About three years ago, my Nan Jackie (being my dad’s mother) was diagnosed with lung cancer. Lung cancer is the second most common type of diagnosed cancer in the UK after breast cancer, and its instance increases significantly in smokers and ex-smokers. Nan J was a smoker for most of her life, though she gave up some five or six years back.
My Gran couldn’t tell me herself; it was my mum who made the call to me, and my Nan called an hour or so later to talk about it. I didn’t know how I felt about the whole thing, really. It’s only this year that I’ve ever experienced personal loss, when my Dadcu died, so three years ago I was certain that my family were immortal and would continue being old, curmudgeonly, but unfailingly present in my life.
The detection of the cancer was quite early through the cycle, because Nan J had emphysema and was x-rayed for a check up on that. The likelihood of survival in cases of cancer, especially lung cancer, increases the earlier it’s detected, so for that I am eternally grateful.
After a course of chemotherapy, the tumor was announced to be in remission, and we all stopped holding our breath. Some time went by and I stopped thinking about the cancer. Not having learned enough was my downfall here. I thought that ‘in remission’ meant ‘gone forever.’ Not the case.
I can’t think on the timescale. I’ve always found it hard to keep track of dates in my mind and so things are often not concrete for me.
Regardless of when it was, the tumor became active again. This time, it was harder. The chemotherapy alone wasn’t enough, so they put her on radiotherapy, and she lost her hair. Despite being in her sixties, Nan J still had hair like straw, yellow and wispy. There were bits of grey creeping in here and there around her ears and temples, but for the majority, still blonde. The wig she got was sleeker than her natural hair, darker but with honeyed highlights.
Eventually, the tumor faded into remission again. Presumably, her hair began to return, and the horrible effects of the cancer and the treatments faded away. I have spoken to her plenty but not seen her; the distance from Lancaster to Llanelli is substantial.
Unfortunately, cancer subverts reality and resists true elimination from a person’s body. After a few months of phonecalls which were punctuated by harsh coughing fits, it’s been confirmed again; the cancer is back.
Through the whole ordeal, Nan Jackie has been steadfastly ignoring the fact that lung cancer is the most common cause of lethality in cancer sufferers. Only around 30% of people survive for more than a year after initial diagnosis, and less than 10% survive for five years or more.*
When my Nan started losing her hair, I decided that a show of solidarity would be one of the best ways I could support her, and so I began to grow my hair. Nan Jackie might already have her wig, but there are people out there who can’t get them. The Little Princess Trust is a charity who makes real-hair wigs for children who are dealing with hairloss. At the time, the required minimum length was 10″ and by the time my hair was getting close to that, my gran was back in remission. The idea fell by the wayside.
Now though, the minimum length is 7″ which I’m sure I have. Besides, whether or not my gran is recieving treatment, there will always be a need for donations to worth-while charities.
So the long and short of it is that I’d like people to donate money to my hair-cutting effort so I can give my hair to TLPT and some donation to Cancer Research UK. I’ve made a Just Giving page, Alice’s Page, so it’s safe and secure, and I’ll be writing with more details of the actual haircut soon, but basically, here’s the info – Sponsored Hair Cut.
Sorry this post isn’t up to the standard of my usual writing; I was finding it hard to get into writing-mood but wanted to get this up sooner rather than later.
*Stats sourced from Cancer Research UK website.