Just OW!

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Last Friday I had a MUGA heart scan to check if the Herceptin injections (used to help prevent the cancer reoccurring) are having any negative effects on my heart function.

I was feeling very nervous about the process, even though I have had it twice before. You would think I would be used to needles by now but it never gets easier. And because I had some lymph nodes removed on my right side, they can only use the veins in my left arm – and they had to find two!

So I’m all ‘brave’ going in for the first injection of radioactive stuff, chatting 10 to the dozen… slight verbal diarrhoea! After the normal questions, ID check and signing to say I’m not pregnant (haha!) etc., she starts looking for a vein in the normal places, being the back of the hand and crook of the elbow. Nope, nothing useable there! So she then decides to go in on the inside of my forearm. Yuk and bloody OW, that flipping hurts! “Oh, I’ve failed. I’ll have to try again”. At this point my voice wobbled and then, from nowhere, I burst into floods of tears – cried like a baby! The nurse was so lovely, apologising for not getting in the vein, and I’m apologising for crying, with us both laughing at the situation. She said “I’d better not hug you because apparently I’m really good at hugs, so it will make you cry more”. At this point another nurse came in, I think she wondered what on earth she had come in to! Once I had calmed down, she had to try again and the only place she could find a vein was the inside of my wrist – omg double yuk and double OW! But success and now just a half hour wait before going through it again before the scan. Luckily the next one went straight in the vein, no issues but quite a bit of OW!

Then in the afternoon, I had the pleasure of my Zoladex implant being injected into my stomach. Big G is fabulous and will always joke to try and relieve my worries, but even he was shocked about the size of the needle – so another flipping OW!

But at least I have 3 months before having to do either of these again…. Or so I thought!

I was due to go for my Herceptin injection this afternoon but got a phone call yesterday evening to say they need to cancel it due to the heart scan showing reduced function. Normal left ventricular ejection fraction is 55% – 70% and mine has gone down from 66% to 43%! LVEF of 40% or less is classed as heart failure so obviously they have to suspend my treatment.

I now have to go for another heart scan (oh deep joy) in about 6 weeks to assess whether the function has improved so we can continue with the treatment – but gutted as this will probably mean more regular scans, instead of them being 3 monthly, and the 3 treatments that have been postponed so far will have to be added on to the end, so won’t finish when I thought I would. But hey, hopefully will all get back to normal levels soon and as always, I’m eternally grateful for the care and treatment I am getting from our wonderful NHS.

Love,

M x

Back to ‘normal’

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“How are you?”   “I’m good thank you”   “So it’s all gone? So you are all better, back to normal now?”   “Yep, I’m all good”

Well that is a big fat lie – normal… I literally have no idea what normal is now!

But what else could I have said?

“No, nowhere near better and normal. Yes the cancer has gone (and trust me I am soooooo happy and grateful for that) but….

  1. I’m still in a lot of pain from the operation
  2. I’m still in a lot of pain from the radiotherapy
  3. My body does not look like mine. I may have ‘better’ boobs, but they are scarred and I have different shaped nipples. I’ve also got scars from the chemo burns, the shingles and the lymph node clearance
  4. I still have to go for injections – one every 3 weeks, and another sort every 3 months
  5. Because of one of the injections, I have to go for heart scans every 3 months which entails 2 injections of radioactive stuff into my veins, as although the Herceptin is helping to prevent the cancer coming back, it may severely affect the function of my heart
  6. I have to be careful not to develop lymphedema which is a lifelong, painful, and debilitating condition – so no blood pressure tests, blood tests, injections in my right arm (the side where the lymph nodes were removed), and I also have to be very wary of bites, scratches and any sort of injury to that arm
  7. Most of the time I can hardly move, and I look like I’m 97, because my joints hurt so much due the hormone treatment which I have to take for 10 years
  8. Along with the pain, the hot flushes brought on by the medically induced menopause mean that I am hardly sleeping
  9. Exhaustion hits me like a bus sometimes and although I want to be able to do everything I did before, I know I can’t
  10. My hair may be growing back but it doesn’t stop people staring. I feel like holding up a sign to say that I’ve had cancer, I really don’t think I’m young and edgy!
  11. Chemo brain is still affecting me – I can’t find the words I’m looking for, find it difficult to make sense of certain things, I’m very forgetful. And yes, I was like that a bit before, as most of us are, but nothing quite like this!
  12. Although I can now go on holiday, I have to avoid the sun and am limited where I can go due to still having a low immune system (not to mention the fact that flipping travel insurance is higher!)
  13. I’m trying to live without the constant fear that the cancer may come back. I can’t live in blissful ignorance anymore that it won’t happen to me – it bloody has, and may again

… so no, I’m not really back to normal yet – and to be honest, I’m not sure if I ever will be”.

Not sure that is the answer anyone would want to hear so “Yep, I’m all good” is the response I will continue to give. But then I didn’t understand about all of the after affects either. I also assumed that once chemotherapy, surgery, and radiotherapy were over, then you would be back to ‘normal’ however slow that process may take.

That all being said, ‘normal’ is a funny idea – do I actually want to be back to normal. Surely I should want to live each day likes it’s my last because I can really vouch for the fact that we don’t know what is around the corner. But then that’s not normal life, so should I want to go back to worrying about the simple things like cleaning the house, what to have for dinner etc.? But then if I don’t make the most of every second, am I throwing away the good fortune of getting shot of this bastard disease? So I have to find a happy medium – anyone got any suggestions how you do that?

So many buts… and what ifs… if we could see into the future, would we want to?

Many people have commented on my positivity through out this ordeal. I’m not sure about positivity, but I’ve tried to find the humour in each situation, looked on the bright side, made a joke about everything – but in all honesty it’s been the only way I could handle it. But there have been moments…

Last week I sent Big G a text:

“What do I do if the cancer comes back?”   “It won’t”   “You don’t know that”   “But they do” (the doctors – well they don’t actually!)   “But what do I do if I just get cancer again then?”

I’m not sure he knew how to answer, there was no right answer. Trying to placate me and tell me everything would be fine was not what I wanted, nor would it have been the truth because we simply don’t know that. I realise he, and everyone else who loves me, also has to learn to live with the fear. To be honest, I’m not living with it, the fear, all the time as part of me has gone back to ‘blissful ignorance’ that it won’t happen to me – but part of me has it in the back of my mind constantly. I knew these feelings were likely to come as others, who have been through it, have told me that it is after treatment that somehow the whole thing seems harder – who knew?! During active treatment, the cancer was all consuming with trips to the hospital, side effects of the treatment, medication… but now the hospital visits are less frequent (although I feel ‘lucky’ that I still have contact with the oncology team because of the injections) and I am starting to go back to work, and therefore, some how, have to adapt to this new normal.

I feel this has been a ‘moany’ blog post, sorry – not much humour in it I’m afraid! But I also feel it’s important to share the bad with the good because how do we know about the aftermath if no one talks about it?

Please believe that I am very happy to be the right side of this ‘story’ and I plan to stay well, and I am excited to be able to start getting back to real life. But I’m a bit worried that people will expect me to be completely ‘Mel’ again… I’ll get there, just bear with me!

Love,

M x

Another thing ticked off the list

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Yesterday was my last radiotherapy. Three weeks of going up to Ipswich hospital every day apart from Saturdays and Sundays. But yet again, the staff made it as comfortable and ‘fun’ as it could possibly be – I really can’t praise them enough.

The first step of treatment is a planning scan where they work out the area that needs zapping. During this appointment I was given 3 tattoos – unfortunately not pretty flowers or butterflies – just 3 black dots so the machine can be lined up perfectly. Then two weeks later I went for my first treatment…

Everyone says radiotherapy is a doddle after chemotherapy so I wasn’t too worried about it. Getting on the bed and into position is not the easiest or the most dignified – arms raised above my head on the red bits, bum behind a metal plate, and knees over the blue rest thingy. I had my own special and very attractive gown that I wore each day so my boob could be popped out easily, as could all the tattoos. Slightly embarrassed about the underarm hair that has now come back (why couldn’t chemo have killed those follicles permanently??!!) as was told not to wet shave and do not have an electric razor – however, rectified that after I realised by pinching Big G’s!!

So the radiologists are pulling and pushing me, lining up the tattoos, randomly saying numbers to each other. As my appointments were all early in the morning, I had the disadvantage of them having very cold hands most of the time! And what is it about being told you can’t move and getting the worst itch on your nose, or the back of your neck, just like when you paint your nails… pure torture! But the banter was good and I felt very at ease. Until they left the bloody room….! Now I knew this would happen, and I’ve been on my own for lots of scans since diagnosis, but this first morning it totally overwhelmed me. During chemo there was always so many people about, nurses, patients and relatives, and of course Big G. Suddenly, to be going through treatment alone and with a machine moving around my body whilst making strange noises, seemed very daunting. Luckily the actual process of the radiotherapy only takes a few minutes so they were soon back in the room, and I was fine every other day.

Everything has gone very smoothly, thank goodness. I have been quite sore for the last few days; my right boob looks, and feels, like it is sunburnt and very tender where the scarring is from the operation. This will unfortunately get worse for the next 10-14 days but should then start improving. And I guess I’ll have a very brown boob by the end – as one lady described it “It’s like my boob went to Africa on holiday and forgot to take me with it”!!

One plus point – I’ve been weighed in the clinic twice since starting and each time have lost a little weight. Not much, but then I’m still not very active (still knackered most of the time) but considering I put on each time I was weighed when having chemo, I’ll take a little loss!

There is a bell in the radiotherapy department that someone donated for patients to ring to signify the end of treatment (like I’m sure you’ve seen on the advert about childhood cancers). When I was having chemo I heard it rung a few times and it made me smile. Now you would think it would be something I would rush to do, however something was IMG-20190205-WA0000holding me back. One reason being that I’m not really at the end of my treatment – I’ve still got Herceptin injections every 3 weeks, Zoladex injections every 3 months, heart scans, and Hormone therapy for 10 years. So was it right for me to ring it? But the main thing that worried me was being very conscious that others were still having treatment and that they may not get the all clear at the end of it. When I finished chemo I left the clinic very quietly, as I knew some people were there to help prolong life rather than for a cure, and so felt very uneasy about celebrating too loudly that I was through that bit. And I was feeling very much the same yesterday. But the receptionist thought I should ring it, the radiologists thought I should ring it, Bryony wanted a photo of me ringing it, and I thought I may regret it if I didn’t! So I gave it one, very quiet, ‘ding’ – felt silly, hence the awful photo as couldn’t get away quick enough!

So that’s another thing ticked off the list… and I’m doing ok! I’m a bit worried that others will expect me to be back to normal fairly soon, and I hope to god I am, but know this is a long process. The Zoladex injections are forcing me into the menopause so the hot flushes (power surges) are coming thick and fast. I’m not sleeping at all well due to these, pain from the ‘sunburn’ and still quite a bit of discomfort from the operation, and the hormone therapy is starting to make my joints hurt like hell, so also not ideal.

But enough of me moaning! Had the best news yesterday from a friend whose tumours have significantly shrunk against all odds – go Jemma!

Love,

M x

Aunt Sally… not the best look!

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Well hello there, it’s been a while. What a mad few months it has been – so many lows and not too many highs unfortunately. Just wanted to write about the last few sessions of chemo, my surgery, and the next steps…

I won’t massively go into detail about the last few sessions of chemotherapy (final session 12th Nov), but just wanted to list the new ‘surprises’ that cropped up in terms of side effects, the little gems…

Now I used to love a bit of Worzel Gummidge but looking like Aunt Sally was never on my wish list (OMG I just looked up when it was on TV and it was 1979-1981 – I am sooo old!). But hey, chemo had other ideas and so with the last two sessions I had a week of rosy cheeks, which the photo really doesn’t do justice to! This attractive look was also added to by a red, itchy rash across my chest and neck – oh the joys! 20190109_143425

Another absolute treat was weeping, extremely sore, eyes. Mainly the left one oddly enough and it actually felt red raw inside. Most nights I took myself to bed by 8pm so that I could try and sleep away a few hours because the pain was pretty unbearable. The first week I put it down to losing my eyelashes, which along with my eyebrows, disappeared with chemo session number 6, but the pain continued with the remaining sessions so was just another perk!

Tip of the week – never leave home without a tissue (or at least a scarf!!) when you don’t have any nose hairs. Slightly annoying still though when you have to hold said tissue under your nose whilst unloading your shopping trolley, doing the washing up, putting on socks – dew drips!

I stayed fairly upbeat through most of the ‘chemo journey’. Don’t get me wrong I’ve definitely had a few tears but I think the lack of realisation (still feel like this isn’t really happening to me) has saved me from any deep emotions about the whole thing. So I was totally shocked at the total, overwhelming feelings of jealousy that came over me one afternoon… This was after chemo session number 6 and I was off to Mum’s for one of my daily injections. Big G was driving me and as we passed the petrol station I just felt this wave of emotion and a little bit of ‘hate’ I guess. The best way to describe it is when you are in the limo going to a funeral of a loved one and you wonder how on earth other people are going about their daily business, happy and smiling, while you are in so much pain. Well this was me… how on earth could they be filling up their cars, acting normally, when I was ‘suffering’ so much. This feeling lasted for a couple of days but I then had a very stern word (internally – chemo brain is definitely a thing but it’s affecting my memory, ability to get words out, rather than sending me completely bonkers) with myself. I know from personal experience that everyone has their own story, their own pain, their own issues and so who am I to judge that they are better off than me, not suffering as much as me. Just because they don’t have a forehead that goes from their non-eyelashed eyes right down to their arse crack, does not mean they are all good!

So along with everything tasting absolutely minging but still managing to put on weight (I know…most people with cancer lose weight! Haha putting weight on is more common than I realised having looked on line), excruciating indigestion, a weird taste/smell at the back of my throat, wrinkly finger tips like I’d been soaking in the bath for hours, the stairs looking like Mount Everest when it was time to go up to bed, and other side effects that I took for granted, all in all the last few months of chemo, and up to at least four weeks after the last session, I felt lousy, exhausted, and pretty crap really!

But that bit was over… next hurdle was surgery, which before chemo I thought would be a doddle in comparison but the nearer it got, the more terrified I became!

It’s very surreal having a conversation with someone as they are looking at, and manhandling, your boobs (reminds me of a visit with a friend to see a surgeon and I found it hilarious watching him talk to her chest, head tipping from side to side)! My surgeon asked if I would be happy to be smaller, as the tumour had been quite large in the bottom half of my right breast – “yeah that would be great, and if you could put them back in the right place that would be brilliant” was my response! On checking that she had another team of surgeons who could work on my left breast at the same time, I was booked in for a lumpectomy and reconstruction of the right (therapeutic mammoplasty), and reconstruction (reduction mammoplasty) on the left breast so that I wasn’t massively lopsided! Well there has to be a silver lining to having breast cancer – new, smaller, pert boobs was mine! During surgery I would also have sentinel lymph nodes removed (they took 2) which would be examined, along with all of the breast tissue they removed from both sides.

The morning of the surgery, 6th Dec, I had blue dye injected into my boob so they could determine which lymph nodes to take. I also had a wire fitted into my boob so the surgeon could see where the centre of the tumour was to ensure they took enough tissue for assessment. By the time I had been drawn on, measured, prodded and poked, the fear of the operation had just about disappeared and I just wanted to get it over with! Big G, on the other hand, looked terrified!!

When I came too in the recovery room, I was surprised to recognise an old friend. He didn’t, however, recognise me and it wasn’t until he wheeled me into the lift on the way to the ward that I could see why – not sure I was looking my best at this point and it had been a few years since I had last seen him – no hair, no eyebrows, no lenses or make-up, and a few extra wrinkles and pounds, is not the best version of me!! I had to stay in for one night because my wounds had leaked quite a bit, as they continued to do for another few days. When I got changed into my pyjamas that night, I looked down and said to Big G that I was really swollen after the surgery – imagine my horror when I realised that wasn’t the case. What I could actually see was my rolls of fat that had been hidden by my big, droopy, boobs!

So having already been for a few dressing changes, I went for an appointment at the breast clinic for them to check me over. One of the surgeons who checked me out wanted to know which boob had leaked most – clearly wanting to know who was the better stitcher-upper… not competitive at all!!! Haha He then said to the nurse, who was going to change my dressings, “Can you check that the nipples are still alive” (they are removed and sewn back in the right place!). “OMG you really need to rephrase that – that is disgusting” was my response – luckily he laughed and said he’d work on his terminology!! When I mentioned it to one of the oncology nurses later that day she said “Well at least if you stand on something strange you’ll know what it is”! Haha

Five weeks after surgery I am still sore but definitely improving. I can just about sleep on my side, with the aid of pillows, but still have another 3 weeks of wearing a bra night and day which is not normal for me – I am someone who takes my bra off the minute I walk in the house!

On the 21st Dec I had my follow up appointment to go through the next steps of treatment and to get the results of the analysis they had done on the tissue and lymph nodes – I was told that there was no cancer and the chemo had got rid of it even before the surgery…. Best Christmas present EVER! But now I, nor the family, can play the cancer card – sorry Lauren!! Haha

What next… well on Wed 16th Jan I start 3 weeks of radiotherapy (15 sessions), which is every day (Mon-Fri). I have another 12 Herceptin injections to have (one every 3 weeks), Zoladex injections (one every 3 months) for the next 2 years to halt my periods, and hormone tablets every day (along with Calcium and Vitamin D supplements as the hormone tablets can cause osteoporosis) for the next 10 years! But all these treatments are preventative – to hopefully stop the cancer coming back.

So now it’s the New Year and things are looking so much better – still a long way to go and I know there will be many challenges along the way but I am very positive for the future. Emotions took over on NYE and I burst into tears in the middle of Auld Lang Syne, which set Big G off, but I think it must have just been the overwhelming relief that the worst was behind me! And my hair is growing back – in the areas I’d rather it didn’t as well unfortunately!! Haha And now just need to build up some stamina – this time next year…

Love,

M x

 

 

 

Know your boobs, check your boobs, save your life…simples!

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As I’m sure you are all aware, October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. I think it is brilliant, but come November I’m fairly sure the prompts to check our breasts soon get forgotten – not even sure I bothered in previous Octobers to be honest.

So I just wanted to stress the importance of getting to know your boobs, and yes that means you too men – they are not just there to admire… although admiring and getting to know your partners lady bumps can only be a good thing as I know someone who’s husband found her lump. All boobs are different, unique, and it’s about getting to know your own. Both of yours could be a different shape, size, and density, each nipple can be a different colour, shape and size – so what you are looking out for is CHANGE… because it might just save your life…and that’s the power of love – oops sorry, felt a song coming on!

You do not need to get obsessed about checking, once a month is perfect. For pre-menopausal women, it is best to check a few days after your period. Our monthly cycle can affect the feel of your breasts and some can become very lumpy around the time of periods. This is quite normal, which is why it is suggested to check post period. For post-menopausal women and men, put a date in your diary, set a reminder in your phone (and don’t ignore it), for example the first of the month, and make that your regular check day. It is still vitally important to do this even if you have mammograms as some breast cancers, like mine, can be very aggressive and unless timed perfectly, your next mammogram may be too late to pick up symptoms in time for early diagnosis.

There is a lot of information on the Internet about how to check your boobs and there have been several live demonstrations on television this month – couple of links below:

http://www.itv.com/lorraine/health/do-youknowbreast-follow-dr-hilarys-breast-examination-guide

https://www.itv.com/loosewomen/how-to-self-check-for-symptoms-of-breast-cancer

However, these did not say about checking lying down as well, which is just as important as I pointed out in a previous post about finding my lump. I couldn’t feel it standing up, even though it was quite large. However, I may have noticed changes if I knew my boobs, as underneath there was large indentation so if I had looked at my breasts in the mirror, with arms above my head, and checked from every angle, then I would probably have seen a CHANGE! Here are a few examples of how to check – the main thing is to be thorough, and systematic, checking breasts, armpits, and up to the collarbone:

 

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Here are a few stats:

1 in 8 women will develop breast cancer in their lifetime and 80% of these will be over 50 years of age. Scarily one person is diagnosed in the UK every 10 minutes, which equates to about 5000 each month, 55,000 a year! This compares to 370 new cases of breast cancer in men per year, showing how rare it is… but you still need to check yourself!

Early detection and diagnosis is vital as 90% of women survive at least five years when diagnosed at the earliest stage of cancer, compared to around 15% diagnosed with the most advanced stages of the disease. With this in mind, when you notice ANY CHANGE, something that is not normal for you, please please please book an appointment with your GP immediately. I know how scary this is, but remember that 9 out of 10 lumps breast lumps are benign – not cancer!

I’m just hoping that this post will encourage you to firstly get to know your boobs, and check them monthly – if this can make a difference to just one person then you will make my day, month, year.

If you don’t mind, please share this post with your family, friends, and colleagues – let us make checking our breasts part of our monthly routine.

Love,

M x

 

 

 

 

 

 

Two weeks on a roller coaster… ups and downs of the cancer ride!

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I seem to have found a bit of a flaw in writing a blog with all the highs and lows of my cancer story – writing about the bad times is not so easy when you are actually going through them – even opening my laptop is too much effort! So apologies for the radio silence, and worrying some of you (thank you so much for checking up on me), but the last couple of weeks have been a bit of a rollercoaster and I just haven’t felt like writing, or doing much of anything for that matter. Feeling much more like me again now (not sure that’s a good thing – more of me can be too much!!) so here is a, ‘long’ round up of what’s been going on…

Monday 10th September – 5th chemo session

Following my blood test on Saturday, I knew there was a question as to whether they would still give me the chemo and I would have to have another blood test before they decided. As this was the first time with the different drugs, the nurses had warned that it would be a long day as they would be administering the drugs slower than normal in case of any allergic reactions, so a 9am appointment was booked. So me being me, and I still blame you Allison, Big G and I arrived at hospital just after half 8, because of course it takes almost an hour to do 11 miles. Once the day room opened at 9, I was told to go into one of the bays – er but they told me last week I would have to be in a side room on my own because of the shingles. Well this sent everyone into a bit of a panic – they really didn’t want me to have the new chemo in a side room as I wouldn’t have someone with me all the time – well apart from Big G but clearly he isn’t medically trained, nor does he look good in a nurses outfit! So a call went in to my consultant who insisted it went ahead as planned. I couldn’t decide if I felt like royalty, or a leper, when I noticed that they had assigned the toilet opposite my room for my use only! The blood test came back ok, so the drugs were sent for but it was after 1pm before the treatment started. Big G had just come off a night shift so was shattered but he watched me like a hawk in case of any reaction – such a star. Everything went to plan, no reaction (yet), and finally we left just after 6pm, loaded up with the usual ten tonne of medication – plus a few extras…

During the chat with the consultant he mentioned something about an injection to help build up my white blood cells because he was concerned that the shingles could become infected. So there was me thinking this was something the nurse would give me before leaving the hospital… oh no, what he meant was 5, yes 5 bloody injections that had to start from the next day. And who was going to give these injections? Me? Not on your nelly – but up steps Big G who said he would be fine to do them – only problem was he was only going to be able to do the first one so my Mum would have to do the rest. Practice makes perfect so they say… the nurse produces a ‘fake stomach’ patch for him to practice on! And I’m feeling totally ok with the whole idea because I have absolutely no fear of needles at all!!!

However… (Tuesday 11th) The injections had to be given after 5pm so just after I sit on the sofa, stomach exposed with Big G cleaning the designated area with the antiseptic wipe. He seems calm, although a little hesitant – I, apparently, am not so calm – at this point I went into major melt down and burst into tears! Not a chance in hell was he coming anywhere near with me that needle! The nurse had told me if I needed to go to the day unit to have it done, this would have to be done just before 5pm so I was too late for that. Big G phoned the doctors surgery to see if anyone could do it there – nope! So an emergency message went through to one of my ex (hairdressing) clients, and friend, who works at the surgery to see if she was able to come to my rescue, which she did without hesitation – big massive thank you again Jo, and especially for making me laugh through the tears by asking me if I wanted the injection in the top, or bottom, roll of fat… charming! My amazing Mum did the last one, and although I was incredibly nervous about a non-professional doing it, she did it without fuss and I wouldn’t hesitate letting her do it again, although hopefully it won’t be a regular occurrence!

A few tears this evening as early the next morning Big G was heading off to Zante, for a week, for his niece’s wedding. Also, he needed to go and spend some time with Kirstie, his daughter, who is off to Oz for 18 months. He was really struggling with the idea of leaving me while going through this ordeal but I insisted that he had to go and assured him I would tell him if I needed him to come home at any point (slight lie as you’ll see later!), but I knew I would be fine with L and K, and the rest of my family and friends around me… who are all amazing.

Thur 13th

Mum came with me to see my consultant – a regular appointment, which happens every 4 weeks. Although this isn’t usually much more than a check in to see how things are going, this time I had a few questions. Warning – men this is about women ‘stuff’ if you want to skip the rest of this paragraph!! As part of my treatment I will have hormone therapy to bring on the menopause. This is because the type of breast cancer I have is hormone fed, and only affects pre-menopausal women and this will help prevent it coming back. But the chemo is already affecting my cycle and I’ve been having a period every other week. For those of you who know me well, you know how much I suffer and so this was one thing I could do without. So I mentioned this and he said we could stop the periods with an injection every three months – well up for that, now just hoping it works!!

As I only have 3 chemo sessions left (can’t quite believe that), I was curious as to when they would start thinking about surgery. He said they will do another scan and then we could talk about what surgery they are likely to do when I see him next but it will probably happen about 4 weeks after the last chemo session. All being well, if no delays, my last session will be on 12th Nov, which means surgery is likely to be mid Dec. Although not ideal, I will just have to get myself organised for Christmas, and then let it all happen around me, which will be a bit tough being as though I’m a ‘little’ bit of a control freak but pj’s and Christmas films sound good recuperation tactics!

The main side effects this time, apart from feeling generally bleugh and knackered, were a sore mouth and all food tasting disgusting – sort of metally. As you can imagine this slightly took away the enjoyment of the Indian and Chinese we had for Kieron and Connor’s birthday. Although, funnily enough, it hasn’t stopped me eating as I am constantly trying to find something that tastes just a little bit nice! Double antibiotics also gave me the runs for over a week… sorry tmi again!

Monday 17th

When I need to take paracetamol for a headache, I have to take my temperature first. This is in case the headache is an indicator of an infection and taking pills would bring my temperature down, therefore missing the early signs of infection which can be very dangerous… leading to sepsis. Now I don’t always follow this advice but at 2am Monday morning, after feeling (and apparently looking) very rough all day Sunday, I woke up with a banging headache and thought I should probably take my temp. This has to sit between 35.5 and 37.5 and anything either side of that I have to phone the hospital. So I took it four times because it was reading 37.6 and 37.7 and then I reluctantly made the call – off to A&E. So I woke Kieron up, and off we went (via the petrol station – lesson learned hopefully – don’t leave your car with less than 10 miles fuel in it when there is a chance of having to do a hospital run in the middle of the night).

Due to the shingles, we were told to sit next to the door away from everyone else. Luckily we only had to wait about 10 minutes before we were called through and I finally ended up in an examination room where the ambulances bring people in. Firstly they took bloods, bottles of bloods… not little test tubes… and my god it hurt, to the point that Kieron told me I was doing well and looked very proud of me! I mentioned this to one of the oncology nurses I saw later in the day and she said “It’s because they use knitting needles”! But then I guess when you are taking so much blood you don’t want to use a tiny needle or you’d be there ages. He then inserted a cannula and I had fluids, paracetamol and antibiotics (to fight any possible infection as soon as possible). At 5am a doctor told me they were keeping me in for at least 12 hours. This came as a bit of a shock as I was expecting a shot of antibiotics and to be sent home – I’ll expect different if it happens again! At 7.30am I was moved to an assessment ward, which was a hive of activity all day, so no sleep for me, but at least there was plenty to keep me entertained.

During the day I had a chest x-ray and had to give a urine sample and they kept talking about me going home soon. Bryony, my sister, works next to the hospital so had offered to come and pick me up. As I didn’t know what was happening she phoned the ward to see how long I would be. Imagine her surprise when they said they were transferring me to a ward and I was staying in overnight… ‘Shit’ she thought – ‘She doesn’t know that so now I’m going to have to tell her’! Luckily for Bry, the same time she was on the phone, the porter, who had taken me to the x-ray, came over and started putting the sides up on my bed and picked my bags up. “Er, where are we going?” “To the pub” he said, “No point as wine tastes disgusting” was my reply – still thinking he’s joking about moving me. “It’s not about the taste, it’s about the effect,” he said. “But seriously, where are we going?” – then the nurse arrived to say I had to stay in! That’s when the confusion started – the doctor on the ward wasn’t expecting me and didn’t really know why I was there but said I’d definitely be staying in, then he said I might not have to, then I would. To cut a long story short, they eventually set me free at about 7pm and I couldn’t run out of there fast enough – well I walked quite slowly as don’t seem to be able to do anything very fast as the moment but you get my gist!

I didn’t tell Big G about my little ‘trip’ to the hospital, even though I’d promised I would, as I knew I was fine and didn’t want him to cut his holiday short – but I was fully prepared to feel the wrath of his anger later – luckily he was so relieved to be home that he didn’t tell me off too much!

Thursday 20th

On Wednesday I noticed a weird red patch on my wrist where my cannula had been for my last chemo – 9 days before. As I was going up to the hospital for a scan and mammogram (so the consultants could start thinking about what surgery they would be doing), I called into the day unit for them to have a look at it! Not sure anyone really knew what had caused it other than some sort of delayed reaction to the chemo. So they drew around the patch and called for the clinical photographer to take photos of it! So who knew there was such a thing? He said they take photos of anything needed in the hospital, from births to deaths and everything in between, including when someone chops their hand off with a chain saw! A doctor also had a look and requested I go back on Monday so she could have another look. By Monday it was a lot redder, a bit sore and itchy, so another photo and a referral to ‘plastics’. I’m not sure why, and stupidly I didn’t ask, but I’m hoping they will throw in a free face-lift when I go!

patch 1

patch 2

 

 

 

 

So then we go off to the Breast imaging department and have a mammogram first – really not the most pleasant experience… for me or the poor lady who has to get my boob in the right position for it to be squashed to about an inch! Then the scan… last time I had one the tumour has shrunk to about half the size… this time – NO tumour!! I’m sorry, can I just clarify that… yes, the tumour has gone!! OMG, that’s incredible. I knew this was a possibility, which is why they fitted a clip in the middle of it so they would know where to operate, but it was still amazing news – the chemo is working and worth all of the crapiness I feel! This news won’t change the ‘plan’ – I will still have surgery (not sure what yet until I see the consultant again in a couple of weeks), and I will still have the remaining 3 sessions of chemo, and all the other treatment the surgery, but it can only mean that things are going in the right direction – up yours cancer!!

This week has been a good week, as I’ve felt a lot better and able to catch up with a few people. My next chemo session is on Monday (1st Oct) and hoping not to have any issues this time – haha very wishful thinking I’m sure but you never know!

Sorry for the long post – I will try not to leave it so long next time!

Love,

M x

 

 

 

 

 

You Have to Laugh…

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So clearly I have done something wrong in my life! Why else would cancer alone not be enough?! Let’s throw a bit of tinnitus and shingles in!

The tinnitus started about 2 weeks ago. Luckily I can only notice it when I’m in complete silence, so lying in bed etc. However, it does mean that I’ve finally found a positive to Big G’s snoring and incessant grinding of his teeth – once he starts then I can’t hear the ringing in my ears!

As for the shingles – for the past 4 or 5 days my skin around one side of my midriff has been painful and I had a couple of red patches. As my arms feel bruised on the inside all the time, due to the chemo, I put it down to being more of the same. I had a very fleeting thought about shingles but as I didn’t really know much about the virus, I dismissed it as thought I may be going over the top in finding more things to be wrong with me.

Then yesterday morning I was watching Dr Chris on This Morning and he was talking about shingles. He explained that if you’ve had chicken pox, the virus sits dormant in the nerve tissue near the spinal cord and if your immune system is weakened it might surface as shingles. He said the rash would have little blisters and best to get treatment within 72 hours.

So I thought I should have a look at the red spots, only to find that they had grown into quite a patch, and I also had further patches which spread around my back and into my groin. No wonder I was in pain and finding it difficult to get comfortable! And there were blisters! Off to the docs I go – and yes she confirmed it was shingles! I was given a 7-day course of antiviral medication, painkillers to take at night, and instructions to talk to oncology about my next chemo session that I should be having next Monday (10th Sept).

The next chemo is when the drugs change and I’ve been feeling very nervous about it all. Well I’ve just had a call back to say they are going to have delay it for at least a week because of the shingles – and possibly for longer if the blisters haven’t scabbed over. Not sure if I am relieved that I don’t have to have it on Monday, or fed up that the sick feeling of nervousness will be there for another week!* This morning the rash has spread and is painful, uncomfortable, and looks a bugger! Sofa and pj’s for me today, and possibly no knickers for a week or so due to the blisters in my groin!

Is Karma a bitch? Is someone, somewhere sticking pins in a doll? Well if they are, bring it on – you can throw anything you like at me and I will laugh in your face… just as I’m laughing in the face of cancer!

Love,

M x

*As I was just about to publish this, the hospital has rung again and my consultant has decided he wants to go ahead with the planned chemo on Monday and not delay – not sure how I feel about that! So now back to feeling sick about Monday!