Ally McLaws – living with cancer during a pandemic: What I feared has happened … now for the last line of defense

And so, that long-awaited, much-anticipated, desperately needed jaunt to Lower Largo in Fife was suddenly facing the eleventh hour axe.

After everything that has gone before is it really possible that this can be happening again? If I plan anything it just tempts fate to swiftly and abruptly slam me flat and hard to the ground. Our hopes and aspirations cloud upwards like dust around us.

The cruelties of cancer conspired once again to outwit the lifting of Covid restrictions and create a new roadblock to keep us tethered at home or in our local hospital. My health suddenly spiralled out of control.

Three days before our lift was due to whisk us away, I spent a hellish night desperately trying to catch a breath – it was getting very panicky.

I had already been told by the oncology team that there had been changes to the fluid in my chest. My cancer activity had moved to the “next stage” and that meant a change in treatment.

My earlier treatments have worked so far but not any more – and this new treatment is ominously referred to as “second line”.

I felt very strongly that time was running out. That this was “it” was suddenly very real. I think without intervention it might well have been. The next day my GP was at my bedside advising immediate referral to the hospital assessment unit.

Crosshouse Hospital, three nights and several interventions later, I am not much further forward – but I am breathing more steadily and there’s not a lot more can be done that can’t be achieved at home.

Decision made: I am home for the weekend and if things feel stable and safe, we are going to Lower Largo with my new nebuliser to assist breathing and increased water reduction tablets for the last few days that are left of the property rental.

The sun shone, the cottage was clean and safe, and I was pushed in my wheelchair from the front door to a bench at the beach for wave watching: we got three days and I’m sure Laura and me enjoyed these “getaway” moments every bit as much as Branson and his Scots-born rocket pilot enjoyed winning his mega-money race to space.

The objective now is to keep me breathing until the new drugs regime can get to work and try to control the new level of threat that is my latest cancer battle status. The patient leaflet indicates a lot of new side-effects including that this treatment will see my hair fall out.

Lucky White Heather right enough – my hair grew like weeds due to steroids for a year when no-one could get a haircut. And now the barbers are open I am told my hair will fall out …

Ally McLaws is a freelance specialist in writing, business marketing and reputation management. See the full range of services and past columns at

The Herald Scotland

The Herald Scotland

The Herald is a Scottish broadsheet newspaper founded in 1783. The Herald is the longest running national newspaper in the world and is the eighth oldest daily paper in the world. The title was simplified from The Glasgow Herald in 1992