The Cancer Diagnosis

Editors Note: Sara announced her diagnosis of ovarian cancer on her website on 23rd November 2008. Other posts about it from have been added. There were no further entries after 2009 other than the Facebook fan page announcement.

I beg forgiveness for all the letters I have not answered – I will get round to it … eventually.

But there is a good reason why I haven’t and why book 3 of Dark Glass Mountain is going to be a little-ish late (how late depends on me right now).

For close on 6 months I have been feeling shocking – it got dramatically worse 4 months ago since when I haven’t been able to work at all. Even making a cheese sandwich to eat has required monumental mental and physical effort. Doctors have spent a lot of time and a lot more of my money trying to decide what was wrong with me, coming up with roughly a different diagnosis per week, but fortunately (or not, as the case may be) they finally managed to settle on a firm diagnosis about 3 weeks ago, since when my life has been turned upside down several times over.

I have been diagnosed with advanced ovarian cancer, so now I am on a course of chemotherapy, to be punctuated with major surgery in January-ish of next year, followed by more chemotherapy. I am happy to have a diagnosis (although I did try desperately to renegotiate back to one of the earlier ones!) and more than happy to now have a course of therapy and A Plan for the future.

Happily the chemotherapy has been working fairly well – even though I have just the one course of it thus far. I had a hellish week following the chemo, but the week following that has been rather good – yesterday I cooked myself a pork roast and vegetables! You have no idea what an achievement that was for me – not simply being able to eat a meal like that after months of constant nausea and vomiting, but finding the mental and physical energy to prepare it, too. I have been happily snacking on delicious roast pork ever since. So I am feeling fairly positive. Pork does that for me.

I have an amazing team of two oncologists (one surgical, one medical), one oncology nurse, one set of chemotherapy nurses and an awful lot of support from my friends and family, which has been awesome. Sometimes you don’t realise just what is out there for you until something like this happens. I am very positive for the future, but I am also looking forward to taking at least a year out to concentrate on me rather than write. Sara Douglass will be taking a break, so Sara Warneke can concentrate on herself for the time being.

But there is something some of you might like to do for me, if you wish. I have many friends who live very far away, and all of them wanted to do something, but what? Well, many of them have joined my Rake Squad.

I have a visualisation thing I do regularly. I visualise I live in a beautiful walled orchard. It has only six trees, but that’s enough for one person. There is emerald green grass and white daisies growing between the trees and stretching to the sandstone walls, and the sun shines down on the orchard with a soft, lovely light. But a gribbly black monster has taken up residence in one of the trees, and he’s casting down all kinds of black fungus-laden leaves about the place.

Each day I go in there and I rake all those black leaves up and then take them out to the incinerator through the cast iron gate in the wall and burn them to white ash. I can do that much, at least. I can’t do much about the gribbly black monster just yet, except poke him with my rake and curse him in words I can’t print here and tell him he’s not going to get my orchard, thank you very much, and wait for my tree surgeon (Penny the surgeon) to come on in and cut him out, but in the meantime raking up the fungus-laden leaves is important. I was explaining this to a distant friend and she said, “I’ll come in and rake, too!” and suddenly I have lots of people in there raking and manning the incinerator and the table of tea and cream puffs and whiskey (someone insisted on the whiskey) set up for the rakers by the raging incinerator.

So if you’d like to join the Rake Squad you have no idea how much I’d appreciate it. Those black leaves sometimes accumulate a little too quickly, and some days I am too sick and too down-hearted to go in and rake myself. I am unashamedly asking for a bit of help with the raking. You can send me an email just to let me know you’ll be in there raking occasionally – the Rake Squad could always use a few more rakers!

Anyway, I can’t stop thinking about that cold pork in the fridge so must dash for now. Thanks to everyone for their patience regarding their letters – I will get about to replying eventually, but likely not for a little bit yet.

Added January 13th 2009:

Thank you so much to all who have emailed in and who are busily raking away! I have replied to many of you but I am afraid time has caught up with me over the past 10 days or so and I have been lax. I am going in for surgery tomorrow and I have been told to expect a fairly length recuperation period after it so forgive me if you do not get a reply just yet. As soon as I can muster my chemo-mush-brain into gear, however, be assured I will get around to my correspondence. Here is a pic of me completely hairless on top of Mt Wellington, taken a few weeks ago. It was cold up there!


Added February 14th 2009:

I’m back! Surgery was fun (not) and I am very glad to be home. I spent 4 days in ICU (my advice is to never ever have an epidural – I was one of the ones who a) reacted very badly to it and b) it didn’t bloody work anyway so I had no pain relief for about 24 hours as they couldn’t give anything to me as my BP had dropped so alarmingly but I must stop whining about the pain …) then got better very suddenly and was home again on day 6 post-op. Since then it has been a slow slog each day regaining my strength from the op and coping with chemotherapy again (I re-started about 10 days post-op). But things are looking good and I am feeling well and improving each day. I have two more sessions of chemotherapy to go and I am hoping that is all I will need.

I am getting back into the garden and my enthusiasm for it is coming back. Hopefully I will get back to the gardening blog very soon. As also hopefully I will reply to my hundreds of emails sent in – thank you so much for those – you have no idea how much they have helped.

I am looking forward to autumn – it is such a lovely time of year here in Tasmania and by then my muscles should be back in tune enough for me to get in some gardening.

Added May 30th 2009:

Hello everyone. I went very quiet for a while as I went back into chemo for three months. But now all treatment has been finished, I am in remission, and I am cast back into the cold, dark world all by myself again. So now it is just fingers crossed that I remain cancer free and that the original cancer was not aggressive. My surgeon oncologist will be keeping a close eye on me.

I am back to trying to live a more normal life. Both cancer, surgery and 6 months of chemotherapy really knocked me about. I’m concentrating now on regaining strength and fitness.

My life now is my garden, particularly my kitchen garden. The entire garden descended into a nightmarish mess for about a year as I was ill, so I have been spending as much time as possible fighting the weeds (damn it, why is there no chemo regime for weeds??). This winter I am putting in new raised beds which will extend my food growing area and I really want to get as close to self-sufficiency in food as I can.

So that is what I have been doing.

To everyone who has emailed and written in – thank you so much, Your support has meant a great deal to me. I apologize for not answering everyone personally – but too many of you wrote! 🙂

I am taking most of the rest of this year off, gardening as much as I can, and then back to writing. I have a new book planned and am looking forward to starting it.

Once again – thank you for all your support.

Added July 3rd 2009:

I continue to improve, although the psychological battle is proving harder than the physical one. I have been incredibly down recently, and one of the things I decided to do was to move the Nonsuch sub-site to its own domain, which it really deserved. So, still terribly new, is the Nonsuch Kitchen Gardens site – I still have to move much stuff into the site and I will do that over the next few weeks. It probably doesn’t deserve to go live yet, but what the heck … (the links on the front page and the page headers here will still take you back to the older site, but I will change those over once I have most of the stuff moved).

Nonsuch Kitchen Gardens has its very own, and very very new, blog! Ha! LOL So if you want you can come visit me at the blog. That only went up this morning so it has one proud, lonely, entry. 😉 (I am amazed I mastered the software enough to even post a single entry.)

The garden is really what is keeping me going at the moment, so it is what I am concentrating on.

Again, thank you so much for all the emails. You just have no idea how much they have meant to me.

©2008-2009 Sara Douglass Enterprises