Stop the merry-go-round, I want to get off!

Woden horses. Merry-go-round Carrousel at the EUR Fun Fair. Rome, Italy

The past few weeks have definitely felt like a theme park ride, with many highs and a few lows, and sometimes (well most of the time) I’m very bored of the ride and I just want to get off!

Before starting back at work I wanted to fit in a couple of trips away… I’ve missed my 16143063_10211408148657365_3595871036823279954_nholidays soooo much. The first one was me and Big G returning to our piece of paradise, our cave house in Spain. I was very worried about what state we were going to find it in, as we’ve not been since last April and we left the windows open for ventilation – thought we would return a few months later. Luckily it wasn’t too bad – the fly screens had stopped most of the dust going in. We had such a relaxing time, lots of vino tinto and tapas, sitting by the log burner, looking at ‘my’ mountains, and time with friends, a proper charge up of my batteries.

Then my sister, Bryony, and me went to Crete for 10 days. Brrr, it was a bit chillier than 20190423_120637expected so I had to sit in the sun to keep warm! I’m not really meant to but Vitamin D is good for you, as I kept telling myself, and I was very sensible about applying the sun cream regularly. I was very pleased with how much walking I managed on the few days we went out, but painful joints (due to the hormone treatment) meant I had to take it easy when I could. At one point she had me climbing over a wall, which would have made video of the week on ‘You’ve Been Framed’ but I drew the line at walking down 50 steps just to have my photo taken (which I knew I would hate), knowing I’d have to walk straight back up them! After all who wants to see themselves as an almost 49 year old, bald, fat bloke – better to imagine that I am a svelte 30 year old, with long flowing locks – it’s clearly the photos and mirrors that lie! We laughed so much throughout our stay; we will have to make it a yearly jaunt!

The day after we got back, I had to go for my heart scan to check if the heart function has gone up so I can resume the Hereptin injections. After the last time I was incredible anxious, but I popped an anti-anxiety pill that the hospital gave me, and luckily they had no problems finding the veins this time. And good news, I heard today that its back up to 55, so can start the injections again next week – mmm something to look forward to!

I had already been into work for a morning or so a week before I went on holiday, but Monday 29th April was the first day I was going back in properly, to do actual work, all be it for only 2 mornings a week to start with. Bearing in mind that it has almost been a year since I was there, this was a pretty momentous day. My emotions were all over the place – anxiety, pride, fear, and happiness. The journey there involved quite a few tears, then lots of hugs and smiling faces from colleagues which was amazing (thank you so much guys), telling me how good I looked – slap on, drawn on brows, big earrings, fake it till you make it! Then, seemingly from nowhere a total engulfing feeling of being overwhelmed whilst sitting at my desk – what the chuff am I doing back, I can’t even remember my own name sometimes, let alone function well in my job! Luckily, there was just me and my manager in the office at the time, and she was fab, as she has been all the way through this, so I let myself cry and then got on with the morning!! I think the anxiety will continue for a while, but I felt better when I went back in, and I’m sure it will get easier. There were a few jokes about playing the ‘cancer card’, especially when I was being ‘bullied’ into holding a mouse and gerbil (er no thanks, minging creepy tails), and actually I should have been more careful re the risk of lymphedema but hey I forgot – well surely it’s a good thing that cancer isn’t on my mind constantly (although I guess it should be a little more!).

The next day I started the ‘HOPE’ course, which is run by Macmillan, and helps you cope with life after a cancer diagnosis. I’ve not used their facilities or services at all throughout, but have been having moments of panic about the future etc. so thought why not give it a go. I fully expected to hate it and not go after the first week – I still don’t want cancer buddies – but actually it was really nice to know I’m not the only one feeling this way, emotionally and physically. When I arrived, early of course, I felt a bit sick sitting in the car park. I get social anxiety in new situations (I’m very good at hiding it) but as soon as a car pulled up next to me I had to laugh and turn away – there was a lady with hardly any hair, well she’s clearly going to the same place as me!!

Thursday was a mixed day! Joy at spending time with our new great niece, frustration at driving around Cambridge to look at new cars with Big G, his sister and Dad (confusion all around), excited to be feeling well and almost energetic – should have stopped at that and known that it had been a long day! But oh no, I thought I was all good, and as Big G is off to Australia today, and Thursday evening would be our only opportunity to go out before he went, let’s go out for a meal and a few wines! All was well until I had finished my meal – G was still going (haha), well it was a buffet – and a wave of tiredness hit like a bus. “We are going to have to go, I can’t be here anymore”… then the tears started! Not embarrassing at all in a restaurant, I felt a right tit (got to love a good pun!). The tears were clearly aided and abetted by the red wine, but I felt so upset, so desperate, that I couldn’t even last an evening without feeling so tired, so ill, so not ‘me’. More tears followed at home, when the hell am I going to be ‘back to normal’, when the hell can I do more than one thing a day without feeling shite. I absolutely know it is a matter of time and the importance of being kind to myself in the mean time. I also know that I will never fully be the old me, and that’s ok. But at times it really gets to me, and I also know that’s ok because the next day will be better – well the next day I spent most of it in bed – but the day after was better!

I have to keep reminding myself that my body, and mind, are amazing – they have got me through this last year and as one of the ladies at the HOPE course said ‘We are rock stars’ – and I know patience is the key, one step at a time, just setting realistic goals, appreciating what I have, where I’m at, how much I’ve been through and am coming out the other side.

We are all fantastic; please don’t let the daily grind make you forget that.

Love,

M x

 

 

Did she really just say that?!

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So many friends have asked me about what is the right, or wrong, thing to say to someone with cancer. I don’t think there is necessarily a right thing – although I try and live by the theory that it is better to admit that I have no idea what to say rather than say something that might hurt someone. That being said, I still think something/anything should be said rather than nothing at all!

But there are many wrong things that you can say!

However, I am very aware that a lot of these comments come from embarrassment, fear of getting it wrong, wanting to offer comfort, but unfortunately some definitely come from ignorance!

Here is a few of the things said to me, and other cancer patients who I have had contact with:

“I can empathise with you as my Mum had breast cancer”. At this point I’m thinking arh that’s nice, and I’m sorry to hear that, but then “oh but she is terminal now as she has a secondary brain tumour” – er not really what I wanted to hear a day or two after my diagnosis.

Several people have told me the story “My mum/my best friend/ my aunt survived after having breast cancer 3 times” – again, not really what you want to hear when starting treatment for the first time!

“Will you survive?” Erm, not sure how you answer this one so my response was simply “I bloody hope so”. This is a weird one because I think most of us would like to ask this question when we hear of someone with a cancer diagnosis but social etiquette means we don’t – but it still totally took me aback!

Another strange one is “Your positive attitude got you through this”. Now I really do appreciate these sentiments, and I absolutely know they come from a good place, however I feel it somehow diminishes the ‘struggle’ people who haven’t survived have gone through. I’m sure they all started out with positive attitudes but it didn’t help them. I feel ‘lucky’ to be alive and doing well – but then I feel chuffing ‘unlucky’ to have had to go through this in this first place.

Other people’s experiences –

“It is much worse for your husband watching you go through the treatment” – now I know it is very difficult for loved ones to watch someone go through it, but I’m still fairly sure it is worse, much, much worse, for the person actually having the poison pumped in, the surgery, the intense burning of radiotherapy, and all the other little gems that cancer brings!

One lady told me “I had a ‘funny’ conversation yesterday at work – Have you been on a sabbatical? No I have had Cancer. Goodness you don’t look like you have had Cancer (Umm, not sure what I should look like). Then… I know just how you feel I had to have a long time off work but it wasn’t Cancer – Well I don’t really suppose you know how I feel then.”

“A lady who came into our cancer support group who’d had bladder cancer was telling another lady, who was recovering from a failed, delayed, breast reconstruction, that breast cancer was best because you can have your recon and then forget it!”

“On hair loss: your hair was very thin anyway!” – I couldn’t quite believe this one!

Not an inappropriate comment but I loved hearing this one, and it properly made me laugh – “I call what’s left of my breast ‘Robin’, because I love robins and I’m delighted to still have my red breast!”

This is just a very small snapshot but may just make us think a little before we jump in and say something potentially hurtful. I can laugh at, or brush off, most comments, but a few have left me speechless. However… I can say terribly inappropriate things but having a sense of humour (most of the time) has got me through this, so that is my excuse! It’s not just me though; family (especially Lauren) and friends have been known to shock a few people with ‘near the knuckle’ comments!

Big G with the news of my diagnosis, in front of the consultant and breast nurse – “I will remarry you know” – his way of saying don’t you dare die as I have always said I will haunt him if he finds someone else!

“Cancer take me now!” at a party with the most depressing music on – lots of people there I didn’t know, oops, well this is me!

When shopping with a friend “Oh no, I couldn’t possible pack the shopping as I have cancer!” – not sure the lady on the till knew what to say!

We tend to make light of things and I’m sure the stuff that we say to each other could really offend someone else. So this post can only ever be from my perspective – I find things funny that others may struggle with. On this point, I have noticed on Facebook that many people get annoyed/offended when someone shaves their head to raise money for cancer research, saying things like how can this help, how can they relate etc. I’m sure none of those people think they can understand how a cancer patient feels when losing their hair, and how the feelings are tied into this hideous disease, but I still think it’s a pretty brave thing to do… shame none of my friends wanted to come out in sympathy and shave their head!! Well apart from Charlie, the Labradoodle, who went a bit bald on his back at the same time as I lost my hair! And in all honesty, I think anything that raises money should be praised. A friend’s daughter is shaving her hair off after she completes her GCSE’s this summer – hats (or hair) off to her. Click here if you would like to donate – well done Hope. Sorry this bit was slightly off topic but then I do ramble a bit!

Love,

M x

 

 

 

 

 

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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check breasts 3

check breasts 1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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