A woman looks out of her window at a clear sky.

Reflecting on My 4th Year Cancer-Free

January 31, 2021, was four years since I had my radical cystectomy. Ordinarily, the day is met with various fanfares from me. It usually goes something like this - I will hide behind doors and curtains or whatever I think I can fit behind, then jump out on my unsuspecting victim (usually my husband or one of my sons, it is not something I do to strangers). Chanting, "da da, Winnie is 4!" Winnie is the name that I gave to my stoma. Followed up with a few lines from "Happy Birthday" and the feeling of being genuinely happy, grateful, and proud.

This year was oh-so-very different, in fact, Winnie's birthday had actually passed without me noticing. One day seems to merge into the next these days, and I had no clue that I had let the day go by "uncelebrated." We were well into the month of February before I finally realized.

So, what has happened this last year?

We arrived home from our annual vacation in India on February 28th, the following day we went to collect our Romanian rescue dog. We had agreed to foster her until a permanent home could be found.

Hubby and I were busy making plans. November we were planning to go back to India. Christmas was to be spent with our youngest son in the Netherlands. Then in January of 2021, we were planning a big family holiday to Cuba, as it was my husband's 60th Birthday and of course Winnie's 4th Birthday. Everything was booked and I was happy. My stoma on the whole was giving me little or no bother, life felt "normal."

The pandemic

We had no idea that just over two weeks from returning from vacation we would be going into a "national lockdown" here in the U.K. As the COVID-19 pandemic spread rapidly across, not just the U.K., but across the entire world. Never in our history have we, as a nation, been confined to our homes. It was scary stuff! Each day I would await the Prime Minsters daily update, then I started to receive letters from the National Health Service (NHS). Along with texts, emails, and phone calls from my local doctor, all advising me that I was in what was called the "clinically extremely vulnerable group." And went on to advise me that should I contract coronavirus, it was likely that I would need to be hospitalized. I was to stay indoors, meet with no one. In fact, I was sent a weekly food parcel to ensure that I did not need to go out. Priority home delivery slots were made available. If I had to go out this would be to attend only necessary appointments, such as a hospital or dentist appointments, and I MUST wear a mask. The other members of my household would also need to "shield" to ensure that I was kept "safe".

Adapting to the "new normal"

From March 2020 that was us, as a family, in "lockdown." This pretty much went on for the rest of the year. I did however manage to have some exciting hand surgery done. I had a trapeziectomy with ligament reconstruction along with some previous hardware removed. All other appointments and surgeries have been put "on hold".

The best thing about this last year is that we actually went on to adopt our Romanian rescue dog that we were only supposed to be fostering.

What did I learn this last year?

This year I do not think it was as much about what I learned, but what the rest of the world learned. Learning what it was like to suddenly have your world turned upside, to have all plans snatched from you. To be afraid...

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