54. Cleared for take off

During chemo, my immune system was rubbish. So I was advised to limit the risk of infection (I became hand sanitizer queen) and avoid places which are known to be incubators for infection (swimming, flying, getting too close to ill people etc). As a result, I haven’t flown since July which, for me, is like Baldrick not having a cunning plan. I have travelled by ferry (on overnight crossings where I can ‘hide’ in a cabin) and on trains (where I can at least wander around and get fresh air at stations/stops) but not flown.

Today is four weeks and three days since I finished chemo, and based on how much my blood improved in the first three days of recovery, by my calculations it’ll be back in the ‘normal’ bracket by now (even if it’s at the lower end). So I booked a flight and am now flying home for Easter.

Despite the obvious excitement of being able to travel again, I was actually a little nervous about today.

I may have more tumours now than I did then, and I’m certainly not as fit as I was then. But my physical state has improved so much from where I was nine months ago and I realized this walking down to the gate. After my last flight, coming back from London with Kari in July, I was aching, breathless and struggled to keep up with her as we walked through the terminal. But today I had a rucksack on my back, an expanded/heavier case (nothing to do with a trip to Nike with my godson yesterday) and rather than stand still on the travelator, I was walking – not fast, but walking.

When we boarded the plane, my case was super heavy coming up the steps, and with limited feeling in my left arm, I was conscious that I felt vulnerable. But I still managed to hold the rail, get up the steps unaided and, remembering that on my last flight the cabin attendant offered to keep my case in the low-level locker at the front, I had no qualms about asking them to do that again (rather than struggling to lift it into the overhead locker). They gladly obliged, and I walked easily down to my seat, buckled up and went into flight mode.

Then came the bit I was worried about.

Before I had brain surgery, I’d lost all use of my left arm – I had feeling but no mobility. If you touched it, I’d feel it. But if I wanted to move it, my brain said ‘move’ but my arm didn’t respond.

After surgery, my mobility started to come back; it took time and I had to retrain my hand and arm to do things again. But it’s now back to about 85% (way better than we expected) and there’s not much I can’t do with it.

But at the same time, the sensitivity in my arm disappeared. Almost overnight, I lost the feeling in my ulnar nerve (which runs from the top of my little finger, up my arm, through my shoulder and into my neck). My upper arm also became very swollen and stiff (symptomatic of lymphedema, a result of having six lymph nodes removed). So my arm is pretty numb most of the time, and my upper arm feels  tight and tense when it’s tired (like when you have blood pressure taken; they wrap a fabric thing round your arm and inflate it, putting pressure on your arm… mine feels like that most of the time).

So given where I was before (paralyzed) these are just residual symptoms from my brain tumour and the surgery I had to remove it, and  they’re totally manageable. But I wasn’t sure how my arm would feel in a pressurized cabin at a few thousand feet, and that’s been praying on my mind.

But this is me, these symptoms are part of my cancer, and I’m not going to let it or them stop me doing the things I want to do.

So short term; I booked a 45-minute hop from Amsterdam back to the UK, (just in case my arm exploded or anything equally ridiculous 🤣). Needless to say; we’ve just landed and I’m all in one piece – arm intact, lungs still working and I’m ready for a Friday night beer with my Papa.

Longer-term; to confirm my extrapolations on the recovery of my immune system, I had blood tests yesterday. I also had my MRI scan yesterday, both of which will confirm whether I’m eligible for clinical trials. Results due next week – fingers crossed!

I’m now spending a few days in Blighty before flying out to Baku for my first F1 race of the year 🙂




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