Last night I found out some amazing news, my dear friend Kathy was told she is NED (no evidence of disease) – she has had a complete response to Keytruda, the drug that I am on. I am so genuinely happy for Kathy, her husband Ant, and the rest of her family.
Let me tell you a little about Kathy and I. Lets just say we are mutual stalkers with a love for hairy men.
My first encounter with Kathy was at one of my first treatments of Keytruda. I was sitting with Serge having my treatment and I told him to look over to the other side of the room – I pointed out a young woman and a bearded man and said, ‘look Serge, she still has hair and she likes bearded men too!’ Kathy’s husband is pretty much the blonde version of Serge.
That was it. No contact was made – just an observation.
A few months later, I came across Kathy’s blog,The Naked Gardiner, and I immediately emailed her and told her about my observation those months earlier. It turns out that Kathy had also been dabbling in a bit of stalking and had been meaning to email me about the launch of my blog.
Kathy gained access to Keytruda and we found that our oncologist appointments and treatment followed. I like to think that we are our oncologist’s favourite patients. We spoke regularly and would meet up outside treatment days. A friendship was formed. Serge and I were also lucky to witness Kathy and Ant marry.
The rest is history! Even though we are polar opposites in many ways, Kathy and I get each other. Kathy is definitely one of the best things to come from having cancer.
So last night when I was out at dinner with my family, I popped onto Facebook and saw the exciting news that Kathy was NED. This absolutely did not come as a shock; I had seen this come from miles away. I was so happy and I jumped on my phone to tell mum the news and then messaged Kathy to say ‘yay!’
And then I had a big cry all the way from Beaudesert to Corinda and into the night…
Not once since I have been diagnosed with cancer have I asked ‘why me?’ or ‘this is unfair’. I have very much accepted my diagnosis and got on with life. For the first time last night I asked Serge, ‘what about me?’ I hated this. I was angry with myself that I could not stay in the moment of happiness for Kathy, nor could I take advantage of this news and use Kathy as hope.
As you know, I am always cautious about becoming too close to other people with Stage 4 Melanoma. I look at people like Jay Allen, who dedicates his life to being a support to people with melanoma, often advanced melanoma, and in turn has lost so many of his close friends. I knew that I could never handle that amount of grief. I chose early on that I needed to limit my contact with other patients, but having a very public blog doesn’t always allow this. There have been people that I can’t help but form a relationship with and I have experienced the pain of losing them.
I remember when my oncologist realised that my friendship with Kathy extended beyond just a friendly chat every three weeks at treatment, she was concerned. She was worried about what would happen when one of us stopped responding to treatment and what would happen when one of us passes away.
This was a concern that was not new to me. I had spoken to my support team at the hospital about my fears and what this would do to either one of us. Lyndal asked me, ‘will you ever look back and actually regret having this friendship?’, and of course my answer was no.
We never spoke about what would happen if one of us ended up with NED. How would this make the other feel?
Selfishly I am very happy that Kathy will continue to have treatment for a few more months, so that I can have a friend at treatment. But, there is an element of me that feels lonely. I no longer have that person that is in the same boat as me. I am jealous that Kathy and Ant have more hope for a future than Serge and I (she will read this and go, ‘no, I am scared shitless!). And I ask, why not me? Why can’t I meet NED?
I honestly cannot imagine the day that I am NED. I think this because I have never allowed myself to imagine that day. I was given three months to live with my cancer completely out of control. I didn’t want to be demanding and hope for NED, I just wanted time with my husband, family and friends.
Should I change my attitude and start hoping and even expecting NED or should I remain cautious? No one has an answer to these questions and over time I will have to work out what is best for me.
Today, and even tomorrow, I am going to let myself cry. Wednesday I am going to give Kathy the biggest hug ever and let her know how happy I am for her. Like I said, I will never look back and regret the friendships that I have made since being sick, especially this one. And than, I will keep on plodding along like I always do.