Eyebrows Tattoos & Hair Shopping

Sunday 24th January

Today was a GREAT day. I met up with Sarah, the manager at work who had left at the beginning of December to work elsewhere. I’ll be honest, I hadn’t realised just what a good job she’d done and it’s the age-old ‘you don’t realise what you’ve got till it’s gone.’ She held the team together, motivated and inspired them and, the most important part, enabled me to get on with my job, which is about growing the business. Since she’d been gone I’ve struggled to get on with my job because I’ve been too busy helping the staff and the new team leaders. It turns out that she’s struggled with her new manager because she’s so vague… hilarious.

I’m learning that this journey for me is about learning new ways to behave and digging deep into the emotional box.

I think because I’m SO direct any normal person appears vague. Sarah’s been a bit disgruntled about a few other aspects too and she wants to leave. Even though I knew she would come back at this particular part of the conversation I made the decision to tell her stuff that normally I would have skirted around or avoided saying. I‘m not overly good at sharing my feelings or feeling vulnerable and as you can appreciate I run a business and I know how to manoeuvre a conversation to get the outcome I want. But I’m learning that this journey for me is about learning new ways to behave and digging deep into the emotional box so I told her that I needed her, that it hadn’t been the same without her and I’d like her to come back. Know what? It wasn’t that difficult, and it felt quite good. She knows how hard I find that sort of thing and replied by saying she wanted to come back. So for me, it was a superb result. I have someone I can rely upon, whom I trust with my youngest baby and who won’t let me down. BRILLIANT. So that’s something struck off the list.

I’m still full of bruises on the back of my hand, under my arm and my belly where they stabbed me with the heparin. Feeling a bit battered, bruised and bit bodily abused. But hey it’s going to get worse, I’m sure… this is a bit like the calm before the storm, I think.

Tattoo Tuesday 26th January

Another day skiving off work. Off to Ramsey to get my eyebrows tattooed on. What a superb experience but yeah, it did hurt. More scratchy than hurt I guess, BUT they look amazing AND they’re perfect.

Whilst I might not be Cheryl Cole, I’m sure she puts her hair extensions and makeup artist through her business.

OMG, I can’t tell you what a great idea this was, but £450 later and a teeny bit sore, I’m sure I’ve made THE best decision. One of the things I find weird when you look at someone who has no facial hair is their lack of eyebrows and eyelashes that makes them look like Martians. Yes, I know it’s not very PC and not very kind, but it’s factually accurate and I’ll be in their club soon so I feel I can say it. Again, having this done is about me taking control of the fact my eyebrows are going to fall out and stunt double for a Martian isn’t really my thing.

Eyebrows tattooed, I’m back on with my day. I’m still trying to get my accountant to agree that I can claim things like this and my wig through my business. Whilst I might not be Cheryl Cole, I’m sure she puts her hair extensions and makeup artist through her business. Why should I be any different? I might not be as slim or as glamorous, but I am the face of my business and I doubt my clients would be thrilled to see me without hair. I’m not sure I’d be confident enough to do that anyway, this process is already making me question things that I’ve never even thought about before.

My youngest had a hospital appointment this afternoon, which always results in a MacDonald’s. This is where we were sat when I got the phone call to say the chemo starts on the 5th. It’s now becoming real.

Wig Wednesday 27th January

Today started with a day of scans. I had a CT and a bone scan. In itself, it was not a problem but I was surrounded by REALLY poorly people, this hadn’t really dawned on me if I’m truthful but that was depressing. I’m okay if I can’t see the horror of cancer. I looked seriously out of place – I have hair, I have colour in my face and I’m walking. This was distressing. I had to wait for 4 hours for one of the scans so I did some work and had a meeting with the Cancer Ward sister about fundraising and about putting her in touch with the ‘Something To Look Forward To’ charity so that was good.

I had a few tears in the car but decided to replicate my current style – not because it’s nice but because it would enable me to look the same.

After the scans, the trip to Cambridge for hair fitting commenced. I drove down there and it wasn’t until I parked up that I actually thought about the sort of ‘hair’ I wanted. In truth I hadn’t thought about anything other than getting there, getting parked and finding the place, which is rather typical of me and how I don’t deal with things properly. I had a few tears in the car but decided to replicate my current style – not because it’s nice but because it would enable me to look the same. I met Garry (yes, I spelt that right) and he was absolutely fantastic. He listened, took the time with me and miraculously managed to find me a similar hairdo. We struggled to find the style with the right colour so he suggested I come back for a fitting after he’d ordered it from Germany. The hair was amazing it even had roots to make it look more authentic!! He also offered to shave my head, which was extremely kind of him, when I came back for collection.

I’ve been completed overwhelmed by the number of shares my Facebook page has had. Twenty-four and currently donations stand at just under £3000. How amazing are people? It has dawned on me that I’ve not really given this cancer thing the respect everyone else has. Nor do I intend to. How ridiculous. I like a battle and I always win. Nothing has changed.

Becoming Public Property

Friday 29th January

Friday was a bit confusing I arrived at the wrong hospital for an oncology appointment. Not the end of the world but I hate getting things wrong. I’m starting to feel a bit hormonal (just the time of the month) so I guess I was a bit flat. Karen the oncologist explained that the scans were completely clear other than a small cyst on my liver which she said could have been there from birth nothing to fret about. I asked her what a cyst is and she explained that it’s just a sack of fluid – I asked if it was full of wine. She laughed and said it was highly unlikely. So all good. I don’t think I’d displayed quite the right reaction. I know it’s great news and that I’m all clear and it’s not anywhere else but shit this is becoming REAL. Each day, each result, each appointment I’m getting one step closer to the bloody chemo, the nasty stuff, the real-life bits, the stuff that’s going to make me feel ill. Yes, it will fix me but I’m going to feel shit and for someone who’s always so healthy this is a mental battle. The side effects are beyond hideous. I had a couple of tears as I left, not a lot, just enough to register how I’m feeling, but it’s just part of the journey. I left the hospital drove to meet Catherine for dinner in Lincoln.

Saturday 30th January

On Saturday 30th, I met a friend at Rutland water for our 26, yes, 26-mile walk. I’d already committed to doing the Belvoir challenge at the end of February but I needed to know that my body was capable of doing it, I’ve never walked this far before. So that IF I can’t complete it I at least know it’s because of the chemo not that I can’t do it. The day was great and it took us just under 7 hours. Got home and was asleep by 8.30 and I ached…but not as much as my friend did, which offers me hours of piss-take. I’m the cancer victim, he’s a fit 40-year old that got me into this endurance walking and HE struggled… or maybe he’s just saying it to make me feel good.

Reading stuff about me on Facebook makes me feel like Mother Teresa…

So I’ve posted lots of stuff on Facebook about the charity head shave in the last week or so and have bullied my clients into parting with their cash and so far I’ve raised about £7500 for two very well deserving charities; Peterborough City Hospital and ‘Something to look forward to’. I’m sooooo pleased and it makes this poorly shit so worthwhile. People have been extremely kind and said some really lovely and encouraging things with their donations which is so kind, but I’m struggling a bit. I’m not really one to dwell on nice things that people say and in truth, there’s a collection of other things that aren’t so lovely about me, which quite honestly balances out the loveliness. Trust me, I’ve struggled quite a bit with this to be truthful. I’m just like everyone else; I get cross, I shout at my kids, I get moody from time to time. Reading stuff about me on Facebook makes me feel like Mother Teresa…it’s important to stay real, I think. I LOVE the positivity and kindness. It’s been great and there are one or two ‘sad/sympathy’ statuses to contend with, but they’ve been minimal.

Now I have to confess that the thought of doing this head shave is beyond distressing. I seriously do NOT really want to be bald, I don’t really want all the garbage that goes with this bloody long arduous journey of chemical warfare I’m about to endure, where my body is not my own anymore. Nothing is sacred now. I’ve had my tits out more in the last 6 weeks than I have in the last 6 years!!! PLUS I’m struggling with being ‘public property’. I’m not a fan of everyone knowing my business, it makes me feel vulnerable, but I do need to feel like I’m in control of this cancer thing so by doing this and not having the horror of big clumps falling out in bed or in the bath. As I said, it’s the best option for me to be able to cope.

I was mortified. Comments appeared like wildfire.

For a gobby bird, I’m actually quite private and do not like to share my innermost feelings with the world (you’re now wondering why I wrote this. Yes, I know – me too, but I’ve done it for you). So you can perhaps imagine how traumatised I was when one of my friends took it upon herself to post something on my Facebook wall for everyone to see. I’ll give her the benefit of doubt and say it was with the best intention. As we explained to people on my behalf that the fundraising wasn’t a publicity stunt, she explained how distressing I would find it and virtually started a petition to stop me from doing it saying that I didn’t HAVE to do it. I was absolutely livid, not because she hadn’t told the truth but because I felt like she’d exposed my innermost feelings and thoughts. Facebook for me is about the fun stuff, the nonsense of life, and I simply DO NOT share my real thoughts and feelings with the bloody world. I win by fronting this cancer thing out and stay emotionally detached from what I’m doing. I was mortified. Comments appeared like wildfire, all very lovely but discussing me, making decisions for me, suggestions about what I should or shouldn’t do. I know people mean well but I honestly did feel like my life was not my own. And because I hadn’t worded the post I wasn’t able to control what they were saying in their response.

I am unsure about shaving my head. Christ, who wouldn’t be.

All my posts had been VERY carefully worded to encourage a happy positive comment not some droany negative shit and my wording did not create an open forum. I TOLD them what was happening. I had no idea how to take this new post down – I’m not overly technical and I didn’t want to upset her either. I felt a bit stuck. I did totally overreact, but I couldn’t stop the flooding; I cried a lot and couldn’t work out what to do for the best. It’s weird how much I feel like I need to control this and what people see. I don’t mind my innermost feelings being shared with my close friends but not Facebookers – they are all people I know but they’re people I’ve worked with, met on nights out, etc., not all proper full-on friends. I guess we all know that. I am unsure about shaving my head. Christ, who wouldn’t be. Yet I know it’s better for me than the other option of it falling out. I need their money for the charities, not their sympathy or opinions about what I should do for the best…ggggrrrr.

First Day of Chemo

Thursday 4th February

Thursday 4th February and it’s National Cancer Day. What a not so fabulous co-incidence and yet arguably a perfect date for a charity head shave and the arrival of Bob. This is the name I’ve given to my wig. I HATE the word wig it conjures up thoughts of being bald to me so I figured Bob is just a cute way to refer to it. However, the joys of a head shave couldn’t start before I’d had yet another visit to the hospital. Today was to check if I had a heart, something to do with the second bout of chemo drugs and they need to make sure that everything functions properly. The scan was pretty insignificant but what as lovely was that my private nurse, Janice, who had been assigned to me for the chemo process tracked me down at the hospital and delivered to me the batch load of drugs that I needed to start before the chemo. Steroids are taken for the first couple of days and I was given a collection of meds that are supposed to help with side effects of the chemo. She advised me to speak to the doctors about getting some sleeping tablets. It’s getting more real by the minute.

I laughed through the whole thing. So that was that – hair gone. I’ve got a buzz cut.

After that, I took the train to Cambridge to go back to Scruffs to see Garry who I’ve now renamed ‘Two R’s’. He has to be the most incredible man. I’m not the best with people being too nice to me. It upsets me. I’m built for fun, laughter and piss-taking that’s how I cope and he got the balance just right with me. He mirrors his clients beautifully. You know what? It wasn’t so bad – I laughed through the whole thing. So that was that – hair gone. I’ve got a buzz cut. Painless, unemotional and it actually looks ok.

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Bob arrived and I can honestly tell you I love it. It feels unusual but then again I’ve never had to wear a wig except for fancy dress parties and it will take some getting used to but as I left the saloon to meet the couple who run ‘Something to Look Forward to,’ I had Bob on and it just felt really ‘normal’. I’m not sure what I was expecting but I certainly didn’t get any weird looks at all. Funny, what we envisage will happen and the reality is so different. We had dinner, with lots of wine back on the train and was tucked up into bed for 1.30. I’m buzzing, the steroids have kicked in and have given me so much more energy so took a sleeping tablet when I got home and woke at 7.30 am.

Spa Treatment Friday 5th February

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Nothing new today. I just have a Cancer Nurse in my house administering me chemo. Who would have thought? My Facebook time hopped today to a few years ago when I’d taken the boys to Orlando for 10 days. How times can change.

I felt fine and full of energy, not how I expected to feel.

Nurse Janice arrives. She preps and then she starts with saline to flush the vein. Then I’m given an anti-sickness drug before finally the chemo. I was fine for about 15 minutes then I struggled to breathe. It felt like someone was standing on my chest and my face was on fire. It happened so quickly, I just didn’t have time to say anything. Fortunately, she noticed and stopped the drip. She told me it’s quite normal to have a reaction. I guess our bodies weren’t really built for all these chemicals. Puriton and an anti-cortoson were administered and we’re good to go again – she did check with Karen, my oncologist, though to just be sure. Karen wanted to talk to me and said that they had found something on my hip in the scans so I need to go back and get rescanned just to make sure that it’s nothing of concern; better safe than sorry.

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And that was that. Finished by 12.30 pm. I cooked lunch and did a load of jobs. I felt fine and full of energy, not how I expected to feel. Sally came over to meet Bob, the boys came home for school, I caught up on all my lovely messages, text and work emails and awaited the arrival of my friend for a lovely catch up, followed by a couple of glasses of wine in bed for about 10.30.

So the first spa treatment day was done and dusted. It wasn’t anywhere near as bad as I expected. You have such ideas in your head about chemotherapy and how your hair (or what’s left of it) will just immediately fall out and you’ll be instantly ill.

Saturday 6th February

Saturday; Oddly I’ve woken up after a good night sleep feeling fine. It’s weird because you really don’t know what to expect but so far so good. I’ve been warned that after the steroids stop I will feel a bit down so we shall see what Sunday and Monday brings. My plan is to have no plans, this way I won’t be disappointed, but I’ve got Catherine over shortly after I get stabbed with an immune system booster then we’re off for a dog walk. I’ve completed my whiteboard with a smile 😊

Sunday 7th February

On Sunday, I woke up feeling fine. Sent my family an update email. Only my sister-in-law replied – she had cancer last year and had a double mastectomy so I guess she has an understanding of where I’m at. It’s weird, it’s like waiting to be ill. Walked the dog for 4 miles. Cleared the kitchen for the decorator’s arrival tomorrow. Clips came with two bags: one full of yummy goodies like prosecco, crisps and chocolates and one packed with healthy options including green tea, ginger, and the most amazing toothpaste ever. It’s called Biotene and trust me is just great. Another friend Jo came with a chicken and leek pie and Cornish pasties and Alison made the boys a Sunday lunch which they collected. I had a bath and then felt VERY, VERY ill. I sat in bed about 7ish and snoozed on and off until 11.30 pm only to be wide awake again for an hour or so. I felt a bit nauseous, my bones ached as they’d said, predominantly my breast bone and my thighs. I felt like I had a huge weight in my stomach. Not sure a Cornish pasty and a piece of toast could really make me feel like that. It’s a weird type of ill, is all I can say.

Cancer Means People Make Room for You at the Bar

Well, they said I’d suffer with insomnia. They didn’t lie. I think I’ve managed about two hours sleep tonight. I purposely didn’t take a sleeping tablet because I don’t want to rely upon them… epic mistake!! And I’m supposed to be testing out my new walking shoes tomorrow with the 26-mile crew. Still, I guess that being awake rather than being ill is a bloody bonus. Oddly, I feel great.

I’m simply overwhelmed with people’s kindness.

My cough doesn’t seem to be shifting but it doesn’t seem to be getting worse either. I’m keeping an eye on it. I’ve no desire to be in the hospital. The nursing staff have explained that because my immune system is getting blitzed that the chances of me catching something is really high and the last thing I want to do is be ill. The cacophony of drugs seems to be working but the nausea remains.

I’m simply overwhelmed with people’s kindness. I’ve had texts, emails, phone calls and cards. I can’t tell you how touched I am by how lovely and supportive people have been. It’s also really hard to keep up with everything and feeling this rough, I don’t feel that inspired to communicate, but I think if they’re kind enough to contact me I really should get back to them. I’m also bright enough to recognise that people naturally get bored after the excitement of a poorly friend wears off. A bit like when you have a new baby. The communication will diminish and I’ll be left with the die-hards, the ones that truly love me. I don’t have a problem with this – it’s natural – but it’s something to watch out for. I’ve been here before with the excitement of the near-death experience from my motorbike accident. People genuinely mean well but lack in consistency sometimes when the drama wears off and the monotony arrives.

Sunday 14th February

Sunday! What a great day. I woke up about 7 am and I’ve not had to take an anti-sickness tablet all day. I’ve felt amazing, although I do appear to have a bit of a rash on my right hand and my neck. They did say my skin might be sensitive. I’m seeing the nurse tomorrow so we shall see.

They make room for you at the bar, give you the reserved table and are very smiley and lovely.

My mouth feels better today. My friend Karen drove over from Rugby with the most amazing chocolate cake. We walked for 8 miles, ate lunch at the local pub, and I chilled out the rest of the day. I feel well!!! Oh, and my hair’s not gone yet. Oh, the irony if I don’t lose it. Know what though? No regrets from me. My final tot up of charity donations was just under £8600. Not bad for someone with shit hair. As my eldest said: “Who would have thought your hair would have been worth that much money?” He’s right.

24 July

It’s odd. When you’ve had your head shaved that people behave very differently towards you. In a good way, I might add. Both last night and today at the pub people seem to clock the hair and make a mental calculation that no one would do that from choice, so either I’ve had cancer or getting over it… and they make room for you at the bar, give you the reserved table and are very smiley and lovely. A little ‘pity’, but I guess that’s normal on the basis that it’s not the best thing to have. I’m not used to people being soft with me. It’s quite nice, actually. I think I quite like it. It makes me softer too. This process is making me less aggressive, I think, which is not a bad thing.

So I’d like to list for you the positives I’ve got from this so far:

• Enabled me to release the reigns at work and to trust the team and Sarah to get on with it. This means I’ll have more chance of being able to sell it within the next couple of years.
• I get new tits (beyond excited), new underwear, my bikinis will fit better – size Fs like mine are a challenge to cram into the triangle bikinis I like to wear
• I’m getting softer, less irritated by things
• I don’t feel as ‘angry’ about life and I’m swearing less (have you noticed?)
• My hair will grow back thicker – which is awesome my hair has never been my finest asset

Monday 15th February

OMFG it’s Monday! Back to work for me; how fabulous. I feel GREAT. Normality – wooooo-hooooo. Had a fab day, although I only stayed for the morning. Back to earth with a bump, though. I had to hold a disciplinary meeting. I’m disappointed about this. I know everyone has their issues but I really could have done without this sort of thing on my first day back. I had the nurse in the afternoon and also had a new TV arriving (the first one I bought recently was damaged so had to go back). I’m learning that some things are more important than work and whilst I’ve got a superb and supportive team behind me, I don’t need to be breathing down their necks and I can leave them to get on with it. So I did. And I had a stream of visitors before I went for my hip scan to see what my ‘hot spots’ are all about, then it was dinner with some great friends. Feel sooooooo happy.

Tuesday 16th February

Tuesday was another busy day of hospital visits and work. Sat at the hospital, there are two ladies yakking on and on and on about world politics. Donald Trump. It’s funny really, who gives a shit? How can their opinion impact the world? What will they do about it? How will they make themselves heard?

Why in God’s name do some people DECIDE for you that it’s the bloody end?

Oddly, this brings me nicely onto the decision I made yesterday about how I’m going to change the way people react to those three little words. “I have cancer” has inspired me to think about how I can change people’s reaction to cancer. It’s so easy to see how cancer sufferers end up feeling depressed, sad, down and convinced they’ll die. Lost in a spiral of negative thinking. I cannot tell you how many people have made comments to me like, “If anyone can beat it, you can, Vicki,” “Stay strong,” “Are you sure you’ll be ok?” and “I THINK you’ll be fine!” These, by the way, are NOT positive comments, they’re not helpful and are fucking aggravating. At no point when I got my diagnosis did they say “It’s touch and go” or ” You have a 50/50 chance of survival,” so tell me why in God’s name do some people DECIDE for you that it’s the bloody end? Now if I’d have said “I have mutating cells and need treatment,” no one would decide my days were numbered. So I’ve decided I’m going to change the world and I’m thinking of contacting GMTV at some point, that’s after I’ve turned this into a mini- book/blog.

Hair Loss and a 26-Mile Walk

I’ve had a fantastic week. I feel great being back at work but I’m not doing full days – I’m surprised about how tired I’ve been. Walked for three hours on Saturday and went to an 18th birthday – it was a great night. I decided to wear Bob AND I fitted into a dress I’ve not worn in years, which I’m really chuffed about.

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I expected to gain weight during the chemo – naturally, I’d asked the oncologist, and I wasn’t thrilled with her response as she explained that most people do put weight on during treatment. Great. Bald AND fat – I can’t wait! Weirdly, I’ve eaten more but lost weight. It’s simply down to the fact that I’m not drinking wine, which at a guess I probably managed to consume about six bottles a week. Wine makes me order pizzas at 11 o’clock at night and makes me eat crisps and dip by the bucket load. It also makes me swear a lot so I’m thinking wine’s pretty much the enemy to be fair.

Sunday 21st February

Today was Sunday 21st February and I feel a bit gutted today, to be honest. My inch long hair has started to fall out. I know I shouldn’t be surprised. I KNEW it would go but I had kind of hoped I’d keep it till next week when I do the Belvoir Challenge – the 26-mile walk. I’m going look a right twat in my hat and I feel embarrassed and bald and all the things I thought I’d feel and more. This is humiliating.

Sunday 28th February

Sorry, I fear I have neglected you. It’s already 28th February, but I’ve had such a great couple of days just doing my thing, seeing friends, and it feels great. NORMALITY. It’s been fabulous, so much so I’ve just not had anything significant to tell you. It’s like there’s nothing wrong with me. My friends would argue differently hahaha. Anyway, I’m proud to share that on Saturday I completed the Belvoir Challenge and the casual 26-mile walk. I walked it with two chaps from the same building as me. OMG, it was great. Don’t get me wrong, it’s tough going and the terrain is something we hadn’t really prepared for – up hills and very muddy – just like your classic cross country at school.

she’d said, “You know you don’t have to do it.” But in my head I did.

By the first checkpoint, I could honestly have given up. I felt a bit rough but I reckon the bottle of wine I drank on Friday night wouldn’t necessarily have helped me. I know, I know wine is the enemy lol. So once I’d walked that out my system I have to tell you it was great. It was fab. We made sure we all crossed the line together. One of the hardest things about endurance walking is walking at a faster or slower pace than your companions. I seem to walk quite quickly – in fact they called me a robot. I was so lucky I only got a teeny tiny blister but nothing much else to whinge about. I ache a bit today but nothing much. I’m now looking forward to a 46-mile walk in June.

The oncologist wasn’t thrilled about me doing the walk initially when we discussed it. It had been at the very first appointment and she’d said, “You know you don’t have to do it.” But in my head I did. I had committed to doing it and do it I shall. She wasn’t too chuffed about the fact I’d moved the chemo date to suit the walk. I know, I know, not quite the attitude BUT I need something to look forward to and to feel I have achieved something. I’m pleased I did it and we had a really good laugh in the process.

Monday 29th February

Monday 29th February sees my second dose of chemo. It really should have been Friday but as I mentioned I’d asked them to put it back to today so that I was able to do the walk without any hiccups, which is great, although I’ve now realised my next few will clash with some social things I have planned so I’ll see if we can change it back. I’m not trying to be difficult, but I honestly don’t want this cancer drama to take over my whole world and I seriously think it should fit in around me. I can’t stay at home moaning about how ill I feel. I want to out enjoying life and doing all the things I love.

So I had a batch load of Puriton this time which has made me very tired, got some anti-sickness patches too so fingers crossed I won’t feel so bad this time. The nurses are just great, they can’t do enough to make sure it’s as OK as it can be. So let’s see what this week brings.

After hibernating through the last batch of chemo because I didn’t know how I would feel, the days were so very long so I’ve decided to ask for visitors this time. I figure the more time I can be entertained, the quicker the days will go and quicker I get back to being me.

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Tuesday 1st March

It’s Tuesday. I feel OK, a bit rough but nothing too much to moan about. Had a couple of visitors today which was lovely but exhausting. My hair although very short is very thin now… it’s weird, you expect it all to go in one fell swoop but it’s just not the case. All my hair just seems to be thinning.

Janice the nurse came today which was great. She just came to check up on me, and to stab me with an immune drug to boost my system. She told me that she’s told the oncologist that I’m always so positive and smiley and upbeat, like a light bulb, she said. How cute. Little does she know I’d passed out for 90 minutes when she’d gone. I’ve got some big beast nausea tablets, some small ones and patch and yet I still feel sick. My boob has changed shape it’s quite weird… it looks like it has tucks on it now. Weird.

I’ve had a tot up of the donations and I’m astonished at just how much we’ve raised – I’m seriously touched so I thought a BIG thank you was in order.

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(HTs – hormone twins – the affectionate name I gave to my kids)

The Most Boring Person in the World

Wednesday 2nd March

I feel OK today, not great but OK. I can live with OK. My hair is way less and I think if I’d have left it long and unshaved it would look utterly dreadful and patchy. I’m pleased I’ve shaved it but it is very sparse, to say the least, but this gradual process has made it way more palatable for me. More visitors – I’ve no idea what we talked about and if my life depended upon it I’d seriously struggle to repeat anything. I don’t think I make much sense either but everyone’s being so very kind and gentle with me. I really am blessed.

Thursday 3rd March

Well, I didn’t wake up till 10.20 am; virtually unheard of for me. I’m exhausted BUT I don’t feel ill. My mouth’s going through the usual unpleasantness but nothing to complain about. I’m tired but I can live with that. I’m thinking fish and chips for dinner today…

Saturday 5th March

Saturday. I was supposed to be meeting a couple of friends but simply didn’t have the energy. It’s weird. By the afternoon it was like the fog had lifted and I was pretty much back to normal, just lacking in energy. It’s really wiped me out. I can’t believe how much I’ve slept. I feel like THE most boring person in the world. I’ve nothing to say, I’ve not been anywhere, done anything… this bothers me. I’ve never been dull and whilst I accept it’s part of the lesson it’s very boring.

I’ve been more tired this time around simply because of the walk; it must have taken it out me. One of the REALLY hard things to cope with is my inability to think clearly, retain information and process questions. Sarah’s been emailing me asking me questions about decisions that need making for work – I honestly can’t think clearly enough to be able to offer her any help. In fact, I’ve said to her that I’m utterly thick at the moment and I’ll just live with whatever she decides. I simply do not have the capacity to be able to process anything other than what I’m going to eat or watch on the telly. I HATE IT. I don’t think I’ve ever felt so dense in my entire life. I struggle to remember what I’m saying, lose my train of thought and struggle with questions like, “What day is it today?”

Chemo brain is like having fog as a replacement for your mind. It’s so hard to function, to think, to do anything. It’s just awful and scary, I’m worried I’ll never be back to my idea of normal.

Monday 7th March

On Monday I went into work for the morning which was great but I was home by lunchtime knackered. Tuesday I didn’t even manage to get to work. I don’t think I’m eating enough, but I just don’t fancy anything. It’s hard to want to eat when there’s nothing I fancy, but I must.

I’m learning so much from this process and to be honest whilst I’m not thrilled I’ve got cancer I feel like I’m growing so much as a person.

This lethargy is just horrific. I’ve also suffered from some, erm… anal bleeding – sorry, yes I know, who wants to chat about bleeding piles, but it’s part of the journey so if it happens to you don’t panic. It’s just because of the constipation you suffer and then the obvious pressure when ejecting what you’ve saved. Not pretty so be warned. I’ve used the Senna tablets they gave me but they cause me such bad stomach cramps and clearly don’t work as they should. Instead, they have prescribed me with something that I thought they called “Move it all.” Turns out it’s actually called Movicol but hey, it does the same job so fingers crossed it will work better.

Thursday 10th March

Had a fab week at work, I felt great. I did a full day’s training on Thursday which I just loved – I felt back to being me again, personality back, multitasking brain functioning and I know I did a good job. I found the last chemo a bit scary – my personality literally flatlined. I’m usually so bright and happy and upbeat with plenty to say – this one, probably because of the mammoth walk, literally removed my personality and made me exceptionally dull.

Screenshot (46)I’m learning so much from this process and to be honest whilst I’m not thrilled I’ve got cancer I feel like I’m growing so much as a person. I’m not resisting everything that’s changing which trust me, for a control freak is quite hard but I’m just going with it and feel great. This is all part of my journey, part of my learning to get me to where I need to be. Being the sort of person I am, I perhaps wouldn’t have listened or made changes if I’d had a bout of the flu – I’d have just been frustrated and wouldn’t have heard or seen nor accepted the lesson.

It might not be obvious but I’m a VERY impatient person and tend to want and have usually got everything I want on my terms at my timescales. I fill my life with people, going out socialising (drinking copious amounts of wine) and generally overfilling my days, but now I find myself changing and find that:

• I’ve really enjoyed spending time at home and not being out every night or all weekend
• I’m learning about me and what’s important to me
• Looking after myself and pushing myself less gives me better thinking time and time to come up with better ideas (when my brain is functioning, of course)
• Listening to people I respect and admire and doing what they suggest/listen to advice has made me realise I’m not on own in the world
• I’ve learnt that having consistent behaviour/support is really good and enables me to feel safe and that I can rely upon people
• What will be will be
• Everything happens at the right time for the right reasons
• I’m not really able to offer anyone anything at the moment
• I’m really grateful for the support I’ve received from Cath, Clips and Karen… and in fact all my friends; from those that cook tea for the boys to those that sit and listen to me speak garbage for a couple of hours during chemo week
• I’m very grateful to be alive
• The spa treatments are lethal and boring so spending time with people helps me
• My friends are absolutely amazing. I’m completely blessed and extremely lucky and grateful
• Workwise I need to be doing more thinking and less doing – I need to change my strategy and not ‘do’ but work out how to structure my team to get the best outcome.

Why am I So Pissed Off on My Birthday?

Thursday 14th April

What can I say about today? Nothing other than I feel THE most emotional I’ve ever felt in MY ENTIRE LIFE. What’s this all about? I’m crying for literally no reason. I’ve had some visitors over but I bet I’ve been a complete prick today. People are so lovely though – so understanding. I’m really struggling with this crying shit coupled with the chemo brain I don’t even know my own mind anymore. It’s really scary. As I said it’s a bit like a bad hangover but 50 times worse. At least with a hangover, you get to have some fun first. It makes me feel so thick. I forget things and it makes my brain work slower, not a big deal you might be thinking but for someone like me who rarely makes mistakes, this is horrific.

On the bright side however, I’ve got a friend who’s told me she’s thrilled for the first time in our friendship she can keep up.

I know that I’ve said this before but I really don’t want you to underestimate just how debilitating it is. I forget what I’m saying, I can’t remember basic words and I struggle to follow what’s being said to me. It’s not that I get bored but I just fail to comprehend the simple stuff. It’s like my brain is thinking “Unless it’s happening in the next 5 minutes, I probably don’t need to know” and deletes any brain cells that might have been used for storage. It’s been extremely humbling. I’ve made mistakes regarding work, I’ve had to admit that I can’t remember what I’ve been told, I struggle to make the right decisions and it’s like I can’t get my brain to do what it normally does without much effort. On the bright side, however, I’ve got a friend who’s told me she’s thrilled for the first time in our friendship she can keep up. My usual communication style is a little bit of a scatter gun approach and often leave friends with a number of half-completed stories. It’s funny but I guess a bit irritating.

Friday 15th April

HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ME! It’s 15th April – HURRAH, another year on the planet. I LOVE my birthday always have… so why do I feel so bloody pissed off? I woke up crying and basically spent the rest of the day doing pretty much the same thing. The friend who cancelled me has left a gap in my day which just adds to how pissed off I’m feeling. I got ready to drive over to Northampton to see Karen for lunch but as I couldn’t stop crying I aborted the journey after about 15 minutes.

I’m not overly vain but honestly, can these chemicals take anything else that distinguishes me as a woman?

Thankfully she’s really understanding and gets it, but what an utterly shit birthday. To add insult to injury the boys gave me my card but said that my present hadn’t arrived. Now whilst this might not be a big deal, trust me today it was like the end of the world. Very dramatic and unreasonable behaviour from me but to be honest that’s exactly how I feel – unreasonable and grumpy.

Oh, and as an extra special gift for me, my nails have started to lift. My beautiful natural nails that I look after, nurture, love and which are a bit of trademark are about to fall off. REALLY??? Anything else? I’m not overly vain but honestly, can these chemicals take anything else that distinguishes me as a woman? I don’t feel so bad with the nausea and fatigue this time just finding the emotional side hard to deal with. Early night for me with the attitude that tomorrow will be brighter…fingers crossed.

Thursday 5th May

May 5th and it’s my next spa day. A little out of sync but I had a day out booked for yesterday that, come hell or high water, I was NOT going to miss, nor was I going to turn up feeling special. I wanted my personality in attendance not one of my thick days. I’d won the chance to spend a day with the Red Arrows. It was a superb day and well worth putting off the treatment for. However, now I’m feeling special. FEC can feck off. I had it administered not 3 hours ago and already I can’t stop bloody crying. FFS…how bloody annoying. It’s alright, it’s not for any reason whatsoever. I’m not built for this crying shit. It’s just utterly pointless AND FOR NO REASON WHATSOEVER. I got annoyed with the boys when they got home from school, who were only trying to help me. Honestly, this is a bigger bloody challenge than feeling ill.

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Monday 9th May

It’s funny how you can change. It’s 9th May and I’m sat in bed like I do most chemo week mornings and am watching telly, chatting to the kids, drinking tea and generally doing nothing that works to a timeline, and do you know what? It’s just great and never in my life did I think I’d be saying things like this. I’ve never just done nothing, didn’t really know why you’d want to, but it’s great and I seem to have so much headspace. My thinking, although slower, seems clearer in a really odd way. I also seem to have so much time as well, which is just great. But I have to say this drug really does make me moody. My poor kids have no idea what they’re going to get when they come home, I’m either euphoric or roaring I’m irrational, hormonal and special… #chemojoys

Tuesday 17th May

Tuesday 17 May and I had my usual appointment with Karen the oncologist today. They’ve found a lump under my scar where the lymph sentinel node was taken from. She said it was probably nothing to worry about but was sending me for a scan anyway and that if the radiographer was concerned he would take a biopsy. So I trotted along the following day about 5 pm (private health cover is the best) and had the scan…and a biopsy. I had a meltdown. I was told I’d get the results in about two weeks. I couldn’t pull myself together. How can I get cancer when I’m being treated for it? If it was scar tissue, why did they do a biopsy? I know they can tell the difference. The chap on Xmas Eve was VERY clear. The super lovely lady who is usually in the room for the procedure was trying to chat to me about stuff, but I just couldn’t hear her or reply.

This has seriously tipped me over the edge – I’ve literally got to my MAXIMUM coping capacity.

As I left, I drove the wrong way home and found a layby. I sobbed for about forty minutes, inconsolable, confused and fucking gutted. I just want my hair to grow back and get back to normal. I’ve been so good, I’ve recognised that getting better relies upon my learning my lessons, staying calm, not working like a demon or conducting my life at breakneck speed. I’ve done EVERYTHING. I’ve approached it with my usual positivity. The unfairness of this is just beyond my comprehension. I phoned my friend – I didn’t speak, I wailed and delivered my third ranty, illogical, irrational meltdown since this delightful journey began…and cannot tell you how much it helped.

I had got lost in the emotional spiral which is very unlike me, I’m usually extremely practical and logical. Some 30 minutes later I was back on the right track. I almost felt like I was being punished for coping with this so well and being so positive. This has seriously tipped me over the edge – I’ve literally got to my MAXIMUM coping capacity.

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I do deal with things myself a lot and always find the bright side, the silver lining, I guess I’m just lucky that way. This IS hard, make no mistake but what I choose to share with the outside world whilst I’m going through this is my business and my choice. No one wants to hear you moaning or your sorry stories about your day, it’s not interesting and more importantly, it wouldn’t bloody help, so if you’re in the same situation think twice about it and keep your friends as friends and not carers. You’ll get through this and you don’t want people changing their roles after the event.

So the outcome. I found out two days later – thank god – that it was just scar tissue and nothing really for me to have got in such state about. I feel bad about overreacting. Really bad. It’s just stupid and can’t have been pleasant for my friend being on the receiving end of that little treat!!

Very much the same as last time only the nausea and the tiredness are getting easier to bear. Again the irrational hormonal emotional stuff is a bloody nightmare but I’m becoming more accepting of it, less cross with myself about how much I cry. So what? I seem to be the only one who gets bent out of shape about it – no one else seems to mind. Each morning I’ve woken up and before I open my eyes I’m marvelling at how well I feel in comparison to how I felt previously. Yup, I feel good enough to get a shower and gently get on with my day. My eyelashes are becoming a little sparse and I’m just praying that they stay put till everything starts to grow back, I really do not want to have to wear falsies.

 

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The Final Spa Treatment

Friday May 27th

Friday May 27th and I’m so done, in every single way. I had my last spa session yesterday, just nine days or so to get through. I’m currently sat in bed after a long sleep and I feel OK this morning. I’ve got a collection of visitors to keep me entertained again today. I’m delighted to say that this session was just one cannula and they took their time to shove the chemicals in. So now I’ve just got to batten down the hatches have lots of sleep and take care of myself.

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One thing you don’t think about is your veins. I know that’s weird, isn’t it? But you don’t and I cannot tell you how sore they become. Certain parts of your arms become so sensitive to touch because I’m guessing they’ve been so badly damaged throughout the excessive chemical warfare they’ve had to cope with. I’ve been to a therapist and had a couple of oncology qualified massages – which by the way have been fabulous. They exist so don’t miss out on some real spa treatments. Go and find someone who’s qualified to deliver, it really does help. The only issue is when they massage your arms – I kept forgetting to tell her just how much it hurt and it’s a weird pain – a bit like toothache – hard to describe but excruciating just the same.

Thursday 2nd June

I’m free – June 2nd Karen and I jet off to Spain – I know really I shouldn’t be going anywhere I’m not even a full week after the last chemo but as I said I’m at maximum coping capacity with all of this and I just need to believe and feel like it’s over. So a holiday seems like a great way to do that. Sadly however my emotions aren’t exactly playing ball and I’ve done nothing but cry since I got to the airport. Now please don’t misunderstand me, my kids have been absolutely amazing as have my friends, but this has been a battle. MY BATTLE. And whilst I might not want to moan about it continuously it has taken its toll on me.

I hadn’t actually mentioned this little jaunt to Spain to the clinical staff or the consultant. I just didn’t want to be told I couldn’t go.

I just need some time out to get over what’s happened. On the huge positive I’m a whole stone lighter and feel psychically great. I don’t think I’ve been on holiday feeling slim in years so that’s a huge positive…just better make sure I don’t eat too much whilst I’m away. I’ve packed my trainers and hope to walk 7-8 miles a day. I need the training for the 46-mile trek I’m doing at the end of the month. So I need to do it for that, but it also gives me headspace.

3 June

It’s been a great remedy to clear away all the horror of this. I hadn’t actually mentioned this little jaunt to Spain to the clinical staff or the consultant. I just didn’t want to be told I couldn’t go. I’ve not even bothered finding out if I can get insurance. I mean, what’s the point? I’m sure I’ll be fine and to be honest for four days what could go wrong? Famous last words I hear you say, but thankfully everything was fine.

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The time away was just what I needed, although I spent the first two days crying. Poor Karen, I’m not sure she knew what to do with me. I’d like to blame the FEC but in truth, I think I needed to just get it all out of my system. I’ve realised that my coping strategy is about ploughing through with utter positivity and then when it’s over I have an enormous meltdown. Thinking back, this is how I’ve dealt with virtually every horror story I’ve had to go through. Who cares? It works for me. Healthy or not, it’s the way I’m built and I’m not going to give myself grief for it either. So I’ve cried for two days – so what? Although I should have bought some shares in Kleenex first, I think…

Monday 13th June

So here we are, June 13th and that’s it, chemo done. In my view, the biggest horror is over. Now for the good bits: my brand new boobs and the radiotherapy.

I saw the surgeon last week and we’ve sorted out my new boobs. I can’t tell you how pleased I am about that. Mine currently weigh-in at a large 36F and whilst I do have some beautiful underwear, I’ve had to spend a fortune from specialist shops, so I’ve requested a pair of double Ds. I noticed that you can virtually get anything in a D cup and I’m a bird that likes choices. I was unaware that they do your poorly boob first then after the radiotherapy they wait six months. Apparently, the radiotherapy not only burns your beautiful new boob but it can take six months for it to get back to normal. But you know what? I don’t really care. I’m better off than many women who lose their boobs, so for me I’ve just got to have some patience…another skill I’m embracing.

Sunday 31st July

It’s the 31st July and I’m mindful that I’ve neglected my blog updates for some time. For that, I apologise but I’ve been busy getting on with my life; holidays, trips away going to see my friends, and completing the 46-mile walk. The best bit is that we came 14th place out of 280. Not bad for a cancer-ridden chemotherapied bird!!!

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Treatment Ends. So Much has Changed

I have THE most perfectly formed boob.

A fair few cancer-related things have happened during the last few months. I’ve had an operation which removed what was left of the cancer (praise be the lord) and tomorrow I start radiotherapy. I’ve also been put on tamoxifen tablets which have sent me crazy… or crazier some would say. The tablets have made me suffer from anxiety and a horrific bout of overthinking. I’ve also become very bored now of this whole cancer thing, the procedures and everything, so forgive me.

So let’s start with the operation first. I cannot tell you how utterly delighted I am with the results of my operation. I have THE most perfectly formed boob. They tend to do one at a time so that they can treat it with radio and when it’s settled down they build the other one to match… so a free boob job. RESULT! With boobs, my shape and size, trust me this is a welcome gift. My consultant has been superb, he’s explained everything to me, showed me pictures and really reassured me. He even gave me options of how the scarring could look. His compassion and care has been incredible to the point where I would have argued I was his only patient.

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On the day of the operation, I arrived at the hospital after a mini shopping trip with Clips. I checked in and received delicious menus that I wasn’t able to actually pick from because I wouldn’t be back in time from the operation…mildly irritating. As usual, a collection of nurses arrive and pre-checks were done. I’m off for a scan and to have a wire fitted. I’m not really sure what this means – I’m not stupid but what they explained seems a bit odd to me, but they assured me it would be no worse than the biopsy. They lied. It’s clearly not something they’ve ever had done themselves. It was absolutely hideous and I’m not one to complain. It nearly made me cry, it was that awful. Not so much painful as such just lots of tugging and pulling.

That completed, my consultant drew some pretty black lines over my boob. We had a really good laugh about his dreadful drawings and that was that off – I went to the operating theatre. As the anaesthetist injected the anaesthetic he said: “I’m sorry but this will make your throat sore.” I was a bit confused until I awoke in the recovery room and my next feeling was exactly that. It made me laugh. I’m not lying, it was literally a second later that I woke up and felt my sore throat. The consultant appeared after a few minutes to admire his handiwork and let me have a look. OH MY GOD…a perfectly formed boob! It looks amazing. A perky boob at my age…how fabulous.

Healing has been quick and simple. I’ve been back for a few dressing changes but all in all, nothing to complain about. I’m a bit lopsided but hey the cancer’s gone with good margins (they measure around the cancer to ensure that it’s all completely gone).

Radio therapy attire
My Radiotherapy Attire

The radiotherapy isn’t quite what you think. I think we all have this idea that because cancer is such a scary word that anything that goes with it will either hurt or be a trauma. Well, rest assured, the radio is nothing. Your first consultation is about lining you up correctly so they zap the right bit. They put three little tiny tattoos on you (a bit like X marks the spot). I asked for flowers but apparently, that’s not doable, lol. In order to not zap your heart, they need you to breathe in and hold your breath whilst they do the treatment for a maximum count of 20. It’s fine, it’s no big deal.

The treatment involves you lying on a very hard cold stretcher/bed with your arms raised above your head and placed in rests so that you’re laying prone. It takes about 15 mins from start to finish…it’s a breeze. I did feel a little tired the first week. As the treatment can make you sore I’d been recommended some “magic” cream by one of the consultants that, so far so good, seems to have done the trick and stopped me from burning or suffering from discomfort.

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The radiotherapy is usually at the same time each day and it’s every weekday so there’s not much wriggle room for going away, but don’t worry I managed it. My consultant sent me a text me after the first week to see how I was getting on. He caught me mid-continent on a 2-night cruise to Bruges, which he has never let me forget. He couldn’t believe that I would be well enough to go on a trip away for the weekend.

Cruise to Burge
Cruise to Bruges

I’ve had to have a chat with the consultant, though, about the Tamoxifen. It’s dawning on me that emotionally I just don’t react too well to lots of hormones. Some years ago, I had the depo injection and it sent me crazy, crying all the time about nothing, exploding at the smallest thing. The thyroxin I take for my underactive thyroid gave me the worst anxiety ever. It was so bad I informed the doctor that I wouldn’t be taking it anymore. She said that was fine, but after my thyroid had stopped working and I’d gone into a coma then perhaps I might like to rethink. I did. I take them every day.

Sadly the Tamoxifen have had the same effect – they have sent me crazy. I’ve never been paranoid, nor do I overthink. I guess they’re now two new experiences to add to the list. The consultant explained that four per cent of women suffer from this, so I’m delighted to say I’m one of them and I’ve got to put up with it for 10 years. The Tamoxifen is prescribed to stop you from getting cancer again and the best bit… they bring on early menopause. Although in my case, “early” menopause might be the wrong phrase; I’m 47, not 30. Anyway, apparently, the average age is 52, just so you know. So it seems I have no choice; I have to take them. On the basis that they only drive me crazy during my hormonal week, I’ve decided next month I’m going do battle. I’m not letting a bloody tablet beat me, no chance.

Thursday 25th August

I welcome to you August 25th because today is the last day that I need to lay here on this really cold hard bed with my arms above my head, in stirrups, staring at the balloons and trees they’ve put on the ceiling so we’ve got something to look at as we lie here getting zapped. I feel a bit emosh, to be honest. It has been a long journey, which at times has felt like forever and yet now it all seems to have gone rather quickly. All in all, today has been a big day. My youngest has found out that he’s passed all 9 of his GCSEs and the eldest had a remark of his A levels and with A* and two As he’s off to Leeds Uni to study law. And me, well I’ve come to the end of my cancer journey. Last treatment for me. Yes, I have another operation but that’s merely cosmetic not cancer-related. What an unbelievable 8 months!

So much has changed.

Supporting Your Supporters

There’s no doubt this is a tough journey but I think it’s equally as hard for those around you who offer you support. They’ve literally no clue what to do, what to say, and generally feel helpless. You change as a person massively. I don’t think anything that strips you right back to the core could do anything else. I asked some of my friends, the close ones who really helped me through this for their thoughts. This is what they wrote:

Clips

“Late December 2015, we sat in our usual corner booth to assist in diluting our laughter, chat and occasional swearing! We had our usual, “shall I have diet coke or coffee” dilemma, chatted briefly about Christmas Day, etc., and then Vicki told me she had the results of her biopsy…it wasn’t good…fuck. She hadn’t wanted to tell me Xmas eve when she found out because she didn’t want to ruin my Xmas. Typical Vic always thinking of others and how things might make them feel. As much as I wish she had told me straight away, I totally understand why she didn’t and in hindsight she was right (she likes being right!).

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“Inside I was completely and utterly gutted, my stomach flipped and turned over and I had a golf ball size lump in my throat but I wasn’t going to cry. The last thing she needed was me snotting and snorting into my coffee. Luckily, I’m quite good at the stiff upper lip thing when in emotional situations. We talked very practically and very positively about what the coming months were going to entail, from appointments, scans, blood tests to chemo, surgery & radiotherapy. I listened carefully to what she wanted, what she didn’t want (this was very important haha!) and how she was going to handle things.

“To be honest, she had already worked it all out and had everything under control (again, typical Vic!). We said our goodbyes, cracked some inappropriate jokes and arranged to meet the following week. I got in my car and cried, drove home crying and then cried again at home as I relayed everything to my husband. It felt good to get it out but that was it; no more snot, no more tears, I was going to be strong and be the best friend and best support I could possibly be. OK, there may have been a few other private snot occasions in the oncoming months but sshhhh… don’t tell Vicki!

“On reflection, I guess Vicki made this whole experience for me as one of her best friends so much easier to deal with…her positivity, strength, energy, honesty and unique look on life meant that how could I be anything other than all of those things too. I needed to take her lead and assist her in any way I could in order to smash the absolute arse out of this irritating, inconvenience called Cancer! (Vicki’s words!)

“Has Vic changed? Vicki is still the kindest, funniest, super honest, unbelievably positive and unique person that’s she’s always been. However, I think having cancer and this whole experience has taught her to slow down a little, to accept help and to have a healthier, calmer lifestyle (although she can still get very excitable!!).

“Vicki was fabulous before cancer and she’s sure as shit even more fabulous after it!”

Karen

“I have this friend. She’s amazing.

“Vicki. She’s had more than her fair share of challenges in 2016 (starting Christmas Eve 2015 to be exact). A brush with cancer.

“So here we are, Vicki. You wanted a few words from me add to your blog. Now, where do I start?

“You said with this blog that you wanted to change people’s attitudes and perceptions of cancer. The bit I’ve learned this year is a) I knew nothing about cancer really b) I did have perceptions – all based on dire chemo stories or terminal cases and therefore my attitude was that ‘it’s a bloody scary thing and I’m going to keep my distance (thank you very much) until I have to.’ My own experiences with cancer until you found your lump were in the very elderly or folks I didn’t really know. And despite (as I’m often reminded) being a small drain on the NHS myself, even when I did the race for life I put a generic story on my race number. But now? Let’s just say that this year, you changed all that.

“15th December 2015 you told me you’d found a lump. ‘Does it hurt,’ I said. ‘Yes,’ you said. “Oh, that’ll be fine,” I said, for both of us. “Google says breast lumps that are cancerous don’t hurt…” So although I worried about you worrying, I didn’t worry about you having cancer. Denial, I think they call that!

“Of course, today we both know that was bollocks. We’ve both changed a lot, I think, and most interestingly for two folks who we thought were pretty similar in many ways, it’s shown me that I don’t think we are so similar after all.

“I LOVE that we’ve laughed and cried our way through this. I had never seen you cry, you didn’t do crying, or hugging for that matter and look at you now!!!

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“I especially have loved our texts. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve scrolled back and laughed until I’ve cried at our nonsense. One day I am going to get some 9-year-old to show me how to download it all and then I think we can sell the movie rights for millions! And that would be just one more positive on a huge list of positives that your really shit luck has brought us, eh?

“Now…how on earth could you for one second ask me to give you a few words for your blog because you think this experience has been harder for your friends than for you? Let’s get this straight – just because you’ve made this look like a walk in the park to the WHOLE BLEEDIN WIDE WORLD (INCLUDING YOUR MEDICAL TEAM), that doesn’t mean it WAS/IS a walk in the park. I do want you to inspire people so that they can better support themselves or their families and show them that you can beat it, that you will get through it… but that shouldn’t take away from the mental stress and physical pain that you’ve just cracked on and dealt with like superwomen. So yes, VC, go on and change some attitudes and perceptions, but it still won’t make it an easy thing to get through – which is why you need family and friends.

“I’m so proud and please to be your friend. We’ve got closer for sure, which is a tad different from where we started. You’ve always had stacks of friends and a social life I could never keep up with. And so actually at the start, the biggest challenge for me was knowing where to fit in, versus where to not to step over the mark and be closer than you would like. With that, the distance between where we live was a bugger. Well, I thought it would be. Me not driving and you with chemo – good job I had a hubby chauffer and you were more mobile, out and about than I would have ever imagined. From then until now I’d say you’ve become choosier with your friends. Glad I made it in!

“If I’m honest, you made December 2015 to 8th July 2016 look like a breeze most of the time. And you looked beautiful throughout. From your new eyebrows, your head shave and then Bob… that photo of you in Spain with your blue short suit and Bob on is perhaps the most beautiful (and ironically healthy/positively glowing) I have ever seen you look.

“So here’s where we should talk more positives? To make the point again, it hasn’t been hard at all to be your friend through this. I hadn’t made cakes for years but I started again to bring you a Victoria sponge – that’s a good thing. We’ve discovered new parks to walk our dogs, meeting halfway to save you doing all the driving, again! We popped to Spain so you could hug my olds. Oh and learn to love Rioja – although you said you didn’t drink red. We even managed to squeeze in a cruise – a new adventure for us both.

“I am sad that you’ve had pain and stress and worry, but as much as cancer isn’t as fatal or as scary as we perhaps all thought it was/is, it has been hard for you. You just made it look pretty easy. It wasn’t. Through this I love that you’ve learned to take your honesty and create an openness too. You love – and have always loved – being busy, but now you love just ‘being’ and taking some time out. If it was hard, it was hard to watch as it tested you, and it pained you. But it didn’t bloody get you, and we’re all left with an even better you. Bloody Brilliant!!!”

Catherine

On Christmas Eve 2015, I was given a very important job that was a long way from my usual Christmas celebrations. I was attending the breast clinic with my lovely friend. She had found a rather large lump. Was I worried? YES! Worried enough to travel two hours on Christmas Eve.

I arrived at Vicki’s house and we were both very apprehensive. We didn’t need words, just a lot of hugs and love and this is where our journey began. Even with this black cloud over her, she still wouldn’t let me drive. We arrived at the hospital and a very disgruntled Vic became even more pissed off – not only could she have cancer, but she had to pay parking fees for the privilege of finding out.

We made our way to the clinic, she gave her details and we took our seats. I couldn’t believe how many women were sat there waiting for their fate on Christmas Eve. We were all just waiting for a doctor’s confirmation. It was a very quiet, thought-provoking time.

Next came the tests, prodding, poking, and tears – a lot of tears – and a heartbreaking cry from my friend who I knew inside out.  It was something I had never heard before. There was a mix of fear and desperation, a wail of sadness – but never any self-pity.

Cancer doesn’t care who it effects, cancer doesn’t know the devastation it brings. My dearest kind funny intelligent loving friend had cancer. We had to face it. She would have to deliver the worse news to her boys. My heart broke for her (I’m crying as I’m writing this. I feel like I have been transported back in time). We left the hospital; two friends grieving, not sure of the future or what was to come… and Vicki still found the energy to complain about the parking charges and still refused to let me drive. What else could we do but laugh? It was by far the longest drive home, but I selfishly needed the time to process that hideous day. I let the tears flow. My best friend had cancer.

Vic started her gruelling treatment: chemotherapy, radiotherapy, reconstruction. In her mind, all there seemed to be was the start date and the finish date. It was like just another thing that had to be done and she proved herself to be a very practical, very brave, and a truly remarkable lady who beat that shit! My friend Vicki 💖