish line of chemo, I’m okay with that. I can handle that, just as I can manage the bloody nose in the morning and exhaustion.

Casting my mind back to the beginning of this surreal, horrendous journey – when I first got my diagnosis, shaved my head, and had a meltdown before I started chemo – it all feels like a parallel life.

I’m so proud of myself for smiling even on days when I’ve leaked tears.

I’m so immensely relieved that I’ve travelled this chapter sober; the alternative doesn’t bear thinking about.

I’m so thankful that my body has coped so well with all the poison that’s been dripped into it.

I went for my weekly blood test this morning, knowing that next Wednesday will be the last week of this routine.

My veins are holding up so well and I’m thankful for that too.

When I went to chemo last Friday, the lady in the chair opposite me was having her last chemo but they couldn’t find a vein. It took three nurses over an hour, some tears from her and a hell of a lot of persistence for them to finally get in.

I sat with my eyes closed, saying quiet prayers for her, while the chemo ran cold into my veins. I felt so much gratitude in those few quiet moments.

Yesterday, I went to Robina Hospital for an echocardiogram (ECG). I had one at the beginning of chemo and need one every three months during treatment, so they can keep a check on how my heart is coping. The cardiac sonographer doing the ultrasound told me I had “a very photogenic heart”, and it kept me giggling all afternoon. It’s one of the most random and funniest compliments I’ve ever been given; it will stick with me even after I’ve kicked this breast cancer.

And, you know, I will kick it! I know I still have a long way to go; surgery, 12 months of Herceptin, five years of check ups and hormone blockers… the list goes on. But doing some research yesterday, I found that the longest survivor of breast cancer is 114 years old. Thelma Sutcliffe holds the record as the oldest living American; she’s battled cancer twice in her lifetime. The previous record holder recently died at the age of 116.

So, I may have no hair, my fingernails may be falling off, and I’ve stacked on 10 kgs during chemo but who cares? I’m grateful, I’m alive and there’s a hell of a lot of life in this old sober chick yet!

More next week!

Corrine x

Corrine was diagnosed with Stage 2 breast cancer, which has spread to her lymph nodes. Her medical oncologists are pursuing a “cure”, which will begin with a six-month course of chemotherapy at Gold Coast University Hospital, followed by surgery at Robina Hospital and then likely further treatment. Corrine will be writing a weekly blog journaling her personal journey for Ocean Road Magazinethroughout her breast cancer.