Hold onto your hats, it's going to be a bumpy ride! Thank you for stopping by and joining me for a while. I've recently been juggling (as all mums do) more balls than I am comfy with, and just when I felt like a professional juggler - BAM!! I get hit with this - BREAST CANCER!! I'm hoping that writing this blog will serve as some sort of therapy for me, to get me through this 'rough patch' ahead.... if it's interesting, entertaining, thought provoking or helpful to anyone else out there then that's an added bonus. If you like what you read, please visit again or click the "join" button below, and feel free to spread the word.

Sunday, 9 December 2012

Exercise and Me - One week in ...

I'm pleased to confirm that since Tuesday I kept going.    Yoga on Wednesday and then as the weather was wet and snowy on Thursday and Friday I did my Wii Just Dance.   Which my husband thinks is just dancing around but you do actually have to follow the routine and if you pick the songs with the higher sweat rating they do really get my heart going and leave me panting.   After doing 30 mins and just over 2000 'sweat points' on Thursday, which I was proud of, I told my BF who has been doing Just Dance workouts and others for over a year and she basically told me I should aim higher and sweat more.  2000 points didn't cut it with her!  You can read her diet blog here.    She's right to keep pushing me, and it worked.  On Friday I did over 3000 points and finally felt that so far illusive, adrenaline rush!!   I was knackered and wanting to stop but I kept pushing myself and then I was flying - not literally.   But I felt the 'rush' of a new burst of energy, and then felt ecstatic to have beaten my target.

I've been very disciplined about fitting my exercise in.  Even on Thursday which was a very busy day for me, I had been Christmas shopping around town in the morning and usually that would be enough to knacker me out for the rest of the day.  But I came home, had some lunch and then got down to it.  Yesterday was a rest day, and then today at about 9.15 a.m I donned my new running shoes and off I went!   The weather this morning was perfect for it, dry and cool, not cold.  I've also bought one of those handy ipod holders you can strap to your arm.  So as you run you have your favourite tunes on and I also use the App mapmyride to measure how far I have been. So this morning I set the App to walk mode, but I ran approx 40% of my walk.  This is only my second trip out, attempting to run, and my running bursts felt good, a bit longer than the first time and much more comfy thanks to my new trainers.

I covered 4.05km in 34 minutes.   Walking doesn't burn many calories unfortunately, but I definitely worked up a sweat and came home invigorated, yet breathless, and ruddy faced!!   My aim is to build up my running bursts so that I am running at least 60% of the time.    Fingers crossed the weather in the coming week is dry as I much prefer to be out exercising than indoors.   I forgot to get myself weighed but will do so soon. Onwards and upwards!   I'll leave you with a new photo of me, check out the hair growth!!

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

2nd day of my new routine

So yesterday I walked (and ran a bit don't forget) 2.87 km (1 mile) which really was just a warm up to get me started in my new exercise regime, but come last night my leg muscles and feet had nearly seized up!  I think they were in shock!  I treated myself to a nice hot bath and did some extra stretches, but was definitely feeling it when I got out of bed this morning.
To be disciplined about getting my exercise done each day it helps if I get up, have a quick wash (no shower) and put my work out gear on straight away. Then I'm set.  Get the kids to school and then I can put my energy into getting fit.  Today I went out on my bike.  I rode 6.19km (3 miles - there's an App for that!) which included a couple of small hills which felt like mountains to me!  I'm aware that this distance isn't exactly far, my 8 year old could do it, but I definitely worked my body, became breathless and pushed myself.   It was almost freezing out there and at times I thought "I hate this!! It's NOT fun!". But by the end of my trip I was happy and proud of myself.   I'm not looking forward to my muscles objecting later though!
For me this isn't about losing weight, but next time I'm in town I will weigh myself in Boots (I dont own bathroom scales) as it will be good to see some pounds shed as a happy side effect.  Tomorrow it's yoga, which will hurt but my muscles need a good stretch!

Monday, 3 December 2012

Bring on the Exercise!!

Life is racing by and so far I have neglected to get into a regular exercise routine.  You know, the one that's really important to improving my chances of never getting breast cancer again.  I confess, I have got a little lazy.   Plus, exercise and I have never really been best buddies.  But particularly following my post about how housework won't keep you fit I really should have gotten my arse in gear by now.  And yesterday morning my dear husband called me on this.  He basically said "when are you going to start exercising?", which was hard to hear but he has been worrying about it and he is quite right. When am I and why aren't I??
I think the reason is fairly straightforward, I haven't found any form of exercise I really enjoy, AND I am scared of it.  I am scared of that feeling, out of breath, puffing and panting, face red as a beetroot, burning in your air ways.   I told him I have had enough discomfort this year without adding to it!!! Pathetic eh? I am good at thinking up excuses.
I do really want to get fit and make it part of my life, but I am floundering at how to do this.   I go to my weekly yoga class, which my husband scoffs at, but I believe it has helped me.   My upper body strength and muscle tone is improving week by week and I do get muscle aches and pains from being stretched - literally!
But yes he is right - yoga will not get my heart pumping and make me sweat, thereby giving my body the overall workout it needs to get truly fighting fit.   
So, here we go.  From this day onwards, I WILL EXERCISE 5 TIMES PER WEEK.  Exercise in my book is doing 30 mins or more of cardio work, something that gets me out of breath and sweating, apart from the 1 yoga session.  So 4 sessions of cardio work and 1 yoga EVERY WEEK.   Some may think I am setting my sights a little high, but I've got to devote myself 100% to this, otherwise I will just put it further down the list of priorities and before I know it I have only exercised once in a week.   My exercise of choice will be running (which I will build up gradually by walking and running in bursts) or cycling when its dry enough, or doing the Wii Just Dance on sweat mode if its chucking it down or snowing.   I've even made myself a wall chart!
So today my first day, I've started well, home from the school run then straight back out again doing my fast walking with jogging bursts, 28 mins, I worked up a little sweat and it felt good.  As I got home a bit earlier than intended I then ran up and down the stairs a few times, definitely felt that!  It was a good start.   
I need to get into town and buy some proper running trainers and once I am well equipped I will definitely increase the running and see where it takes me!
My whole life I have been one of those girls who'd avoid PE, and always said "I don't do running", but that is going to change.  I just hope my knees can take it!
I shall update my blog with details of my progress, so you my lovely readers can give me grief if I appear to be slacking.   Over and out for now. x

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Premature Menopause

One of the long term side effects of chemotherapy is your periods stopping and basically you go through menopause - premature or not, depending on your age.   It doesn't happen to everyone, but as my last period was in March shortly after my first dose of chemo, and I still had no sign of it come November I was getting rather worried.     Don't get me wrong, having no period each month is great!! BUT and I think it's a BIG but, at 38 years young I am not relishing the thought of other changes my body will encounter if it's no longer producing oestrogen.    If you go through the menopause early i.e. before the age of 45 you have a greater risk of developing heart problems and osteoporosis.   
Osteoporosis is basically having fragile bones which are porous and more likely to break easily.   Obviously I try not to dwell on these things, but since having cancer treatment the list of things I am now at greater risk of getting as I age has grown a fair bit.   You have to balance this information with the fact that the chemo is designed to blast all the cancer cells in your body and therefore prevent a recurrence within, hopefully, the next 5 years.
During my time as a cancer patient I have gone through all the menopause symptoms; night sweats, hot flushes, memory loss, insomnia, weight gain around my middle, fatigue, muscle & joint pain, dry skin etc.....and most of these symptoms have now subsided, so I was half hoping that I had gone through the menopause and come out the other side, and half hoping all those symptoms were purely chemo related and my body would return to normal.
Last Tuesday I even went for a blood test to find out for definite what's going on with me.  Apparently they can tell by the level of Follicle Stimulating Hormone (FSH) in your blood.   The results of the test take 4 or more days to come through to your GP.   Anyway this was all irrelevant come Thursday of last week - when I couldn't really believe it, but my period arrived!!!! I didn't get much warning really, I mean it was fairly pain free although pretty full on.  Sorry - I won't go into any more detail.   But I was actually jumping for joy to have my 'old friend' back again!!!     Prior to its arrival I honestly felt like I had aged 10 years in only 9 months, but now I feel MUCH better, almost back to my old self.
The effect that hormone levels have on us women is actually quite scary.   The only down side of all this is that I will have to go through all the menopausal side effects again in roughly 10 years time!!  But I reckon nothing can be worse than what this year has thrown at me.
If you're reading this and premature menopause is something of concern to you, please visit The Daisy Network for support and advice.

Thursday, 18 October 2012

The benefits of housework...

I've been meaning to write this post since back in September, when it was announced on the radio and in many newspapers that doing housework and gardening can help protect you from developing cancer.  At the time I was undergoing radiotherapy and quite frankly felt outraged at this news!!!   My initial reaction was "how bloody ridiculous!!!"

OK, at the time I didn't actually read any of the articles claiming this, I just heard the headline and a brief overview on the radio.  Which I'm sure many others did too.   I'm 38 years old, have 2 children under 10, at the time of my diagnosis was working part-time in an office, doing the school runs (walking & driving), doing housework etc; all the usual housewifely and motherly duties - I was leading an 'active' life, yet I got breast cancer.   

I really feel that telling women they reduce their risk of getting breast cancer by doing housework and gardening is misleading and quite frankly, dangerous.  Women are likely to think well I already do those things, therefore I need do nothing more to protect myself.   Surely most women do housework and gardening?!!  OK not so much the gardening, in this house anyway, but are we really becoming a nation of slackers just sitting around?!   Not the women I know.     

Plus, if we are saying women need to be cleaning more, for those who are already rushing around like headless chickens, working AND running a home whilst raising children, this message is only adding more STRESS to their lifestyle.   Stress (although not proven) in my opinion definitely increases your chance of getting cancer.  Stress reduces your immunity, thus letting those nasty little cancer cells thrive.

My oncologist says EXERCISE, exercise is the key.    Regular exercise will reduce your risk of getting cancer (or in my case, of it recurring).    I realise that what these articles are encouraging is building exercise into your daily routine but surely it needs to be more than hoovering & dusting, or a spot of pruning and deadheading!!   Having now read one of the offending articles, they do say that exercise can be anything that leaves you slightly out of breath.  Does housework and gardening really fall into this category? I guess that depends on how fit you are.

Personally I think the strong message to women should be EXERCISE for LIFE and DE-STRESS.    Find an exercise you LOVE DOING and keep doing it, for your long term health and happiness.  Whether it be running, jogging, walking (fast), zumba, weight training, swimming, cycling, yoga, pilates or belly dancing!  whatever you do, it should be enjoyable though.    I have always kept a clean home but I haven't always kept a regular exercise regime - if I had, would I have got breast cancer?

On another note, please support the Stand Up to Cancer campaign.   Channel 4 and Cancer Research UK have joined forces to raise lots and lots of lovely money to help speed up the advances being made towards a cure for cancer.  Tomorrow will be an entertaining yet emotional, no doubt, night of TV on Channel 4.  Think of me and donate some cash!  FIND OUT MORE HERE

Sunday, 7 October 2012

No more treatment!

 I am delighted to say that I have now completed all my treatment!!  September was Radiotherapy month and now I can put it behind me.    The treatment itself wasn’t bad at all, if you don’t think about the risk of possible long term side effects.   I now have one slightly pink and tender boob, but am told I’ll be on the mend in about 2 weeks time.    The radiotherapy keeps working for 2 weeks after the treatment has stopped, so the soreness could get worse before it gets better.   I’m used to wearing my ‘comfort bra’s’ or indeed sometimes going braless – oooh racy eh?! Its about racy as I get at the moment!!

A friend of mine says I’m likely to get depressed now that the treatment is over.  Largely because I now have time to sit back and reflect on all that has happened, my survival instincts and adrenaline to get through each day of driving to the hospital and treatment are no longer required, so I can see how this might happen.    But I’m determined not to start sitting around feeling sorry for myself.   Instead I am going to sit around feeling how lucky I am!! ;)   On the first day of my 'new life' I did the ironing and watched a ‘chick flick’, without feeling guilty at all.  Yes, I have quit my office job – it wasn’t an easy decision to make.   I had a gut feeling that I didn’t want to return to it, but simply put – I felt obliged to go back, and of course the extra money is always useful, but a lot of hassle goes into earning it and then it’s gone in a flash!   My company had been so good to me during my illness, not putting pressure on me, paying me more than they are legally required to do and expressing their concern for me.  But when it came to crunch time, I just had to go with my gut and fortunately, we are in the financial situation where we can scrape by on one salary.  My DH is a very hardworking and ambitious fella.   He has done a grand job of providing for me and the kids ever since I stopped work in London 8 years ago.    Don’t get me wrong, I do not expect him to be the only bread winner forever.  But for now, while I get my strength back and whilst my children are still young (6 and 8) I’m going to enjoy having TIME for myself and for motherly duties, instead of rushing around like a blue-arsed fly in a permanent state of guilt and exhaustion.    This is one good thing that has come from my cancer journey.      

The chemo has left me with aches and pains and extra flab around my middle, so I am going to slowly but surely improve my fitness and loose some weight.  I've joined a weekly yoga class, the first one last week was really enjoyable.   I need to loose a stone, so I’m going to do “speed walking” (I don’t do running) and Zumba – which is perfect for sweating whilst having a laugh.

Having a laugh – that’s high on my things to do list too!  This year has been so full of stress, fear and pain that I cannot take any more and it’s time to change.   It’s all a state of mind you know.   I’m rather into complimentary therapies and during my trips to the hospital last month I took advantage of some free therapy sessions in the cancer support centre.   I had a free Indian Head Massage, which was AMAZING and very relaxing, and a free Hypnotherapy session which was a rather strange experience but interesting too.  I also had 2 BodyTalk sessions.  This is a tricky one to describe, so click here if you want to know more.  But basically I left with a feeling of lightness and brightness, mentally speaking.   The lady also taught me a technique to use at home, which involves deep breathing, placing hands in certain positions on my head and tapping on my forehead and chest - which sounds rather bizarre doesn't it - yet it leaves my mind feeling more focused AND it makes me laugh (I realise I look ridiculous), so it must be good for me!!   I'm sure that using these complimentary therapies, plus yoga and other exercise will help me get back in shape mentally and physically and hopefully regain my sense of humour!   That's the plan anyway, I'll just see where it takes me.

Tuesday, 11 September 2012

Radiotherapy for Dummies

I've been trying to write this post now for days and can never find a good time.  Anyway here it is, sorry if it's a bit rambling!!

I'm going to try and explain radiotherapy treatment so those of you who haven't got a clue what it is and what it does will get a better understanding of it.  It might even help me in the process!!
The treatment uses high energy x-rays (or electrons) to treat cancer.  It basically blasts the cancer cells and kills them off.   The machine that is used for this is called a Linear Accelerator and it looks a bit like a giant microscope, with me the patient being slid in underneath its 'lens'.   Before my treatment started I had a 'planning scan' where scan pictures and lots of measurements were taken of my boob, they also gave me two tiny little pin prick tattoos which they now use as reference points to line me up in the LA machine.   The planning of the treatment takes about 2 weeks and is very important as careful planning helps prevent the radiation from affecting healthy parts of the body.
My consultant has decided I need 4 weeks of treatment, that is once a day, 5 days a week for 3 weeks on my whole left boob and underarm and then 1 week concentrating just on the scar area, where the lump was.   My consultant has been through all the possible side effects with me and I had to sign a consent form acknowledging them all and giving my permission for treatment.   The most likely side effects are fatigue and skin soreness, but this can be minimised by avoiding irritants such as underwire bras and perfumed bath products, in fact I'm not allowed to use anything other than water, aqueous cream and aluminium free deodorant.  For me, ditching my underwire bras doesn't come easy as I like to keep my 34E's well supported!! So I need to get myself some 'comfort' bras and get used to the 'baggy boob' look!!  Funny how this bothers me more than other side effects I could be exposed to.....
As the treatment is to my left breast, there is a chance that my heart can be affected and also the lungs can become less stretchy which would result on shortness of breath, but the benefits of radiotherapy far outweighs the risks, so I'm not going to dwell on the negatives.
Since finishing Chemo I've had pretty much two months off of being a 'hospital patient', so going back in there last Monday was hard to do and has made me feel rather depressed during the past week.    On my first day of treatment I found it rather bemusing to find myself sitting next to 70 year old men in their dressing gowns in the waiting room.   The fact that all patients need to be half naked during treatment had escaped me, and as there is a shortage of clean hospital gowns patients are encouraged to bring in and wear their own robe.    For all of my treatments I have to strip to the waste and put on my robe (they provide changing rooms), then sit out in the waiting area to be called.   So far I haven't had to wait longer than 20 mins.     When the nurse (radiographer is probably the correct term) calls me I go round the corner down this long wide corridor and into a large room where the LA machine is.  At my hospital I think there are 8 of these machines in total, and they appear to all be in use and busy.   I don't think I will ever get used to seeing how busy this Cancer Centre is!  It's scary.
For every treatment I have to give the nurse my name, address and DOB, obviously so they can make sure they are giving the correct treatment to me and not someone elses.  Then I climb on the bench thingy, lay down and raise my left arm out to the side and above my head to hold onto a handle.  This bench then goes upwards (about 4ft off the ground) and back under the machine.    I'm told to lie heavily and relax whilst the nurses shift my position every so slightly to the left and make pen marks on my chest and underarm.    There is usually 2 to 4 people in the room, all doing their job, reading out measurements and checking that everything is set up accurately.   I'm very impressed with their speedy, professional yet chirpy bedside manner.   They must see dozens of patients in a day and treat all areas of the body, they must see all sorts of sights but just carry on in the same professional manner.    Whilst they are checking everything is set up properly the lights are dimmed a couple of times so they can check the position of the laser - at least I think that's what it is - there's a green laser beam and a red one coming out of the machine, which you can't see when the lights are on full.   So, once all the pre treatment checks are done, the nurses leave the room with a cheery "Here we go!" so they can avoid the radiation themselves and operate the machine from the adjoining room - they can see me via a camera and screen.    I need to stay completely still while the machine runs.  First it blasts me from the left side - not that I can feel or see anything happening but the machine makes a noise when its on, and then it moves over in an arc to my right side and blasts me again twice.    The actual treatment takes a matter of seconds and I'm in the treatment room for a total of 10 minutes all in.    I've now had 7 out of my 20 doses of radiation and so far have only noticed a few shooting pains through my boob and the skin is beginning to dry out.      The main reason I have found it tricky to get time to write this post, is because the journey too and from treatment takes me about an hour each way plus I have to park in Tesco's car park at the hospital so have got way-layed a few times having lunch at Costas or picking up a few supplies.   When I get home there's often only time for a cuppa tea and to empty the dishwasher before I have to go out again on the school run.  It's all go you know!
It's not all doom and gloom though.    I'm also making the most of free alternative therapies offered at the cancer support centre - yesterday I enjoyed a session called Bodytalk, on Thursday I have an Indian Head Massage booked and later in the month, a Mindfulness (otherwise known as meditation) session.   I shall post again on my experience of these.  Bye for now and please visit again! x

Thursday, 6 September 2012

Sorry for the silence

This is just a quick post to say I am still here, I will blog again but I've been rather preoccupied with holidays, spending time with the kids and as of Monday gone, attending radiotherapy sessions every day.
After finishing chemo I felt absolutely drained.  Pre cancer I had been in a permanent state of tiredness ever since having my first child, but now thanks to 6 doses of chemo I know what true fatigue feels like, and it's a complete pain in the arse.  It doesnt mix well with being a Mum, and having the kids home on school holidays.   Don't get me wrong,I did enjoy the summer with the kids but was also very grateful to family helping me out by having the kids for a day here and there.
Our trip to Majorca was overall very restful and just what my little family needed.  Time to relax with the sun on our backs and time to lick our emotional wounds left by "the last 6 months".  Both my DH and I find it hard to call it what it is, CANCER.   So, the last 6 months has taken its toll on all 4 of us in various ways.  Our sensitive son showed signs of heightened anxiety over visiting new places, on one visit to a restaurant  10 mins up the road from our apartment in a very family friendly resort, he couldn't eat his food and said he just wanted to get back to the apartment where "he felt safe".   I must just say we weren't bound to the room 24/7 though!  He really loved the pool and spent many happy days swimming, snorkelling and dive bombing!
I'll have to stop this post now, otherwise my sleepy brain which just ramble on and write a load of rubbish.  I've had 4 doses of radiotherapy, which leaves 16 to go!  To get through this I've got to be strict with myself and have early nights. So night all, I will write again soon about my treatment and the up side of cancer - free complimentary therapies and a fresh start.

Tuesday, 3 July 2012

Silver Lining

Sorry I've been so quiet.    I am VERY happy that I have had my last chemo - over a week ago actually! but I am just rather bored of this whole cancer/chemo thing and haven't felt inspired to write anything.    I am tired, mentally and physically, it's a side effect of the treatment - there are many side effects which I have written about before, but the fatigue I've experienced this time round has been something else.    That combined with the soreness and constant chemical taste in my mouth, makes me feel crappy, oh did I mention my sore feet?! - they hurt even in bed.  Anyway, I don't want to be all doom and gloom, whinging.   I've just got to work through it and keep telling myself it will all pass - in a week or so.  I am very lucky I don't have to live in pain constantly like many people do and I know exactly what is causing all my discomforts.

I've got lots of lovely things to look forward to!   Mini break for the hubsters birthday, spa day and a holiday in Majorca during August.  Bring it on!   I'm hoping that by August I'll have enough hair on my head to feel confident going out and about without a wig or head scarf.   My hair is growing but I'm still sporting the "fluffy chick" look.   But you can see my scalp shining through! not a good look.

I'm looking ahead to getting back to 'normal'.   My darling daughter said to me yesterday "When breast cancer has finished Mummy, will you come swimming with us?"  Bless the child.   I have avoided swimming pools throughout my treatment as I believe they are a breeding ground for germs.  I haven't been to work since February!! and I am looking forward to getting back into a routine, getting out of the house a bit more and exercising my brain as well as my body.   Today is the first day I am drug free! and can hopefully stay that way.

My treatment will finish after 4 weeks of radiotherapy in September.  This will blast any remaining cancer cells that have escaped the chemo and give me the very best odds on the cancer never returning.   Apparently radiotherapy doesn't make you feel ill, just makes the skin sore, like sunburn - so I will have one sore, yet cancer free left tit come October!!

I've also been making the most of some therapy sessions at The Olive Tree.   This registered charity is a wonderfully supportive place for cancer sufferers and their families.    Patients in my area are very lucky that this place exists.   Organisations such as this are supporting patients and complimenting the hard work of the NHS up and down the country.    Oh and whilst I mention the NHS - isn't it great!?!!  MOST patients receive excellent care on a daily basis.   No matter what background you come from or how much money you have - you can get FREE healthcare here in the UK.  This does not happen all around the world.   Let's hope this Government doesn't mess it all up for us and our future.    Please visit the 38 Degrees website if you want to help SAVE THE NHS.

Finally, I must just say how chuffed I am that my Race for Life Team "Oh Marvellous!" have now raised the total sum of £3,740 for Cancer Research UK!!   I am amazed at this figure and am so glad that such a positive thing has evolved from my diagnosis.     This has reaffirmed my belief that "every cloud has a silver lining".

Saturday, 2 June 2012

5 down 1 to go!!

Hello All!   Yesterday I had my 5th dose of chemotherapy, so only one more to go! Yeahhharrrrr!!  I was dreading having it, starting off the cycle of side effects again was not something to look forward to especially after the 4th I had blurred vision for 3 days, which was most disconcerting.    I told my Oncologist about this and he changed my anti-sickness drugs around (let me have the more expensive one!) and so far, touch wood, the blurred vision that should have come on this morning, hasn't happened which is such a relief.
During my treatment yesterday I shared a room with a lovely inspirational lady - age 75, married to an 85 year old man suffering with parkinson's disease.   She was there receiving chemo for lung cancer and it was her first dose, so it would be fair to say she didn't really know what was about to hit her.    She said "I can't sit around and take it easy after this, I've got a husband at home with parkinson's who needs me to get him up, bathed, dressed every day, he still wants his meals on time!"  I said surely she had someone to help her with all this, but no.  She has 2 children, one living in the US and one in Germany.   Her daughter in the US visits her more than the one in Germany!    I said, well what about friends, she just shrugged her shoulders and said well the neighbour has offered to help but I'm not very good at accepting help.  I told her, she MUST accept some help!  She is due to undergo combined chemo and radiotherapy at the same time, and she is still hoping to go on her cruise around the UK booked for mid July!   I didn't like to put a downer on her hopes, but I'd be amazed if she felt well enough to go ahead with the cruise.  She asked me where she could get head scarves from, I replied the internet was the best place but she doesn't like using it for purchases so she'd need to get to the shops.  She doesn't drive and only ever visits one small town that has no department stores.  It's a wonder how anyone can get by living like that!   I asked what she used to do for a job.   She replied that she didn't start work until age 45 as she was raising her 2 children, and apart from that it just wasn't the done thing.   It was a slight on the husband if a woman had to go out to work "couldn't he provide properly for her and the family?"  - my how things have changed!   The job she chose to take at 45 was caring for mentally ill people, visiting them in their homes.   She told me a few funny stories, one where she spoke of a cross dressing man who had a desire to wear ladies french knickers but he couldn't understand why his meat and two veg would hang down either side of the crotch seam!  She did laugh! Another about an old woman who laced every sentence with the F word - it was quite a surprise and very amusing to hear such words from a 75 year old.
This all cheered me up and took my mind off the bad experience I had just suffered when the nurse put the cannula in the front of my wrist to administer my drugs - OH MY GOD THE PAIN!!  It was searing pain when she put it in and I told her but she thought it would wear off, with the help of a heat pad to dilate the vein.  So I stuck with it for 10 minutes or so, she was pleased that it all appeared to be working properly - they hook you up to some saline solution and flush it through seeing if it 'bleeds back' properly and it did, but it still bloody hurt and I new I'd be stuck with it for about an hour or more.  I did express how much it hurt and I was in tears, so she said she'd get someone else to have a look it.   Another nurse (more senior I guess) came in and said right lets take it out and try somewhere else - phew! but by then I was really worried it would hurt just as much going in elsewhere. Anyway, she did it and all was fine!    The new place for the cannula was the inside of my forearm - much more comfy.  I can tell you no-one is going near my wrist again with a needle!!!  Its the second time I've had a needle in near the bones, you know, the nobbly bits on the outside of your wrist and both times it was complete agony!  Sorry I can hear you all wincing - LOL!    Needles don't bother me, but pain does.
So after a good few hours sitting down being drip fed potent drugs and chatting, I came away feeling quite rested and actually spent the rest of the afternoon baking cakes for the Jubilee celebrations.   Admittedly by the evening I was totally knackered and slept really well, thank goodness.   I've taken my last lot of steriods (8 tablets a day for 3 days), and now just need to remember my anti-sickness tablets (2 tablets 3 times a day), start my GCSF injections tomorrow for 5 days and start taking anti-biotics on Tuesday (2 a day for a week)!     There will almost definitely be a few sleeping pills popped during the next week too - I figure 'in for a penny...' with all these drugs the odd sleeping tablet isn't go to do me any harm.  Oh and the ibuprofen of course to help with the muscles and joint aches which will start in a day or 2.  Mmmmmmm lovely!   
BUT for today, right now, I'm just pleased that I can see clearly and concentrate well enough to type this.   My DH has taken the kiddlies swimming so I am enjoying some peace and quiet.  This is after he has cleaned the house, done a huge pile of ironing and done 2 loads of washing - he really is AMAZING and I love him so much :).   
Oh, I almost forgot... I have hair growth!!! Whoop Whoop!   It's only a small amount but its definitely growing, I am cultivating a fuzzy chick type hair 'do'.   But sadly the armpit hair is resurfacing too. Sigh.  I have really appreciated these couple of months of no de-fuzzing.  My eyelashes and eyebrows have taken quite a bashing recently, so hopefully this will ease off now.  I have found some great makeup for filling in your eyebrows though, called Eylure Shape and Shade Brow Palette (at Boots).
Right I think I've gone on enough.   My union jacks are flying and I wish you all a wonderful, celebratory Jubilee weekend with your families and really hope the weather doesn't bugger it all up for us! xxx

Thursday, 24 May 2012

We Did It!!!

Team Oh Marvellous!
Every woman should take part in Race for Life, at some point.   Last night was a wonderful, empowering, emotional but fun experience.    I walked the 5k route with a group of nutty yet supportive friends.  It was a glorious summery evening, we could not have asked for better weather.   My children played with their friends in the park, with their Dads 'on-duty' watching over them.   The evening got off to a great start - I had arranged to meet my team outside the park's pub/restaurant, so it was only a matter of time before someone suggested a beer and then it miraculously appeared!   We guzzled down cold lager from ice cold glasses - a very refreshing treat on such hot day.  Before the race started we took part in a mass warm up taken by 2 aerobic instructors who were also joined by 3 semi naked men dancing about to "I'm Sexy and I Know It", this certainly made for a fun atmosphere even though every woman taking part had their own sobering reasons for being in the race.   

Me with my Mum and lovely nephew
Before we stepped the pace up

Onwards March!

It's very emotional when women come together in this kind of way.  We are excellent at supporting each other and expressing our sadness and joy.  Reading all the messages people put on their backs is a stark reminder of just how many people are affected by cancer.  These days it seems that everyone you know has been touched by it in some way.  I'm holding onto the thought that research and development in drugs etc seems to be improving in leaps and bounds, so I reckon in another 10 years time the picture will have changed and their certainly will be fewer cancer related deaths.  But the research could not take place without funding and events such as Race for Life are vital.  

That's why I am so proud to say that our team has raised in excess of £3,000!!!  And, just to be cheeky, its not too late to sponsor me and the Team - just click here to go to my JustGiving page.

The Race itself took a route through a park I have been visiting since I was baby.  It holds many special memories for me and is a very beautiful place, especially the forest at the back.  So peaceful and calm, I shall definitely be exploring the pathways again with my own children.   If it weren't for my friends walking with me, I could easily have dawdled the route and ended up right at the back, but thanks to a friend being a very good pace-maker I pushed myself, especially up the hills and felt all the better for it.  And we made certain we didn't come through the finish line last!  Some of my Team, including my 10 year old nephew, actually ran the whole thing - very impressive!  Maybe that is what I should aim for next year?

We all received a medal for our efforts along with a goodie bag and some water.  We ended this memorable evening by popping some corks on some bubbly and raising a glass to each other for me being SO MARVELLOUS!!   I am truly grateful to everyone who supported me either my joining my team or sponsoring us.   Now, I need to go have a snooze and then soak these aching muscles! xx

Tuesday, 22 May 2012

In the pink

Just another day in my marvellous life! I've been rushing around Asda buying pink bubbly for a VERY pink occasion - Race for Life tomorrow night, followed by dashing in to the hospital for an ultra sound appointment. Not the cutesy and very exciting ultra sound scan you have when expecting a baby. No. The other kind, that detects unwanted lumps and bumps. It's OK though! Do not worry.  This time I knew exactly what they would find and what they would do about it.   I had a fluid filled lump in my armpit, a by product of the breast operation I had back in February. So all the nice doctor did was locate it using the ultra sound scanner thingy and then stick a needle in it and drain it off. I was relieved to see the thing on the screen, confirmation that I wasn't imagining the lump and discomfort, and even more relieved to see it disappear in front of my very eyes!   Unfortunately it will probably come back, my body just keeps producing too much fluid, trying to repair itself following the op, but its nothing to worry about. 

So, on a lighter note I'm all ready for the Race tomorrow! I am equipped with bright pink wig, pink nails, pink jogging bottoms, pink feather boa, and of course pink race number, and more importantly 14 other equally pink friends and family to back me up - well, make sure I actually finish the 5k route, one way or another!  Physically, I'm not at my peek of fitness, as you can imagine. But luckily the side effects from my 4th dose of chemo have subsided, and apart from a mouth as dry as Ghandi's flip flop with a chemical taste thrown in, I'm doing well and tomorrow night's little walk will not phase me. I've been really touched by the fact that 14 ladies have signed up to do the race along side me, they are all in my team and very much 'in my corner' for the battle I've been going through. Even my dear Mum has joined the team. 30 years my senior and fit and active (for her age), she'll probably walk the race faster than me! It must have been horrendous for her processing the news that I had breast cancer, a mother's worse nightmare, but she remains strong and positive for me - I hope I will be able to do the same if I ever find myself in a similar situation.  Which brings me to talk about my Darling Son.  During one stressful tea-time last week when all three us (me and the kids) completely lost the plot and ended up in tears, he made it known that he wasn't happy about his mum being 'a baldy'.  I was giving him a big hug and asking him what was the matter with him, trying to find the root cause of the tea-time tears when he said "I don't like it when people have bald heads".   My poor boy, I had taken off my head scarf as I was getting hot from cooking and hadn't given it a thought.   He has seen me au naturel many times, and I really thought he was getting used to it, but obviously not.   Actually, even I, when I catch my reflection in the bedroom mirror get a bit of a shock!  I try to wear my wig out and about as much as possible, but I still feel very self conscious with it on and am convinced that, truthfully, it just looks ridiculous!  Especially once the wind has gotten to it.   On the other hand I have noticed many quizzical looks from other children in the school playground when I'm wearing my headscarf.   One little boy even asked his mum why I am dressing 'like a pirate'.  It's a fair question and perfectly understandable for these little ones to be a bit confused, I just hope I haven't caused too many awkward questions for the other mums.  Let's face it, none of us really want our kids knowing about the big C at such a young age.  My husband says I need to wear whatever is most comfortable for me, and he's right but when you are around young children a lot it's just not that simple.  So, roll on 'my new hair'.   Apparently your hair starts growing  back straight after your last treatment.  This has to be to be an exaggeration, as how can it know it's your last treatment?!  So, it's bound to take another 4 weeks or so before the cells dare to start getting busy again.

Anyhow, tomorrow night I'm going to have crazy pink hair just like Stephanie from Lazy Town.   And I'm going to walk the Race for Life as quickly as I can without passing out!   Photos and a post to follow tomorrow night or Thursday morning, depending on what state I am in!!
Thank you again to everyone who has sponsored me and the Team.  We've nearly reached our target of £3,000 which is totally amazing!  This money will be spent on life changing research and support for people like me.

Sunday, 13 May 2012

Blurred vision!

So I had my 4th dose of chemo on Friday, it was a new drug to me, called Docetaxel or Tax for short. I was really dreading it, but actually the administering of it went well and I felt really good up until the evening. Then I just felt tired so went to bed early, but I find it so hard to switch off properly. My body seems to be on high alert and twitching a lot!! Then yesterday I noticed my eye sight is really blurry. I had to drive to town and made it there and back but didn't enjoy the experience! I've read up on it and it seems to be a fairly common side effect but I must tell my Oncologist ASAP, so will ring him tomorrow. Despite all this, I've managed to have a little ride on my new bike today, do some washing up, ironing and even painted my nails! Although please don't look too closely at them! I collected the Race for Life t-shirts from the printers. They look cool, I kept it simple, but I'm a bit concerned that the sizes are all a bit tight!! So we'll all be looking bootiful and busty on the night!! Lol! I can't believe the race for life is getting so close. There's every chance I will be Neutropenic at the time, but I'm sure I will cope. Just a nice leisurely walk for me! I'm really looking forward to immersing myself in the atmosphere, it will be truly inspiring and empowering I am sure.

Tuesday, 1 May 2012

Chemo Brain

Chemo Brain is worse than ‘baby brain’.  Anyone who has ever been pregnant will back me up here, right from the moment that little embryo starts growing and developing your mind power isn’t quite what it was before, and this is magnified once your dear little one arrives and you don’t have a decent nights sleep (in some cases, ever again!).  You start doing silly things like loading the washing machine but not turning it on, putting the car keys in the fridge, leaving your car unlocked even though you checked it twice by pressing the key fob button or driving off with your purse on the roof!   Well in my experience having chemotherapy treatment is very similar.    Yesterday I put a dishwasher tablet in the washing machine drawer! I frequently forget people’s names, including my own children’s. And anything can happen when I'm required to concentrate fully on a task, like cooking a dinner!!    

My BF likened the whole of my breast cancer treatment to a bad pregnancy, and I can see she was right.  It is about 9 months of feeling nauseous, tired, bloated, gaining weight, having a bad taste in your mouth, broken sleep and suffering aches and pains.    You get stuck with needles every few weeks, tested for this that and the other and told not to eat certain foods (when neutropenic you should avoid ALL uncooked food).   Of course the main difference is what you get at the end of those hellish 9 months.   But are they so different?  On the one hand you get a beautiful baby, a new life.  A reason to celebrate.  Something to love and cherish, nurture and watch grow.  On the other, I will get… a new life, my own.  Hopefully and if I do the job right, I will feel healthier than I have ever before.  A fresh start, something to celebrate, love, cherish, nurture and watch grow.  Looking at it like that, its worth the shitty 9 months and is actually quite exciting!

I owe a lot to my BF for putting me in this positive mindset – thank you Mrs A, I Do Love You! x

Monday, 30 April 2012

The A&E dash

I was going to write about my Chemo Brain - its worse than 'baby brain'!  But then last night I was taken ill, and have spent all morning today at A&E so thought I'd tell you about this little adventure first!
I have no idea whether I picked up a tummy bug or got food poisoning from eating a rotiserie chicken (not very wise on my part, but oh SO tempting!), but at about 2 a.m this morning I was woken with a start, made a quick dash to the loo and was violently 'ill' from both ends - sorry too much info I know.  But this is the front line people!    As today is my 12th day since my 3rd dose of chemo, I am on neutropenia alert.  My Fast Pass (which rushes us chemo patients through the A&E waiting room) states you must attend A&E if you have diarrohea.  Or if you have a fever, which I did.   Before we rushed off up the hospital, I did phone the Helpline number and an Oncologist rang me back.  He said to take my anti-sickness medicine and see how I went.   So I did that and wasn't sick again, but then my temperature spiked up to 37.9c.  In these situations its really hard to know what to do for the best.  If you go to A&E you know you can expect to be there, waiting, for the best part of 4 hours, they might even admit you in which case you are there for 3 days or more, and no one wants that do they!! But if you stay home, hoping to ride it out, it's quite scary, as you don't really know how your immune system is coping with whatever you've got and in the middle of the night, I have on a few occasions been too scared to sleep in case I don't wake up!   So really, if I have any of the symptoms mentioned on my Fast Pass I know that doing the right thing and getting to A&E a.s.a.p has to be done - it's just such a pain in the arse!!  I am very lucky to have some fabulous friends locally to me, who I know will help with looking after the kids when me and DH make a mad dash for the hospital.  This is such a relief.   Good friends and family (of course) are worth their weight in gold.   Without wishing anything bad to happen to my nearest and dearest, I hope to one day, be able to repay the love and support I have received from them.

One last thing - I think Nurses are amazing!!! There was this male nurse at A&E who was just so cheerful, courteous and GOOD at his job, that I couldn't fail to be in awe of him.   When you think of what he has to deal with on a daily basis, it's amazing that he can maintain such a positive, happy attitude.  It must be a very rewarding job, not in monetary terms of course, but rewarding to the soul.   I came away thinking maybe I should retrain to become a nurse, but truth is, I definitely don't have the stomach for it!!

Sunday, 22 April 2012

My new look - skinhead.

Despite my last post, I took the decision to get my head shaved one more time - take it all off!   Since before my 3rd dose, my hair loss has been significant each day, especially when washing it - it made such a mess in the shower.  Trying to stop the plug hole from getting blocked was tricky and then cleaning out the shower tray afterwards, rather depressing and time consuming.
So this morning my DH carefully shaved my head for the second time.  It's as short as you can get it with clippers, the next step will be the razor for that smooth, shiny look, but it may not be necessary.
I did struggle with making the decision to do this, but I'm glad that I have.  I feel like the balance of power is back with me.

So what d'ya reckon?!  shall I get myself some more piercings and 'tatts' to complete the look?!

My kids are not very happy with the new look, my daughter is more curious and vocal about it than my son.   "You look funny Mummy" was one of her comments, fair enough, I guess I do and I'm not looking at myself all the time am I!  Its everyone else that has to put up with my appearance.  I am not that keen on wearing a wig, I just think it looks so fake and the ones that I have got are not quite good enough! So I am going to look into getting a better one.

I've got a new book (Anti-Cancer) to read and after only a few pages in, its spurring me on to fight this fight properly.  Take responsibility for my future.    Everyone should read this book, I'll happily lend it out once I'm done with.  If there is a way for me to stop this thing coming back, I am going to do what I can.  I've got a lot of life to live, people and places to see, seeing my children get married and holding their babies - it's all ahead of me.   I just cant wait to put this behind me and get on with the rest of my life! xx

Thursday, 19 April 2012


3 DOWN – 3 TO GO!!!

I had my third dose of FEC chemo today, at my local hospital which will be my last visit there.  The next 3 doses are a different drug called Tax, which is stronger and there’s a greater risk of side effects as they give it to you, so I have to go to a different specialist Cancer Unit for that.  I felt emotional about leaving the safe, familiarity of my local chemo unit – I am wondering how the next 3 doses will go and whether the staff will be as friendly, helpful and reassuring as those I have already experienced – let’s hope so!

This dose went well, the only slight hiccup was the veins in my hand are bruised from a previous blood test, so for a while the nurse wasn’t sure where she could administer the drugs, but she found a small vein and with the help of lots of heat pads, the drugs went in smoothly and relatively pain free.    I’m learning something new all the time – must make sure all future blood tests are taken from my arm, well away from my hand.  Sounds obvious now but it’s easy to just assume all the nurses know exactly what you are going through and would think of these things, but they don’t.
My top tips for receiving your poison, as comfortably as possible are:

·      Drink plenty of water the day before and that morning;

·      Wear warm layers of clothing – your veins respond better if you are warm and hydrated;

·      Make sure you do a last minute wee just before the drugs go in – it can take a while for them all to be administered;

·      Suck on an ice pop or similar, it should help to minimize any sore mouth problems after;

·      Try the cold cap for your first session – even if you only wear it once, as I did, you can say you gave it a go.  I’m not bald yet and I am sure that wearing it that one time has enabled me to hang on to my hair for longer.

Talking about the hair – everyone is different but if you are going to try the cold cap, I would highly recommend getting yours cut into a short elfin style BEFORE you start treatment.  I say this because I experienced considerable hair thinning just before my 2nd dose, which lead to me getting it shaved.  My hair was in a chin length bob before and as it thinned it gave the impression of losing LOTS of hair, however since shaving my hair and stopping with the cold cap, the hair loss has slowed down, so maybe I was a bit hasty.  If you get your hair cut short in the first place, this will help the cold cap do its job better,  make your hair easier to look after and any thinning you do get will not look quite as dramatic if its shorter.   Thus avoiding any knee jerk reactions like shaving your head!

I am happy with my new look but in hindsight I think doing the above would have worked better for me.

Heard some excellent news today!! I don’t read the papers but I hear there has been a major breakthrough in Breast Cancer research.  The future looks brighter for people like me – read here for more info.

Also on another really positive note, so far my Race for Life Team have raised an enormous £2,095!!! I am so delighted, it means so much to do something worth while.    I really do need to get out there and start training.   Walking every day, at a good pace is my aim – just wish the bloody weather would dry up.

I am well aware that the single most important thing I can do to help myself beat this thing – is exercise!  The chemo side effects keep putting me off, but I think I’m just gonna have to kick them into touch by getting on with it!

Saturday, 31 March 2012

Wiggle your toes....

Wiggle your toes next time the needle goes in. That's my top tip for coping with any future injections or blood tests you have to endure. I am becoming an expert at this game. Sorry but this post will be brief as I just typed a long one and then promptly lost it all! Grrrrrrr! Very annoying.So this morning I successfully injected myself with GCSF, a drug to boost production of my white blood cells. I felt a huge sense of pride that I DID IT! No fuss. No tears. I've got to do the same again, 4 more days in a row and then that's it, for this chemo cycle anyway. Possible side affects include bone ache, cos my bone marrow will be working over time. I'll take bone ache over 3 nights in hospital any time, thanks!!!SO, SCHOOLS OUT FOR EASTER!!! Whoop whoop us mums did cry yesterday...when the sun was shining. Today I would think, like me, the jubilation has died down as the bickering (amongst the kids) has begun. It would really help if the sun was shining again, but typically the weather is letting us down. My 2 little darlings have been snapping at each other ever since they got in my bed at 7.30 this morning. She's done painting, he's played on his DS, they've played on the Wii nicely, but briefly together. Now it's time for Lego. Lego is the best and does keep them happy for quite a while.I am lucky enough though to have a very keen Mum, who relishes being a grandparent, and she is taking my 2 off my hands for 2 whole nights next week! Thats's my mum and her amazing man, aka Grandad Chris. Everyone should have one! But I feel rather strange about farming them out when I don't have to be at work. What on earth will I do with myself!? Apart from having a Heart Scan at 3pm on Wednesday I have nothing planned. Sigh! ;). I can here your wistfuls sighs from here. Xx

Friday, 30 March 2012

Hair today gone tomorrow....

The last 3-4 days my hair has been shedding a fair bit.   I had been hopefully thinking it would slow down or stop, but it’s the not knowing that has finally got to me.   Plus, this morning on the way to the hospital I had a bad headache and I just could not bear the thought of sitting with the cold cap on for 4 hours!!   Wondering and waiting to see if I will lose all my hair has been causing me considerable stress and worry, and it has been falling out bit by bit anyway, so I decided to take matters into my own hands.  Enough wondering and worrying, I declined the cold cap at chemo today and it was such a relief!!!   My DH has a set of clippers he uses regularly on his own head, so very shortly he will be shaving my head! And maybe we can even get the kids to help!  They are naturally quite worried about having a baldy for a mum, so hopefully if they can see it happening or even help it will be less of a shock for them.

Now that I have decided what to do and am taking action, at the moment at least, I feel good about it.   Once its done I am sure I will shed a few tears and it will take a while to get used to the chilly feeling!    My DH will obviously have to get his head around it too!   As he rightly said “I look at you more than you do!”
Hours later………

The deed is done!   My DH has shaved my head to a number 4.  He had to be brave too.  So I now look like I am joining the army, or like I’m ready to join the Gay Pride March (sorry I’m not usually one for stereotyping people but in this case, it’s true – see pic!)

I’m proud to say I haven’t shed a tear at all.  I feel liberated and would happily walk around with my nearly bare head on show, if it wasn’t so flaming chilly!!   It is very short at the back, and not very attractive, so this morning I braved my first trip out wearing a wig!!   I have to say how grateful I am to Marilyn at The Olive Tree for lending me a couple of wigs to tide me over until my new one arrives.   The Olive Tree is an amazing oasis of calm for people like me where we can  have lots of lovely complimentary therapy treatments and support.  There is always someone there to talk to and its just one minute walk from the hospital where I have my chemo – perfect!  

So I was very brave going out on the school run for the first time wearing Honey – she is a honey blond bob, a little too ‘big’ for my liking but not bad.   My lovely mates at the school playground were very supportive.  Honey is rather itchy though, especially at the back of my neck.  I’m much happier with a head scarf or hat on, but then my appearance does tend to scream “cancer patient” rather loudly! – it’s much easier to blend in with a wig on although I feel more self conscious.

My kids have been a bit unsettled by my dramatic change of appearance.  They didn’t get off to sleep til nearly 9.45 p.m last night! But that could be Easter excitement too.  They definitely prefer it when I cover my head up, though my son (age 7) is rather embarrassed by it all, bless him.   It will take them time to adjust.

So that’s 2 Chemo sessions down – 4 to go!! Whoop Whoop!!   Today I feel pretty good. No sickness or nausea.   I’m tired – but what’s new there then!!

Tomorrow will bring a new hurdle - injecting myself in the belly with a drug called GCSF which will boost my white blood cells and hopefully avoid another stay in hospital after day 10.  I'll let you know how I get on! xx

Friday, 23 March 2012

Home time!!

After one night in A&E I was moved to a ward but in a side room. I had to keep visitors to minimum and as there's so many colds around at the mo, each of them had to wear a face mask when in the room with me. It's been very isolating and sometimes scary, but thanks to the antibiotics and other drugs they have been pumping into me, I'm all better now and ready to go home!!! Whoop whoop!! 3 nights in hospital is plenty thanks.
I am SO sick of needles. Today I had one stuck in my left boob to drain off some fluid built up since my op, that didn't bother me cos that boob is actually numb now!! Then a needle stuck in my armpit 3 times so drain off fluid from there - which I didn't even know was there til this morning! On the ultra sound scan any fluid shows up as black masses but when the doc tried to drain the fluid off (2 times) nothing would come. So for about 2 heart stopping minutes I thought that big black mass was another tumour!!! But then he gave it one last try and thank god, liquid started to flow into the syringe! Haaaaaaa ... And breath.
So my White blood cells are very high now as they've been given a boost, my 'obs' are normal and roll on 5.30pm when the Hubster is coming to get me!!
I must say I have been really happy with the level of care and treatment I've had. The NHS is doing a great job and we should really be grateful for it. I am very bad at keeping up with the news but I know that it's all about to change and the Government are going to wreck it all. We should all care and do what we can to save the NHS!! I never dreamed I would find myself where I am today but there you go, we are all vulnerable to illness and disease and the NHS is one the best medical services in the world! If you want to find out more about joining the fight to save the NHS then visit the 38 degrees website.

I'll get off my soap box now.

I could have a whinge about the hospital food, but I am sure they do their best on a very small budget!! Here's some pics of the delights you can look forward to - let it be motivation for you to do all you can to keep fit and healthy!!!
My friends and family have been complimenting my hospital diet with homemade veg soup, healthy snacks and scrummy treats so don't take pity on me too much!
Lastly just to update you on the chemo hair situation - my head hair is thinning a wee bit but I'm confident the cold cap was a success. Eyelashes and eyebrows are still in tact. Thursday 29th is chemo no 2 so we shall see how my body deals with that! My oncologist can give me more drugs to avoid a repeat of this weeks drama.
So, watch this space... And thanks for reading!! Xxxx

Wednesday, 21 March 2012

My adventures in A&E

Well life took a rather dramatic turn yesterday! Monday night I had a really bad headache, was a good girl and took my temp before taking some paracetomol, went to bed and felt ok. Then Tuesday after the school run I had a headache again and started to feel cold and shivery. When I commenced my chemo they gave me a special "fast pass" which I should use at A&E if I was feeling unwell. So I rang my hospital where I'm having the chemo and they told me to go to A&E without delay and use my Fast Pass. Sounds like something you get at Disney World. Well this has been rollercoaster ride, without the fun!!
I rushed through A&E which made me feel important but had to wait a while. It's the first time I've been. It's another world. Doctors and nurses, porters and ambulance men all rushing about, busy busy. You HAVE to ring your bell to get their attention! They put a canular in my arm and took my blood, rushed it off for testing. They were looking to see if I was Neutropenic, which I realise now, I am. This means my neutrophil count is zero, as is my White blood cell count - meaning my body has no way to fight infection. This is a result of the chemo dose I had 13 days ago now. Apparently the Oncologist might be able to change my dose a bit to avoid this happening again. In the meantime I am stuck here! For 3 days. Possibly more I have just been told!!
I have spent the night in A&E. Luckily (every cloud...) cos of my condition and have shut away in a side room to minimise the risk of further infection. This is far more preferable to being 'out there'. Out there is constant noise, machines beeping, nurses talking, patients moaning and groaning. One poor person keeps having fits and makes a scary moaning sound throughout. Another lady of 95 was calling out yesterday, constantly "pleease help me!". The nurses were helping her but there is little they could do to calm her down it seemed.
At 4am today another lady was screaming "don't go, don't go" over and over. A&E is a scary place! I do feel somewhat protected though behind my door. I've even got an en-suite shower room!! Apparently, when a side room becomes available on a ward, they will move me. So, to help me get better they are giving me intravenous anti-biotics and an injection to raise my blood count.
Being told you are neutropenic is really rather scary. I'll let you google it. But I'm in the right place and the drugs appear to be helping - my temp is not as high now (39 when I was admitted).
I'm still not sure if I actually have an infection. They are going to investigate the wound where I had my lumpectomy. So watch this space for more news as I've done this blog with the mobile app. I seriously would be lost without my iPhone!!!
I attach some pics of the culinary delights they have here :)

Friday, 9 March 2012

Chemo - It's a Rollercoaster ride!

It’s now 3 days since my first chemo session.  Looking back on it I’m thinking it wasn’t that bad.   The actual administering of the drugs by intravenous injection took about 30 minutes with the nurse slowly pushing in the plunger on each syringe to allow the drugs to mix in with the saline solution being fed into my veins.    The drugs had been kept in the fridge and some were coloured red.  This definitely looked and felt like poison being pumped into me especially as I could feel the cold creep of it spread up my arm.  Not very nice, but essential nonetheless.   The veins in my wrist started to ache and hurt a bit so the nurse laid a heat pad over my wrist which really eased this discomfort.

The worst part was getting used to wearing the cold cap.    Before putting it on you have to make your hair wet with leave-in conditioner, this helps the cold to get to the roots easier.    I was sat in a very comfy chair, with special squishy seat pad, I would think specifically designed to avoid pressure sores on your buttocks!  Then the nurse put the cold cap onto my head.  It was already filled with freezing gel.   I thought “ooh, chilly but not too bad”, then she leant down on it more to make sure it fit really well and then she bought down this really tight strap which fit very snuggly under my chin.  See the glamorous pic – this is my best brave smile.  
I pretty much felt like I had my head in a freezing cold vice, the strap cutting into my chin underneath.  I new it needed to be tight though.  My eyes started to stream and a few tears rolled down my cheeks.   Deep breaths were needed.  A dear friend of mine had reminded me of the power of positive thinking and visualization.   I tried my best to think of warm summer breezes and a happy picnic scene, ripe juicy fruit, fat buzzing bumble bees, the kiddies laughing with all my troubles behind me.  It did help, but not initially!

 I wore the cold cap for about 4 hours. All in attempt to hold onto my crowning glory.  After the first hour, I barely noticed it thank goodness.   The pipe that links it to the machine is insulated but I asked for a towel between it and me to stop my shoulders from freezing.   Anyone going to give the cold cap a go I would say wear some very warm and comfy clothes and seriously, brace yourself for that initial half hour, it does get better though.

 I spent the 4 hours in my squishy chair reading magazines (all bought for me by friends), a book (Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert) and listening to some tunes on my beloved iphone.    I had a brief chat with the nurse.  This didn’t really go that well though as she asked “Do you have children?” I nodded but was unable to answer properly as my resolve to be strong promptly crumbled and I blubbed into my hands, then searched frantically in my handbag for a tissue.  Its tricky to do stuff with your left hand if you’re right handed and your right hand is out of action.   I’m having all my drugs into my right hand as they can’t use my left because that’s the side my operation was on, and I’m a lymph node short on that side.   It’s okay though, this blubbing was bound to come at some point during the day.  I got over it quickly enough.

The room where I was having my chemo is on the 6th floor of the hospital I was born in. All those years ago.   The room has large picture windows with a view of the sky, luckily blue on that day and planes taking off from the airport.   There were 5 of us patients that morning, receiving our life-juice.  I was the youngest there by far.   The only other woman patient sat across from me.  She was in her 60s I would say and her daughter about my age kept her company.   I clocked her wig as soon as I saw her.   It looked okay but you could just tell it wasn’t real hair and was quite short and spiky.   She was very proud of it and told me how the NHS do great ones (which you pay a £60 prescription charge for).   During my first half hour with the cold cap, she was being given her chemo drugs and I heard the nurse ask her if she had tried the cold-cap?   Her reply was “No why bother, it’s all going to come out anyway!”   I’m assuming she meant to say this quietly but unfortunately I heard.   Oh Marvellous! I cried (again) in my head.  Why am I doing this to myself?!

The main reason I will persevere with keeping my hair is for my children.  I think I’m pretty much okay with the hair loss now, but I just know that my kids are really quite freaked out at the idea of a bald mummy, they mention it every few days and they are definitely worrying about it even though I have reassured them it probably won’t happen.  And even if it does, they don’t have to see it.

The hospital staff looked after me very well that day.   I had hot drinks and a hot lunch – although the veg had been cooked to death, all nutrients sapped from it and poured down the plug whole with the cooking water no doubt!  Why does hospital food have to BE like that?!

They sent me home with a bag of more drugs to take.   Mostly to stop me being and feeling sick.   I’m on my last day of steroids today, thank god.  I am sure it is these horrible things that have made my tummy blow up like a balloon, my jeans no longer fit me!  Here with go with another side effect of chemo – weight gain.  Oh joy.   I am doing my best with being active.   I’m under strict orders from loved ones to get out and walk every day.  Which definitely lifts my mood, but is rather tiring!  I am such a lightweight now.  Talking of my mood, this has gone up and down like a rollercoaster.   I hate feeling sorry for myself but sometimes I really struggle to just stop feeling like I’m in a miserable black hole.   Everyone is being so positive.   “Yay, you’re one down – only 5 to go!” Yipp-yarr (dead pan voice) I cannot wait.

The best thing that’s happened in the last 3 days is watching my little family all pull together around me, hubbie and the kids all cleaned the house yesterday and are being so sweet.   Also I’ve signed up to do Race for Life on 23 May 2012.  This will be one week before my last chemo session, so I figure I’ll be good to go at that point. It’s only a 3 mile walk (I might jog a wee bit if you're lucky)!  If you want to join my team or sponsor me, please click the button at the top of the page.
 I'm visiting the hairdresser on Tuesday, so watch this space for news of my new do!!    It needs to go a bit shorter so that its easier to wash and care for - no hairdryers and minimal styling products allowed.  Should I take the plunge and buy a wig, or just hope for the best?!